The 10 Must-See Exhibitions of 2019

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Cindy Sherman, Untitled Film Still #21, 1978Courtesy of the artist and Metro Pictures, New York

Shows from the worlds of art, fashion, photography and film to add to your calendar this year

It’s no secret that January’s a rather miserable month, but why be blue when you could be booking? Here, we’ve handpicked ten of 2019’s most enticing art exhibitions, spanning London, Paris, New York and beyond, for your perusal (and vacationing inspiration).

1. Lee Krasner: Living Colour at the Barbican, London: May 30 – September 1, 2019

Despite being one of the few 20th-century female artists to have secured a retrospective at MoMA, the importance of Abstract Expressionist pioneer Lee Krasner has long been overlooked, her legacy eclipsed by tales of her turbulent marriage to Jackson Pollock. Thankfully, this May, the Barbican will host a long-awaited exhibition of the painter’s singular, highly energetic oeuvre, finally allowing Krasner her time to shine. Comprising almost 100 works from across the artist’s career, the show promises to be a dazzling celebration of Krasner’s tirelessly inventive experiments in colour and composition which so vividly encapsulate the spirit of possibility that infused New York in the post-war period.

2. Camp: Notes on Fashion at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York: May 9 – September 8, 2019

Another year, another spring exhibition at the Met’s Costume Institute to look forward to – not to mention the fancy dress bonanza that accompanies it in the form of the annual gala. And what could be more fabulously theatrical than a celebration of the camp in fashion? Curator Andrew Bolton will use Susan Sontag’s 1964 seminal essay Notes on “Camp” – an exploration of the concept’s many interpretations – as the framework for the show, revealing the origins of the camp aesthetic and tracing its ascent from the marginal to the mainstream. Specifically, it will examine the many ways in which fashion designers have channeled and engaged with camp in their work to “compelling, humourous and sometimes incongruous” effect.

3. Basquiat’s “Defacement”: the Untold Story at the Guggenheim Museum, New York: June 21 – 6 November 2019

Hot on the heels of the Barbican’s brilliant Basquiat retrospective, which drew to a close this time last year, the Guggenheim will host its own exploration of the inimitable neo-Expressionist’s work from the starting point of a single painting. Opening in June, the show centres on Basquiat’s 1983 work Defacement (The Death of Michael Stewart), depicting the fate of the young black artist who died after being arrested by New York City’s transit police for allegedly spray-painting graffiti on a subway wall. Around 20 other pieces created in the years surrounding Stewart’s death will serve to paint a compelling picture of Basquiat’s ongoing study of black identity, protest against police brutality and quest to shape his own visual vernacular of empowerment, supplemented by artworks from Keith Haring, Andy Warhol and other contemporaries that also focus on the Stewart story.

4. Cindy Sherman at the National Portrait Gallery, London: 27 June – 15 September, 2019

Few artists have pushed at the boundaries of identity and the manipulation of self-image quite like American photographer and filmmaker Cindy Sherman, who has adopted hundreds if not thousands of guises and personas over the span of her 40-year career. This summer, prepare to discover the full extent of her mastery of disguise with the National Portrait Gallery’s anticipated retrospective of her shape-shifting body of work. The show will track Sherman’s artistic development and varied cultural sources across some 150 works, from the mid-70s – including the groundbreaking feminist series, Untitled Film Stills, 1977-80 which sees Sherman embody various female movie stereotypes (the working girl, the ingénue, and lonely housewife et cetera) – right up to the present day.

5. Olafur Eliasson at Tate Modern, London: July 11, 2019 – January 15, 2020

16 years after his awe-inspiring installation, The Weather Project, graced Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall, hypnotising viewers with its simulation of a fiery sun in fog, Olafur Eliasson will return to the British art institution for a major survey of his career thus far. Eliasson’s sculptures and large-scale installations thrust viewers into spellbinding immersive environments, using natural elements like water, light and air temperature to do so. The Tate show will include his 2007 work Beauty (a magical indoor rainbow) and a special area showcasing the artist’s poignant engagement with social and environmental issues. It will also see Eliasson take over the landscape surrounding the Tate Modern, as well as the gallery’s Terrace Bar, where he will create a new iteration of the vegetarian canteen at his Berlin studio. Talk about total immersion.

6. Urban Impulses: Latin American Photography 1962–2016 at the Photographers’ Gallery, London, June 20 – October, 2019

This summer, the Photographer’s Gallery will transport visitors to Latin America for a compelling investigation into the cultural and political shifts and contradictions that have occurred there over the past 50 years – as seen through the lenses of some of its most insightful and inventive photographic pioneers (think: Juan Enrique Bedoya and José Moreno). The exhibition will draw from the extensive collection of Leticia and Stanislas Poniatowski, its aim to “[consider] the real and imaginary life of the cities on the Latin American continent through works carried out by photographers involved in the creation of the conflicted Latin American identity.”

7. Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams at the Victoria & Albert Museum, London: February 2 – June 14, 2019

Fashion lovers are waiting with bated breath for the V&A’s latest sartorial survey: a glorious plunge into the world of Dior, opening in just under a month. The display will showcase over 500 objects, from seminal gowns to shoes, accessories and costume jewellery, dating from 1947, when Monsieur Dior first opened his couturier at 30 Avenue Montaigne in Paris, until today. It will explore the reign of each of the six artistic directors to have helmed Dior since the founder himself, considering the influences and impact of each and the enduring tenets at the heart of the house (the socalled “codes of Dior”), spanning, among other things, a passion for flowers and M. Dior’s groundbreaking “New Look” collection, which has spawned so many reinterpretations over the years.

8. Stanley Kubrick: The Exhibition at The Design Museum, London: April 26 – September 17, 2019

Cinema fanatics, rejoice! A new Stanley Kubrick exhibition is soon to descend upon London’s Design Museum, offering a rare insight into the American auteur’s idiosyncratic archive. Original props, costumes, set models and photographs – many of which have never been shown in the UK before – will bring to life Kubrick’s many masterpieces within the museum’s walls, shedding light on his meticulous creative process and lifelong interest in architecture and design, as well as his collaborations with design legends such as Saul Bass, Hardy Amies and more. It will also consider the strong influence of the UK, and in particular of London, on Kubrick’s work – for, as the exhibition’s blurb explains, “Britain is where Kubrick created the battlefields of Vietnam for Full Metal Jacket (1987), an orbiting space station for 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), and Dr Strangelove’s War Room (1964).”

9. Luigi Ghirri: the Map and the Territory at Jeu De Paume, Paris: February 12 – June 2, 2019

For the first retrospective exhibition of Luigi Ghirri’s work outside of his native Italy, Paris’s Jeu de Paume will focus in on the first decade of the late, great photographer’s career: the 1970s, when Ghirri, a former surveyor, “produced a corpus of colour photographs unparalleled in Europe at that time.” These refined, often dreamlike works demonstrate Ghirri’s aptitude as a poetic observer of people and places as well as his lifelong fascination with man made representations of the world, such as models and maps, and the way these pepper the landscapes we inhabit. A wonderful chance to better acquaint yourself with an artist only now receiving the acclaim he is warranted.

10. Picasso on Paper at Kunsthal, Rotterdam: February 9 – May 12, 2019

Discover a marvellous, lesser-known facet of Picasso’s output at Kunsthal’s upcoming exhibition of his graphic art in Rotterdam. Ever the experimenter, Picasso turned frequently to printing for the many varied techniques and ease of reproduction it allowed. He produced over 2,500 prints during his lifetime, a key selection of which will be showcased in the display. Most notable are the enticing colour linocuts – a technique a Picasso taught himself in his late 70s – depicting vivid still lifes, bull fights, mythological scenes and, in spite of his advancing years, no shortage of women.