Planning Ahead: Ten Exhibitions You Can’t Afford to Miss in 2020

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Yayoi Kusama exhibition 2020 Gropius Bau
Yayoi Kusama, Infinity Mirror Room – Phalli’s Field, 1965© Yayoi Kusama, courtesy: Ota Fine Arts, Victoria Miro & David Zwirner

There’s plenty to look forward to in 2020: some of the year’s blockbuster exhibitions include a study of masculinity through photography at the Barbican to the first ever exhibition dedicated to Prada

We’re ushering in a new decade, and with it a flurry of exciting new exhibitions across the globe. From Warhol to the women of Surrealism, from kimonos to Kusama, here are the shows you can’t afford to miss in 2020.

Yayoi Kusama at Gropius Bau, Berlin: September 4, 2020 – January 17, 2021

2020 will see the first comprehensive retrospective of Yayoi Kusama’s work ever to be held in Germany – and the unstoppable 90-year-old artist has made works specially for the show, including one of her infinitely Instagrammed ‘Infinity Mirrored Rooms’ and a new installation. The exhibition will span ​​almost 3,000 square metres in Berlin’s Gropius Bau museum, plunging visitors into the polka dot-punctuated world of the Japanese creative. It will look back across the entirety of Kusama’s seven-decade career, beginning in New York in the late 1950s, while spotlighting her multifarious approach and unique combination of classic media like painting, sculpture and drawing with installation, performance and happenings.

Masculinities: Liberation Through Photography at the Barbican, London: February 20 – May 17, 2020

Masculinity, and its many complex and contradictory iterations, will take centre stage in a new exhibition opening at The Barbican in February. Masculinities: Liberation through Photography will include the work of over 50 photographers and filmmakers from the 1960s through today – from Kenneth AngerPeter Hujar and David Wojnarowicz to Laurie Anderson, Collier Schorr and Rineke Dijkstra. Each of the featured works serves to debunk or disrupt the myths surrounding modern masculinity in some way, while exploring how masculinity is “experienced, performed, coded and socially constructed”. The show will be divided into six sections, tackling themes of queer identity, the black body, power and patriarchy, female perceptions of men, heteronormative hypermasculine stereotypes, fatherhood and family.

Prada: Front and Back at the Design Museum, London: September, 2020

Fashion aficionados, rejoice! The first blockbuster exhibition devoted entirely to Prada is coming to the Design Museum in London next autumn. Titled Prada: Front and Back, the show aims to explore all aspects of the Prada world, from the designs themselves to the creative and industrial infrastructure upon which the Italian fashion house is built. It will take a deep dive into Miuccia Prada’s pioneering vision, and the ways in which she has evolved the brand during her more-than-40-year tenure. “Prada has changed the way that people dress, redefined how we understand luxury, explored new materials and technologies and invested passionately in art, design and architecture,” the exhibition text proclaims. And by examining Prada’s singular creative process, myriad inspirations and collaborations, and everything in between, Prada: Front and Back will reveal just how she’s done so.

Andy Warhol at Tate Modern, London: March 12 – September 6, 2020

Andy Warhol is an artist whose relevance and popularity never ceases, as attested by a forthcoming retrospective of his work at Tate Modern. As the exhibition blurb informs us, “Warhol was an artist who reimagined what art could be in an age of immense social, political and technological change” – but much of his enduring popularity lies in the fact that his work is shamelessly fun. The show will celebrate all facets of the pop artist’s oeuvre: visitors can interact with his floating Silver Clouds installation and revel in the psychedelic multimedia environment of the Exploding Plastic Inevitable, the famed music, dance and film events organised by Warhol in the mid-60s. Meanwhile, Warhol favourites (the Marilyn Monroes and the Campbell’s soup cans) will be presented alongside a number of important, lesser-seen works, including 25 images from his Ladies and Gentlemen series, portraits of black and Latinx drag queens and trans women.

Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk at the V&A, London: February 29, 2020

This year, the V&A will celebrate all things kimono in an extensive exhibition exploring the traditional Japanese garment in all its guises, from the 1660s up until today. The T-shaped, wrapped-front gowns – worn with a wide sash, known as an obi – boast a number of varieties, according to era, wearer, season and occasion (the more formal the occasion or important the person, for instance, the more eye-catching and intricately patterned the kimono). The V&A show will present the garment “as a dynamic and constantly evolving icon of fashion, revealing [its] sartorial, aesthetic and social significance” in Japan and beyond, spanning its storied history and countless exquisite examples in the process.

Fantastic Women – Surreal Worlds From Meret Oppenheim to Frida Kahlo at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Copenhagen: June 18 – September 27, 2020

The female pioneers of Surrealism made a marked impact on their movement – André Breton’s inner circle was filled with women artists, many of whom showed in seminal Surrealist exhibitions of the day – but, as is so often the case in art history, their achievements have been overshadowed by those of their male contemporaries. Next summer, however, an exhibition at Copenhagen’s Louisiana Museum looks to redress the balance. The first major survey of the female Surrealists’ output, it will include some 250 works of painting, sculpture, drawing, photography and film by 30 women artists from the US, Mexico and Europe. Big names like Frida KahloLouise Bourgeois and Meret Oppenheim will be displayed alongside lesser-known artists including Kay Sage, Leonor Fini and Toyen. Each artist’s individual contribution to the Surrealist vernacular will be explored, as well as the overarching themes and ideas that link them. A collaboration with Frankfurt’s Schirn museum, the exhibition will show in Germany in February before travelling to Copenhagen. 

Marina Abramović: 50 Years of Pioneering Performance Art at the Royal Academy, London: September 26 – December 8, 2020

Marina Abramović is one of the most important performance artists in the history of art. Over the course of her 50-year career, she has “consistently tested the limits of her own physical and mental endurance”, often bringing audiences along for the ride – whether inviting them to interact with her in whatever way they please (Rhythm 0, 1974) or sit opposite her in silent contemplation (The Artist Is Present, 2010). Next year, the Serbian artist will join forces with London’s Royal Academy for the first-ever UK exhibition spanning her life’s work, including live re-performances of some of her most celebrated pieces. She will also present new work conceived especially for the show focussing on “changes to the artist’s body, and [exploring] her perception of the transition between life and death” as she approaches her mid-70s.

Steve McQueen at Tate Modern, London: February 13 – May 11, 2020

The Tate Modern will also present a new exhibition dedicated to the British artist and filmmaker Steve McQueen – the first major UK display of his work since McQueen took home the Turner Prize in 1999. In his 25-year career to date, McQueen has tackled themes of time and place, of politics, identity and representation, while pushing filmmaking to bold new heights – from his work in feature film (Hunger, Shame, 12 Years a Slave, Widows) through his innovative moving image installation pieces. The show will consider McQueen’s groundbreaking contribution to his medium through 14 of his most notable works, including his first film, Exodus 1992/7, shot on a Super 8 camera, and End Credits 2012–ongoing, his filmic tribute to the African-American singer, actor and civil rights activist Paul Robeson.

About Time: Fashion and Duration at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York: May 7 – September 7, 2020

This year marks the Met’s 150th anniversary, so it’s no surprise that the Costume Institute’s anticipated spring 2020 exhibition, which dictates the theme of the annual Met Gala, has a nostalgic bent. Dubbed About Time: Fashion and Duration, the display will look back across more than a century and a half of fashion, from the 1870s up until today, centring on “how clothes generate temporal associations that conflate past, present, and future”. Virginia Woolf will serve as the “ghost narrator”, the exhibition information teases, while all pieces included in the show will be either black or white and presented in dialogue with one another. “A linear chronology of fashion comprised of black ensembles will [reflect]... the progressive timescale of modernity,” the text expands. This will be interrupted by “a series of counter-chronologies composed of white ensembles that predate or postdate those in black” but which relate to them in form or motif. So far, so conceptual – but suffice to say, we’re intrigued.

Edward Hopper at Fondation Beyeler, Basel: January 26 – May 17, 2020

The great American 20th-century painter Edward Hopper is the focal point for a forthcoming exhibition at the Fondation Beyeler in Basel, which will seek to shine a light on the artist’s “iconic representations of the vastness of the American and urban landscape”. Although a central tenet of his output, this subject has rarely been explored in previous displays of Hopper’s work. Featuring a wide variety of watercolours and oil paintings, spanning his early work as an art student in the 1910s right up to his death in 1967, the show will also offer a comprehensive look at Hopper’s artistic evolution, while tracing the early influences that helped to shape his distinct aesthetic. As an additional highlight, a 3D short film by Wim Wenders, inspired by Hopper’s American Spirit, will accompany the show.