February 27, 2021

The exhibitions of the year: artists and curators select their favorites | Babelia

The exhibitions of the year: artists and curators select their favorites | Babelia

PAUL B. PRECIADO (Philosopher and curator)

1. Banu Cenetoglou: The List (Liverpool Biennial). The artist publishes the list, prepared with the help of the UNITED for Intercultural Action association, of migrants, refugees and political asylum seekers who die every day trying to cross the borders of the European Union since 1993. Although the project began in 2007, this The year acquired special visibility when the list printed on posters in the streets of Liverpool was destroyed by neo-nationalist groups. The list is not for Cenetoglou or a work of art or an activist project, but the simple action of giving testimony of what is happening. Legal document and ritual of mourning, is not in the strict sense a work of art and therefore can not be sold or signed.

2. Adrian Piper: A Synthesis of Intuitions, 1965-2016 (MoMA, New York 2018). A journey through six decades of work by the artist Adrian Piper, from her paintings inspired by the experimentation with drugs, to her performances pioneers of the critique of sexual, gender or racial social hierarchies, even their sculptural, linguistic works, their installations, their videos, their musical workshops … Exceptional possibility of seeing together the work of one of the most extraordinary and complex artists of our time.

3. Jean Prouvé: Architecte des jours meilleurs (LUMA Arles) Creator of the removable architecture and experimenter of new ways of living, Jean Prouvé (1901-1984) was eclipsed by other figures of the modern movement who chose the easy profitability of reinforced concrete to the detriment of the noblest materials. This exceptional exhibition included, along with numerous documents and audiovisuals, 12 original prefabricated structures conceived by Prouvé between 1939 and 1960 and reconstructed inside and outside the walls of the LUMA Foundation. The definition of the architect, according to Prouvé, as an artisan of the social space that must subject the industrial design to an ethical and aesthetic imperative and his idea of ​​the "right to a habitat" for the popular classes, migrants and refugees show that Prouvé is called to make us forget Le Corbusier.

4. Gabriele Münter at the Louisiana Museum in Denmark (currently the exhibition can be seen at the Ludgwig Museum, Cologne). First major retrospective of the work of Gabriele Münter (1877-1962), founder with Wassily Kandinsky, Franz Marc, Lyonel Feininger of the expressionist group Der Blaue Reiter. Until now simply known as "Kandisky's girlfriend", Münter appears as a key painter and photographer to understand the modernist movement. Again it is terrible to see that women artists, although more prolific and singular than many of the renowned male geniuses, are still erased from the history of art.

5. 50 years after 50 years of the Bauhaus (Württem bergischer Kunstverein Sttutgart). The curators Iris Dresler and Hans D. Christ sign a manifesto exhibition in which the Bauhaus political genealogy is revised by the hand of multiple contemporary artists, revealing the connections between the artistic projects of the famous German movement, Nazism, military culture or colonialism. The works of Daniel G. Andújar, Yochai Avrahami, John Barker / László Vancsa, Yvonne P. Doderer, Ines Doujak, Dmitry Gutov / David Riff, Alexander Kluge, Mona Mahall / Asli Serbest, Vincent Meessen, Kaiwan Mehta, Mateusz Okowski or María Salgado

'Ósmosis', by Miguel Benlloch.
'Ósmosis', by Miguel Benlloch.

6. Miguel Benlloch: Conjugated body (CICUS, Seville). Disappeared this year 2018, Miguel Benlloch was, since the end of the Franco regime, an inventor of gender and sexual experimentation practices that will later come to be characterized as queer. Pasivista (more than an activist), pacifist, stateless and feminist, Benlloch developed a performative and poetic practice that served as a flag to an identity policy, putting all identity in check. The importance of Miguel Benlloch in the establishment of a grammar and an aesthetics of the practices of artists of gender and sexual dissidence in the Spanish State was such that this last exhibition, curated by Mar Villaespesa, was not just a tour of the artist's work , but a cartography of the emergence of the practices campceptualista in the Spanish State.

7. Guillermo Gómez Peña: Mexican (IN) documented (Museum of Modern Art, Mexico City, 2018). Although it seems impossible, it was in 2018 when Mexico dedicated a first monographic exhibition to Guillermo Gómez Peña, one of the most influential contemporary Mexican artists in the international context. Between geopolitical autobiography and anticolonial counterhistory, the exhibition explores the performative, ritual, literary and audivisual practices through which the Border Witch has elaborated one of the most acute criticisms of the nation-state and of the processes of exclusion and absorption of migrants.

8. Tianzhuo Chen: An Atypical Brain Damage. The tour of Europe by Beijing artist Tianzhuo Chen with An Atypical Brain Damage allowed to discover his performative work that hybridizes Chinese opera, culture queer, the butoh or the hip hop. In this case, Chen brings together the Parisian collective The House of Drama and the Chinese dancer Beio to create a theatrical work without walls in which the public participates in the creation of a total multimedia installation.


The exhibition of Alexander Kluge, in La Virreina and Fundazione Prada, is the recovery of a fundamental image thinker. The one of Tintoretto in Venice it has been a great effort to unite a large part of his work that is hardly dispersed. Alterazioni Video Sicilian Incomputer, especially interesting as a project to archive the ruins of contemporaneity, were present at Manifesta 12. The shape of the water, Guillermo del Toro's film, moves from a filmic sensibility to a personal narrative to create a powerful metaphor. I have stopped in two books, Ingannare il tempo, of Bruno Munari, Y Cutting Matta Clark.The Anarchitecture Project, by Marrk Wigley, as well as in the articles of Rogelio López Cuenca in Babelia And from Qiu Zhijie in the Eindhoven Museum I keep his conceptual fiction of imaginary maps translated into painting.

MANUELA MENA (Curator of the Prado Museum)

1. The source of Grace It is in the Museo del Prado since 1868, but at least since 1459 in Spain, when it was donated to the Jeronimo monastery of Parral (Segovia) by King Enrique IV of Castile. From a very young age, in my visits to the Prado, I was deeply struck by this exceptional Flemish panel, related to Van Eyck, by the madness of its extraordinary architecture and the naturalness in the fusion of the real world with the imagined world of religion, but especially because of the terrible message from the bottom, which paved the way for the expulsion of the Jews in 1492. On the left, the group of powerful Christian leaders seemed to me to anticipate the Holocaust in 500 years or to embody that idea of absolute superiority that Europe has always had against those who come from other parts of the world. The cleaning of the table throughout 2018 and its recent monographic exhibition to the public represent a milestone in the recovery of a painting darkened by time, now resplendent by the recovery of its original color, which it also acquires in today's troubled world , a new dimension.

2. Delacroix (1798-1863), exhibition held this year at the Louvre and the Metropolitan Museum in New York, is one of the milestones in the presentation of the great French artist of the nineteenth century for the success of its more than half a million visitors in Paris, almost at the height of Mythical Leonardo a few years ago, and for the quality of its catalog, of unquestionable scientific seriousness, but attractive in its information for a large number of people. The more than 150 works presented between paintings, drawings and prints, retake the best exhibition concept to reveal an artist: the chronological. It is also the most difficult, because its authors must be brilliant, know what they are talking about and get that thread, as in this case, which takes the visitor from the youth to the final years (the artists are never old) of a artist. In Delacroix, his findings are revealed as the surprises that he himself faced in his life, between her and very early Goya, and that helped him to take an interest in new issues, or his compositional advances that reached later generations, from Manet to Picasso . The team that has conceived the exhibition has also demonstrated the indestructible coherence of Delacroix's thought from beginning to end, reserved only to the great masters.

'La Sagrada Familia' (1490-1500), by Andrea Mantegna.
'La Sagrada Familia' (1490-1500), by Andrea Mantegna.

3. Mantegna and Bellini (London, National Gallery-Staatlichemuseen zu Berin), still in the National Gallery in London, it seemed an exceptional event for my personal passion for the Renaissance and Classical Antiquity, for the unique light and atmosphere of Venice, although I It left me doubtful of what I would find an intelligent criticism in an English newspaper, the day after the inauguration, which began with humor, paraphrasing Dante, Let all hope leave here without a PhD! The two great artists of the fifteenth century, one in Venice and one in Mantua, linked by the marriage of the sister of Bellini with Mantegna, are effectively analyzed with extreme academic rigor, which contrasts with the expressive presentation of Delacroix mentioned above. Goodbye chronology, goodbye passion, goodbye surprises! The doctoral thesis serves, of course, in this case, to find the proper path of search-perhaps and continuing with Dante lost for others who might well "find themselves in a dark jungle, having lost the safe path" – as well as the dreamed relationships and the deep differences of these two personalities confronted by their own artistic value and independence. They both lived in the glorious beginning of a time, in Italy, but also in the rest of Europe, which sought Plato and placed its interest in the beauty and measure of classical art, which abandoned the golden backgrounds and looked freely to Nature. , to the landscape as well as to the beauty of the bodies, and to the search for the individuality of men and women. Of course, a tip, if you are Spaniards of average size, you need to enter with stilts: paintings and drawings, hang from the ceiling, but when you manage to reach them, the effort is worth it!

Four. Picasso Rose et bleu (Musée d'Orsay and Musée National Picasso-Paris-Fondation Beyeler, Basel). Is it difficult to conceive the success of an exhibition about Picasso? No. However, it seems that we have already seen everything, that they will not tell us anything new, nothing that we do not know. Before the overwhelming bibliography on his art, the art of the third of the Spanish artists who have really broken the borders with Velázquez and Goya, it seems that there is not much to say, but it is not like that. The confrontation in direct with his works, in this case those that go of 1900 to 1906 and that are located before the decisive cubist rupture, so admired, causes the bewilderment and the astonishment by the evident revolutionary character of what has been seen as sentimental, the pink period, or ephemeral and perishable, the blue. However, the almost complete set of this painting by Picasso is extraordinary and exceptional in its profound complexity, in the evident revolutionary facet of an artist who painfully presents the world of the marginalized, of the disinherited of the earth, which links naturally with the ideals of communism that made its entry into Russia. Cubism now appears before these striking paintings as something intellectual, one could say that it is alien to the temperament of this young Picasso, from whom it is now evident that in his later years he returned to that profoundly human and expressionist painting that moves us fearfully, Despair and melancholy that reflect a time in crisis.

5. Dada Russian 1914-1924, that took place throughout the summer at the Museo Reina Sofía, has undoubtedly been one of the most interesting exhibitions held in Madrid during 2018. Interestingly, and without having anything to do with each other, it coincided for a while with The Russian Avant-garde. Dreaming the Future through Art and Design, in the Sabanci Museum in Istanbul, where, to the artistic expressions of painting, photography, drawings and sculpture, it was integrated with a high level of excellence and exquisite taste in the selection of the works, the design and the decorative arts. All this had an important role in the application of that movement of revolutionary rupture, and artistic, in the political, and these artists dreamed, as also evidenced by the exhibition in Madrid, with the power of art as a lever for the transformation of society. While in Spain the admirable presentation of these artists and their proposals did not pose a challenge to current society, nor a danger to its organizers, in Istanbul, its presentation is an act of admirable courage in the current political situation. In Madrid, the exhibition provoked the slow progress from one room to another, stopping at each of the works, sitting before the videos, admiring the deep sensitivity of the creators -Malevich, one more among many others-, and his dream of a future that the passage of time has revealed to us with profound pessimism as lost in advance.

'The carousel of Guillermo' (1914), of Malévich and Mayakovsky.
'The carousel of Guillermo' (1914), of Malévich and Mayakovsky.

6. Parsifal, Wagner's last opera, which he had worked on for more than twenty years and premiered in 1882, has been presented in Munich this summer at the Bayerische Staatsoper-Nationaltheater under the direction of Kirill Petrenko, a cast of singers of the highest level and scenic direction of Pierre Audi. He has, however, with something exceptional, the vision of the great German artist George Baselitz to place it in a space different from that devised so far in other more optimistic representations of that Wagnerian creation. Great black and white drawings, his compositions of inverted figures that take up the medieval, European idea of ​​the world upside down, the darkness of space and the gray robes of the protagonists or the complete nudes of the warriors that accompany the hero in his search of the Holy Grail, produce a terrible scenario, barely changing, of a supreme and anguished beauty, which induces reflection and immersion with all the senses for almost five hours in the sublime, captivating and powerful music of Wagner. The ideal of the Holy Grail, which runs through Europe in the Middle Ages, understood by Wagner as an internal reflection and enhanced by Baselitz in his presentation of an aging society. That terrible vision of Europe that transpires from the art of Baselitz, faces another important artistic manifestation that has taken place this autumn in London, when the oratory of Benjamin Britten, the oratory of Benjamin Britten, War Requiem, composed in 1962 for the cathedral of Coventry destroyed by a bombing of the Second World War, has been presented for the first time in the form of opera by the English National Opera, in the suggestive decoration, mix of photos and videos, of another German artist , Wolfgang Tillmans. Some and other demonstrations, all of which I have collected here, seem to warn us of the current uncertain situation in Europe.


one. The great river (Circle of Fine Arts, Madrid). Of the multiple exhibitions commemorating half a century since the climax of '68, this bold proposal surpassed the historical fact to, in a documented and pedagogical way, help to think today about the conflict and the legitimacy of the revolt.

two. On Abortion, Laia Abril (Dewi Lewis Publishing House). Magnificent documentary narrative work that combines creative journalism with great visual intelligence. The publication has deserved in Paris Photo the prize to the best photographic book of the year.

3. Artistes et robots (Grand Palais, Paris). In an age when algorithms and artificial intelligence displace the eye in the act of seeing, this ambitious selection of multidisciplinary artists showed attempts to "purge" the unstoppable automation of images.

Four. Region (The stories). Changes in the landscape and water policies (Fundacio Cerezales Antonino y Cinia and MUSAC, León). A controversial but impressive curatorial idea that surely frightened the great museal institutions, prone to deal with sensitive topics of others but to avoid their own. From the pompous inaugurations of swamps to the artists sticking their fingers in the wound and in the reservoir.

5. Le livre d'image, by Jean-Luc Godard. Godard is always Godard, radical and contradictory but always great. This essay, which won the special Golden Palm in Cannes, is a collage of images, sounds and quotes that summons the horrors of recent history, from the holocaust to terrorism, making an experiment with the role of the image, from the cinema to the mobile phone.

6 Theory of the rearguard, by Iván de la Nuez (Editorial Consonni). The subtitle is eloquent: "How to survive contemporary art (and almost everything else)". An assortment of desacralizing ideas, provocatively bordering on the apocalyptic, displayed with an argumentative brilliance that marks the house that urges us to visit today's preponderant creation with another look.

7 Plant (Sorigué Foundation, Balaguer, Lleida). Ambitious initiative undertaken by a generous private entity that raises spectacular artistic installations (at the moment, one of Juan Muñoz and another of Anselm Kiefer). I hope his example spread …

8 Control. On Politics, Money and Power (Hamburger Kunsthalle, Hamburg). The paranoia of security and surveillance has led to many expository interpretations. In this case, artists unmasked the repressive look of Big Brother as a confluence of economic and political power, and highlighted an impressive video installation by Richard Mosse.

'Rachel' (9186), sculpture by Greer Lankton.
'Rachel' (9186), sculpture by Greer Lankton.

CHUS MARTÍNEZ (Director of the Art Institute of the FHNW academy of art and Design of Basel)

This year I would highlight positively the number of voices that rise in favor of gender parity -texts, conference cycles and initiatives of all kinds-, which are added to a growing interest in a new language to address nature, technological relationship and social intelligence in such a black age. I have followed the programming of the Cerezales Foundation, delicate, constant, showing the work of important artists in a more important context, the field. Another place of reference in this sense is Flora, in Bogota, a place of residences that organizes and diffuses in a way that allows you to befriend even if you are far away. I would highlight the interest of many to hear the great proliferation of series created by artists and thinkers in audio format, such as esnorquel.es, by Sonia Fernandez Pan, who bring the voices and ideas closer to our ears in a moving and eloquent way. Another institution of which I highlight the whole of its program is Savvy in Berlin. You can not highlight an event because the nature of the program is its way of addressing the possible or impossible decolonization of the world and gender issues. As exhibitions, Beatriz Gonzales, by María Inés Rodríguez at the Reina Sofia National Museum, and Adrian Piper, basically devised by herself in the MoMA. This year's books follow two axes, those that strive to think about what can be done from the left (Comunist Anonymous, edited by Joshua Simon and Ingo Niermann within the Sternberg Press Solutions series) and others who think about intelligence from the plants, like The Life of Plants, by Emanuele Coccia.


One of the most important artistic events of the year is the union of Cuban artists against Decree 349, which seeks to legalize artistic censorship and penalize with fines and confiscation anyone who dares to ignore it. Hence a project like For Freedom, where 50 artists make billboards with activist and social messages. In the MOMA, the samples Judson Dance Theater Y Charles White They reminded us of those times when artists were more innocent because art was not made for large institutions. Of the second, I enjoyed discovering a missing link in African-American art, which left me with a sense of injustice. Annie Albers' at the Tate Modern in London is one of the most beautiful exhibitions I have seen in a long time. And among the discoveries, there is the community work in Bangladesh of Shahidul Alam.

CUAUHTÉMOC MEDINA (Chief Commissioner of the MUAC)

one. The publication of Andrea Fraser 2016 in Museums, Art and Politics (Cambridge Mass., The MIT Press, 2018). In a hundred pages and with a profusion of graphs of stature and foot, Andrea Fraser put to examination the intersection between the money that is donated to 128 artistic institutions in the United States and the donations that the patrons of those institutions gave to the political parties during the 2016 election contest, when Donald Trump was elected. As Fraser argues in this research that it has the form, and scale, of a telephone directory, the origin of the research was the artist's horror of discovering that some of the patterns of cultural organizations for which she had worked had supported significantly the emergence of the new American right. In addition to showing that contributions to cultural institutions are not as "liberal" as public opinion supposes, Fraser shows that museum councils also serve as meeting places and concentration of the relationship between politics and money as a consequence of the growing plutocracy that dominates not only the world, but the cultural field.

2. The exhibition Counterinvestigations from the Forensic Architecture agency at the ICA in London, and his nomination for the Turner Prize of 2018 for both that exhibition and the exhibitions at MACBA, MUAC and Documenta 13, which he could well win on December 4. The prominence that Forensic Architecture has taken in our understanding of the statute of contemporary aesthetic culture, appears as a challenge to the tradition of social and epistemological inefficiency of the aesthetic, and a reconsideration of the role of institutions and forms of culture and sensitivity. Among other things, Forensic Architecture represents the possibility of an aesthetic with the broadest political consequences, which does not resort at all to the principle of empathy or scandal, but seeks to reverse the power relationship between citizens and governments in the capacity to investigate State violence.

3. Gina Cebey's essay book Architecture of failure. On rocks, debris and other space defeats (Mexico, Secretary of Culture-Editorial Tierra Adentro, 2017). Through a series of both erudite and sensitive research on buildings and urban spaces in Mexico, Cebey explores the role of architecture in the imposition of Mexican modernization, and its status as a testimony about the consecutive failure of its implementation. It is an exceptional book where the literary imagination and the precision of the historian coincide, in a comprehensive vision of the ruin of modernity that goes beyond buildings, to cover the cracks that constitute society as a whole.

4. Sample of Lu Yang Encephalon Heaven, at M WOODS in Beijing, China, from December 2017 to February 2018. A total presentation of the various projects of a young Chinese artist who launches a mad machinery of postgootic images, emerging from the tumoral hybridization of all kinds of religions Orientals, technolary and psychiatric paranoia and metatechnological utopias. Lu Yang, who in addition to being an artist is an influential character in the Chinese and Japanese networks, produces in this exhibition a constant saturation sensitive, iconographic and spiritual, which points to the search for new visions of metamorphosis and construction of subjectivity.

5. Exhibition Like Life Sculpture, color and the body (1300-now) at the Met Breuer in New York, it was a show that not only broke with the temporal conventions of contemporary and ancient art, but offered a whole drift of interpretations about the multiple functions of the figure in the production of objects and sculptures in the last millennium. The exhibition was animated by the intuition of understanding sculpture as an art of the production of undead objects, as an exercise of multiple tactics to achieve the false life effect of "the sinister." At times this imaginative conversation of schools , periods and styles resembled a huge installation by Mike Kelley, who in shows like The Uncanny He also resorted to the model of creating a hypertrophic museum to overcome the passivity of the object.

6 Dawn Breaking, by Yan Fudong (Long Museum West Bund, Shanghai, March-June 2018). Yan Fudong had been considering doing a series of works for almost a decade using the exhibition spaces of a Museum as sets for a film. The first chapter of that project could not be more ambitious. Dawn Breaking it is situated in the Dong dynasty to explore the double plot of political and affective conjurations in the court, at a particularly buoyant moment in the history of China. Yan has built a series of historical sets to film the scenes of his film with famous actors, and then presents the resulting sequences on individual screens that refer to Nietzsche's quotations about the relationship between desire, power and social concepts. The spectacularity of the production does not completely hide that Fudong probably constructs an allegory of the contemporary politics of his country, also defined by the intersection of dynastic wealth and power.

7 Eternal Now, by Kadder Attia. Intervention on-site in the former Gwanju Military Forces Hospital, South Korea. Commissioned by the 8th Gwangju Biennial in Korea. Amid the abandonment of a military hospital that had a sinister role in the repression of the Korean democratic movement, Kader Attia has intervened a whole pavilion with a series of old beams of traditional houses, which has installed in the darkened rooms as if they were witnesses and stelae. Occasionally, Attia has intervened the beams with repairs of metal staples, to create an evocation of the wound. The perforations that served to articulate these carved trunks to other parts of the ceiling and walls face the viewer as body piercings: eyes and sinister mouths inviting a silent dialogue. In the middle of a biennial too physically and conceptually extended to leave a unified image, Attia's sculptures generated a ghost story difficult to suppress from memory, which was complemented by the complex installation Shifting Borders, 2018, consisting of chairs with leg prostheses and videos exploring the wounds of the history of the modernization of South Korea, in relation to the suppression of the animism of traditional beliefs.

8 Songs for Disaster Relief Tour, of Samson Young (M + Pavillion, West, Hong Kong). Taking as a starting point the memory of the musical themes of global charity events of the turn of the century, Samson Young created a sample of visual and sound installations that starts from the misunderstanding between social purposes and musical consumption. The center of the sample Young located one of the most ambitious works of his series silenced (Muted series): the interpretation of We are the world by the Choir of the Hong Hong Federation of Trade Unions, where the singers completely suppress the sound of the voice to leave only the dry sound of a powerful disposition.

'Elements of Vogue', in the CA2M.
'Elements of Vogue', in the CA2M.

MARIBEL LÓPEZ (Co-director of Arco)

Elements of Vogue In the CA2M he gave voice and body to artists in Madrid who discovered that they wanted to be seen and heard. It is not little achievement for a museum. The passage of David Bestué by Reina Sofía was a kind of probe that travels through time and an exhibition that allowed us to see him quite naked. From Bruce Nauman in Schaulager I am left with his obsessive research, erratic at times and delicate in others, and I add the sample of Teresa Solar Abboud in Basel, because seeing a young Spanish artist in that artistic epicenter is projected energy for all. Beautiful and mysterious is the sample Lua Cão in La Casa Encendida. This year is the loss of Ursula K. Le Guin, but for me her obsession. The documentary Wild Wild Country It has been the trip of the year. And the Gris bar, that place in Madrid that generates a community bubble.


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