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The Design Culture Calendar: February

Cool events taking place around the world this month.

Desert X, Coachella Valley, California

Set to overlap with the Coachella Music Festival that inspired it, the inaugural edition of Desert X, an exhibition of site-specific artworks, is poised to transform the desert environs between California’s San Bernadino Mountains and the Salton Sea this spring. The impressive international array of artists include Philipp K. Smith, whose installation is an array of concentric mirrored panels placed in a repetitive pattern; Gabriel Kuri, who has executed an enormous drawing in the sand that can be experienced on the ground or taken in as a whole from an elevated spot; Sherin Guirguis, whose work One I Call is an architectural recreation of an adobe Egyptian pigeon tower, complete with an audio track of desert songs and sounds taken from the Coachella environment; and Jennifer Bolande, whose installation of billboards along the Gene Autry Trail fill in the parts of the landscape they normally obscure with gorgeous photographs that complete each vista (it is meant to be experienced driving in a car). Taking the award for most whimsical is Norma Jeane’s Shy #1, a small robotic vehicle programmed to avoid contact with—read run away from—Desert X visitors. Fittingly, it was built by an artist born the night Marilyn Monroe died who took the cinema icon’s real name as an alias and refuses to be identified beyond his or her work. 

Various sites in Coachella Valley, California. February 25 through April 30. 


The portrayal "Mega Death" from the Tatsuo Miyajima exhibition. Photo by Alex Davies.

The portrayal “Mega Death” from the Tatsuo Miyajima exhibition. Photo by Alex Davies.


Tatsuo Miyajima’s “Connect with Everything” Retrospective at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney

Few contemporary artists grapple with what it means to be human as profoundly as Japanese-born Tatsuo Miyajima, whose signature works are high-tech, immersive light installations that border on the mystical. “Tatsuo Miyajima―Connect with Everything,” the artist’s first solo show in the Southern Hemisphere, is on view at Sydney’s Museum of Contemporary Art, and is as comprehensive a retrospective as the works deserve. Foremost among them are the installations Mega Death and Arrow of Time, which take on the weight of mortality and the irreversibility of life’s trajectory, respectively, and the equal parts mesmerizing and agitating Pile Up Life, light-studded sculptures dedicated to the individual lives lost to mass genocide. All three resonate with the mantras that inform Miyajima’s life and work: Keep Changing, Connect with Everything, and Live Forever. 

Museum of Contemporary Art Sydney, 140 George St, The Rocks NSW 2000, Sydney, Australia. Through March 5.  

A Robert Rauschenberg Retrospective at the Tate Modern Switch House, London

Your excuse for a visit across the pond to inaugurate the Switch House – the Tate Modern’s new brick pyramid-tower extension designed by the same Swiss firm, Herzog & de Meuron, that transformed the massive Bankside Power Station into the enormously popular hub of modern and contemporary art – has arrived in the form of the first major retrospective of Robert Rauschenberg since the American artist’s death in 2008.

Organized chronologically and in collaboration with New York’s MoMA, where it heads next spring, the show unfolds as a riveting narrative, journeying through the maverick’s many seminal creative moments, from his striking blue monoprints and his extraordinary Combines—so named for their amalgam of painting and sculpture (two of them are on rare loan from their respective homes: MoMA’s Bed and Moderna Museet’s Monogram)—to the artist’s Pop-inflected transfer drawings and silkscreens, and sculptures he made during his multifaceted tenure as a performance artist. 

Tate ModernBankside, London. Through April 2.

Cy Twombly’s Retrospective at the Centre Pompidou, Paris

It’s strangely fitting that the 20th-century master Cy Twombly, Rauschenberg’s erstwhile teacher, lover and friend, is being feted simultaneously at the Centre Pompidou in Paris in the first major retrospective since this artist’s death in 2011. Spanning the early 1950s to his last year, the show’s 140 works are framed around three major cycles of the artist’s work: Nine Discourses on Commodus, the 1963 series Twombly undertook shortly after his permanent move to Rome that harnessed the artist’s scribblings, smudges and erasures to tell the story of the barbaric reign and eventual murder of Roman emperor Aurelius Commodus; Fifty Days at Iliam, what the artist referred to as “a painting in ten parts” that depicts the first 50 days of the siege of Troy, inspired by Alexander Pope’s translation of Homer’s Iliad; and 2000’s Coronation of Sesostris, another series of ten whose subject was the Egyptian mythology of the sun’s journey from morning to night. After much rejection and hostility in the States, Twombly was given his first solo show in Paris in 1971, making this elegiac show in the City of Light all the more poignant. 

Centre PompidouPlace Georges-Pompidou, Paris. Through April 24.



The glassy exterior of the new Sumida Hokusai Museum. Image courtesy of the museum.

The Opening of the Sumida Hokusai Museum, Tokyo

Despite the rich history of art in Japan, it is ukiyo-e (“pictures of the floating world”)—woodblock prints from the 18th and 19th centuries depicting everything from kimono-clad courtesans and kabuki actors to animals, plants, and dramatic, often romantic landscapes—that first comes to mind when one thinks of Japanese art, and that has had the most lasting influence on artists of every nationality (including 19th-century masters James Whistler, Edgar Degas and Mary Cassatt, among others).

Now there’s a museum devoted entirely to the country’s best-known practitioner, Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849), whose formal, masterfully composed works have, alongside those of rival Hiroshige (1797-1858), come to define the genre. Designed by Pritzker Prize–winning architect Kazuyo Sejima, the angular Sumida Hokusai Museum just opened in Tokyo’s Sumida Ward, where the legendary master lived and produced the bulk of his work in the mid 19th century. Don’t miss Great Wave off Kanazawa from his seminal “36 Views of Mt. Fuji” series. 

Sumida Hokusai Museum, 2-7-2 Kamezawa, Sumida-ku, Tokyo. 

Louise Bourgeois’s “Structures of Existence: The Cells” at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Copenhagen

Be sure to buy a ticket to Copenhagen, not the Southern U.S. state, to see “Louise Bourgeois. Structures of Existence: The Cells” at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art. The show in Denmark’s most visited museum, located about 20 miles north of Copenhagen on the Øresund Sound, showcases 25 of the French-American artist’s 62 Cells, the self-contained, microcosmic tableaux that she began shortly before turning 80 that are among her most visceral works. (She embarked on their creation in 1980 in a spacious new Brooklyn studio that allowed her to create much larger works than she ever could in her Chelsea home.)

Her first six Cells, which are demarcated by walls with doors that lead into interior spaces, have been reunited for the first time since they were shown in 1991 at the Carnegie International exhibition in Pittsburgh. Another highlight is her monumental spider Cell, which, rather than signifying menace, symbolizes the kindness and care of her nurturing mother, who was a weaver and restorer of ancient tapestries.

Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Gl Strandvej 13, 3050 Humlebæk, Denmark. Through February 26. 

Deana Lawson Exhibition at the Contemporary Museum of St. Louis, Missouri

Speaking of people in terms of their primary distinguishing characteristic—the blind, the poor, the disabled, the outcast—says more about the speaker than anything else. For defining any characteristic as being primary not only erases individuality but validates facile generalizations that all too often betray bias against those heaped into those categories. Brooklyn-based photographer Deana Lawson’s mesmerizing large-format, chromogenic portraits of people of color, paired off in twos, usually, and set in their home, yard, neighborhood or unnamed venue, make such judgment seem myopic—and a whole lot more difficult—by portraying the quirkiness, scars, dignity, and honest, breathing humanity of her subjects. Like Diane Arbus before her, Lawson uses an array of strategies, from staged work to found, tableaux to documentary techniques, to capture the narrative persona of those who sit, pose, and seemingly turn over their lives, however briefly, to her ambitious project of chronicling the inimitable life essence that is a person’s individuality. If you can’t make it to St. Louis for the retrospective, you can catch her at this spring’s Whitney Biennial. 

Contemporary Museum of Art St. Louis, 3750 Washington Blvd, St. Louis, Missouri. Through April 16.

Headland Sculpture on the Gulf, Auckland, New Zealand

Few settings are as idyllic for an outdoor exhibition as that of New Zealand’s Headland Sculpture on the Gulf, a biennial, three-week sculpture installation launched by a local community arts organization in 2003. After taking a half-hour ferry ride from Auckland to Waiheke Island, you’ll head up a hill (or hop the shuttle bus for $5) to explore 30-plus site-specific works by New Zealand artists installed along a 1.25-mile walkway on the bluffs overlooking Matiatia Harbor. In addition to work by traditional sculptors, this year’s event will include “social sculpture,” pieces that incorporate viewer participation as a vital element, for the first time. Look out for Off-Cuts by artist blacksmith Jon Hall, three solid-steel billets manipulated to resemble the discarded leftovers of the forging industry. Stop by the pavilion at the bottom of the hill to support the gratis show. In addition to offering more art and live entertainment, the pop-up venue serves everything from locally sourced dishes, craft beer, and wine to ice cream for the kids. It is, after all, the height of summer in the southern hemisphere.

2 Korora Road, Waiheke Island, Auckland, New Zealand. Through February 19.

The Elbphilarmonie concert hall in Hamburg. Photo by Thies Rätzke

The opening of Elbphilharmonie and Elbtreppe in Hamburg

Though Hamburg has long been one of Germany’s most influential cities, it is coming into its own as a travel destination thanks to two architectural projects on the waterfront completed in the past two years. One of the late, brilliant architect Zaha Hadid’s final creations, Elbtreppe is a half-mile promenade along the Elbe River punctuated by amphitheater-like steps (Treppe) on which to sit down and take in the magnificent cityscape. It offers a great view of the nearby Elbphilarmonie, a crystalline, sail-shaped concert hall by Swiss architecture firm Herzog & de Meuron, creators of the Tate Modern, that finally opened its doors in November. (It was 14 years in the making, and its final budget came in at 860 euros, more than ten times what the city had initially approved.) Though you’re unlikely to score tickets to a performance in the foreseeable future, it’s worth visiting just to take in the 360-degree view afforded by the Plaza, the glass-enclosed panoramic ring dividing the soaring glass structure and the warehouse on which it was built. While you’re in the neighborhood, don’t miss checking out Speicherstadt, the city’s stately warehouse district, which was named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2015. 

Elbphilharmonie, Platz der Deutschen Einheit 1, 20457 Hamburg, Germany; 49-40-357-666-0. Elbtreppen, Niederhafen Port at River Elbe, 22763 Hamburg, Germany.

The Olafur Eliasson: Parliament of Possibilities Exhibition, Seoul, South Korea

Spanning earlier successes to some of his most recent work, this retrospective chronicles the extraordinary career of Icelandic-Danish artist Olafur Eliasson, whose large-scale installations invariably stimulate the mind as much as they do the senses. From his early Moss, a massive wall of green reindeer moss that yellows and dries over the course of its showing, to Reversed Waterfall, a contraption that shoots water from one metal container upward to the next while maintaining the shape, feel, and sound of a natural waterfall, his works harness ephemeral elementsair, light, gravity, space—in the service of rapturous provocation, contemplation, and magic. Among the show’s highlights is a work from 2016, Your Unpredictable Path. Its constellations of mirrored crystalline spheres mounted on a wall of black not only evoke the night sky but, in turning the reflections of passing visitors upside down, the ephemerality of the universe.

Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art, 60-16, Itaewon-ro, 55-gil, 140-893 Yongsan-gu, Seoul, South Korea. 82 2-2014-6901. Through February 26.

Lee Magill

Lee Magill is a writer and editor based in New York City who has contributed to Travel + Leisure and Time Out. She previously served as the editor of Time Out New York Kids

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