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The Design Culture Calendar: September 2017

Cool events taking place around the world this month.

V&A Exhibition Road Quarter

Not since the Louvre’s pyramid has there been a more impressive European museum addition than the Victoria & Albert Museum’s Exhibition Road expansion, a project designed by the Stirling Prize–winning British architect Amanda Levete’s AL_A that debuted at the end of June. It has created a new, open public courtyard, covered in 11,000 handmade porcelain tiles and sporting a new café with AL_A-designed custom seating, that reveals three facades of the 1852-founded institution for the first time; provided the museum with a new entry portal; and, not least, carved out a huge, column-free subterranean hall, the Sainsbury Gallery, and two posh new skylit staircases (both are lined with polished tulipwood balustrades, and both are one way – one being designated for descent and the other for ascent) with which to get there from the original building. Altogether the Exhibition Road Quarter adds about 69,000 square feet to V&A’s total exhibition space, but what really matters is that the grande dame of London’s museums lives squarely in the 21st century, like the rest of us.

Victoria & Albert Museum, London

Goin’ to Kansas City

Looking to explore a new art scene outside the world culture capitals? A great choice would be…Kansas City, Missouri! It has a wealth of top-notch museums –Nelson-Atkins, the American Jazz Museum, the Money Museum, the Museum of World War I – and the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, which has scheduled its fall shows around the theme of art meets science. Its fourth annual “Science to Art” exhibit features photographs taken by medical researchers – their extraordinary creations allow them a chance to share their findings as well as wow photography aficionados – while “Magnetic Fields: Expanding American Abstraction from the 1960s to the Present” showcases the work of 20 contemporary American artists who have taken highly individual nonrepresentational paths, correcting anyone who’s thought abstraction is over. You may well finding yourself booking your next ticket back sooner than you thought.

Ring of Remembrance

With stirrings of nationalism, combative rhetoric, and actual annexation piercing Europe’s recent, relatively peaceful status quo, there seems no better time to visit L’Anneau de la mémoire, the World World I memorial in Ablain-Saint-Nazaire, at France’s northern tip, designed by architect Philippe Prost. The striking concrete ellipse, set into the slope below the neo-Byzantine chapel of the National Necropolis, France’s largest military cemetery, is lined with 500 vertical bronze sheets bearing the engraved names of 579,606 men and women who perished on the battlefields of the Nord-Pas-de-Calais in the Great War. Those names—largely French, British, and German—are listed in alphabetical order, regardless of the country the combatants served. “Grief has given way to calm,” Prost said of the memorial. “Through our project we wished to give a shape to brotherhood, to give expression to peace, and to unite art and nature and put them at the service of memory.”

L’Anneau de la mémoire, Ablain-Saint-Nazaire, France 

Museum Barbarini

Only an art collector with the vision, financial prowess, and largesse to match their passion for art could have brought about the creation of Potsdam’s Museum Barbarini, among the most significant new museums to open in Germany in decades. And that is just what German software company SAP cofounder Hasso Plattner brought to the table when he sought permission to restore the baroque Prussian Barbarini Palace in Potsdam’s Alter Markt square, which was originally modeled after Rome’s Palazzo Barberini and all but destroyed in a WWII air raid, and turn it into a world-class art destination.

After recreating the building—including replicating the sandstone facade to the exact specifications Frederick the Great ordered in 1771, a requirement imposed by city—Plattner finally has a 17-gallery home for his vast art collection. Its two kickoff exhibitions are “Impressionism: The Art of Landscape,” which showcases works by Monet, Sisley, Renoir and Pissarro, and “Modern Art Classics: Liebermann, Munch, Nolde, Kandinsky,” whose undoubted star is Edvard Munch’s Girls on the Bridge (1899), which Plattner is believed to have bought at Sotheby’s last November for $54.5 million (both shows run through May 28). Now you know where you have to go on your visit the German capital; the royal city on the Havel River is just an hour away from Berlin.

Museum Barbarini, Potsdam, Germany 

Tippet Rise Art Center

The coupling of art and stunning outdoor scenery is nothing new (witness sculpture gardens and summer music festivals), but the Tippet Rise Art Center, which kicks off season two this summer, takes it to a whole new level. Set on a 10,000-plus-acre working sheep and cattle ranch in a corner of Montana where snow-capped mountains intercept the meeting of verdant pastureland and azure sky, Tippet is an idea as much as it is a place. Founders Peter and Cathy Halstead, both of whom are artists and art benefactors, say they were inspired by New York’s Storm King to bring music, art, architecture, and nature together.

Site-specific sculpture and land art works by Alexander Calder, Mark di Suvero, Patrick Dougherty, Stephen Talasnik, and the group Ensamble Studio are scattered throughout the expansive landscape and can be viewed solo, on foot or by bike, or via scheduled tours in a carbon-neutral van (Fridays through Sundays), while intimate concerts with contemporary classical music luminaries like Yevgeny Sudbin, Jenny Chen, and the Ariel String Quartet take place in the Olivier Music Barn or out in the open alongside an outdoor sculpture. If you’re heading west in September, step off the beaten path and book tickets for Tippet’s Architecture & Design Film Festival (Sept 22–24), the center’s last event of the year.

Tippet Rise Art Center, Fishtail, Montana

Carlos Cruz Diez: Chroma

The Savannah College of Art and Design celebrates the life and work of Franco-Venezualan artist Carlos Cruz Diez, this year’s recipient of the school’s deFINE ART honor, with a show of works that aim to challenge and change viewers’ perception of space, light, and color. Throughout his seven-decade career, the Paris-based artist, known as much for his groundbreaking color theory as for his artwork, has explored the parameters of color through visual environments that put their audience front and center as sensory participants. Among the show’s highlights are the immersive Environnement Chromointerférent, an indoor installation created specifically for SCAD; Chromosaturation, a work housed inside a shipping container in the museum’s courtyard that transforms a series of spaces into planes of color; and a series of crosswalk designs, one of the artist’s signature series, installed near the museum. “The world of color is the world of emotion,” Cruz Diez once said, hinting at both the source of his fascination and the goal of his artistic interventions.

Savannah College of Art and Design, Savannah, Georgia. Through August 20. 

Josef Frank: Against Design

Colorful exuberance isn’t what first comes to mind when you hear the words Scandinavian design—until you start thinking of those countries’ fabrics, that is. Almedahls, Lungbergs, and Marimekko fabrics are all by turns sumptuous, earthy, and riotous, adding pops of pattern to otherwise stark, monotone interiors. That entire legacy is thanks to Jewish-Austrian immigrant Josef Frank (1885–1967), who in 1933 abandoned a successful architecture career in Vienna and fled with his wife to Sweden upon sensing the growing power of the Nazis in his home country. Frank went on to have an astonishing career in his adopted country—and in New York, where he was a war exile from 1940 to 1945—as a fabric and furniture designer with interior design firm Svenskt Tenn (the company sells his work, from rugs and pillows to wallpaper, to this day). Dense, intricate and largely botanical, his designs draw you in with their striking color combinations and imaginative scenes, as if they were worlds unto themselves and completely alive. This show, the most comprehensive of his work to date, explores Frank’s increasing discontent with the strict tenets of modernism, and his subsequent embrace of a philosophy called “accidentism,” in which chaos, boundary-breaking juxtapositions, and contradictions are celebrated.  

ArkDes, Stockholm, Sweden. Through August 27.

Frida Kahlo: Through the Lens of Nickolas Muray

Few artists elicit instant recognition and adulation quite like Mexican painter Frida Kahlo, whose stature as an artist reached epic proportions decades after her death in 1954 at age 47. One reason for this is that self-portraiture was a primary artistic pursuit of hers throughout her life, beginning with her recuperation from a near fatal accident at age 18. Yet a great many of the most iconic Kahlo portraits were taken not by the artist but by her friend and lover Nickolas Muray, a Hungarian-born color photography pioneer whom she met in 1931 while married to artist Diego Rivera and with whom she remained friends until her death. This exhibition brings together 52 of these portraits, a mix of color and black-and-white, alongside letters Muray and Kahlo wrote each other, which only heighten the intimacy of the NYC-based photographers astonishing portraits of a deeply private 20th-century giant.

Museum of Latin American Art, Long Beach, California. Through September 3. 

Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between

Despite its recent managerial and financial woes, the Met is putting on its game face with this comprehensive survey of beloved fashion rebel Rei Kawakubo at the Costume Institute. The show, which marks just the second time the storied Institute has mounted a showcase featuring a living fashion creative (the first was Yves Saint-Laurent in 1983), explores the Japanese maverick’s highly original aesthetic via eight categories that align opposites—Fashion/Anti Fashion, Design/Not Design, Self/Other, and Object/Subject among them—suggesting that her sartorial creations smash boundaries, allowing the wearer to reside “in between,” and thus free of, artificial constraints that deign what is appropriate, outrageous, or doable. Expect a mix of her most iconic looks from the past 30 years, from all-black, deconstructed minimalism to brightly colored sculptural frocks that easily jump from artful to art.

Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute. New York City. Through September 4. 

Nick Cave: Until

The astonishing installation Until is Mass MoCA’s most ambitious show to date, and it’s hard to imagine it not also being the magnum opus of Chicago-based sculptor and performance artist Nick Cave. Perhaps best known for his fanciful yet transformative Soundsuits, wearable sculptures that he began creating in response to the Rodney King beating in 1992, Cave has filled the entirety of the contemporary art museum’s largest exhibition space, a former factory structure known as Building 5, with a series of exuberant environments – an 18-foot-tall crystal cloudscape bedecked with chandeliers; a quasi-paradisical garden filled with plants, birds; a permeable wall made of sparkling metallic objects; an assemblage of 20,000 wind spinners; a collection of gaudy tschochkes. Until, so named to evoke “innocent until proven guilty or guilty until proven innocent,” according to Cave, is enthralling and experiential. Look closer, however, and amid the fantastical material excess, images of guns, targets, and tears emerge, indictments of a gun-obsessed culture that are meant to unsettle, give pause, and shine a light on the racism and gun violence at the heart of America’s darkness that has taken the lives of Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, and Tamir Rice, among countless others. It’s only if we don’t avert our eyes, the show suggests, that we will find a way forward. 

Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art. North Adams, MA. Through September 4.

Maureen Gallace: Clear Day

That the cutting-edge bastion of contemporary art is showcasing a series of small, quiet landscapes by a local artist seems to suggest that genre-defying multimedia, dissonance, and a disposition for neon are no longer prerequisites for being “of the moment.” New York–based artist Maureen Gallace uses a restrained palette for her quiet yet haunting landscapes that depict houses in rural settings with an abstracted shorthand that is nothing short of masterful. These abodes, many of which are devoid of windows and doors, never reveal their inhabitants and often come across as empty or abandoned. Taken together, in the largest survey of her work to date, Gallace’s works are redolent of Giorgio Morandi, her houses akin to the collection of vessels with which the Italian composed a lifetime of stunning contemplations: They are neither pure form nor specific depiction but dwell in between as the mantra-like repetitions of two singular, almost devotional painters.

MoMA PS1, Long Island City, New York. Through September 10.

Alberto Giacometti shows

In the first of two shows focused on seminal 20th-century sculptors who have been anointed in the one-name cannon (the second is Brancusi, debuting in November), the Tate Modern seemingly gathered every piece of Giacometti’s it could from the Fondation Giacometti in Paris to present as complex a picture as possible of the Swiss artist best known (some would say primarily known) for his postwar bronze castings of emaciated, elongated figures (Pointing Man, The Chariot, Falling Man). As if to point out the extent to which we do not know this artist as we think we do, an imposing collection of portrait busts from across the artist’s career greet visitors in the first gallery. Don’t miss the next section’s stunningly inventive Surrealistic sculptures with which the artist made a name for himself in Paris – from Suspended Ball (1930-31), a hanging crescent cradling a ball and enclosed in a box, and Disagreeable Object (1931), a barbed, phallic creature with an owl’s head, to Caught Hand (1932), which one can imagine as a gruesome means of torture, and Woman with Her Throat Cut (1933), an abstract bronze work that is far more fascinating than repulsive – or the eight Women of Venice, displayed for the first time since the 1956 Venice Biennale for which they were created.

Tate Modern, London, U.K. Through September 10.

Toba Khedoori

One of Miami’s newest cultural venues showcases 25-plus works by Toba Khedoori, an Australian-born artist of Iraqi descent who has lived and worked in Los Angeles since 1990. Her largely monochromatic drawings depict everyday architectural elements seen from a distance, from building facades to hallways, and reveal a preoccupation with negative space and repetition. The power of her finest works, executed on wax-treated paper, derives from their unusual combination of painstakingly detailed draftsmanship and enormous size; they are typically 11 x 20 feet, dimensions made possible by her spacious former studio in Inglewood, California, which she left in 2008. Several shifts have taken place since she moved her studio to Venice, California; she now works in oil on linen, her artworks are decidedly smaller, and they hone in on details of such objects as tree branches rather than pull out for the expansive view. In both series, Khedoori’s work is as enigmatic as it is mesmerizing—so much so that we’re looking forward to seeing where she, and it, goes next.

Pérez Art Museum Miami, Miami, Florida. Through September 24.

Richard Deacon: Some Time

This summer, one of Europe’s preeminent sculpture gardens hosts a show of one of its preeminent sculptors: the Turner Prize–winning British artist Richard Deacon. Known primarily for enormous sculptures that, paradoxically, are often hollow, Deacon, unlike a great many sculptors, relishes using an array of materials for his work, from wood, leather, and PVC to steel, corrugated iron, and marble. The focus of the show, which features 31 works of all sizes, is variations, which references Deacon’s tendency to push his work into new territory, however temporarily. In honor of the survey, Middelheim and Deacon together undertook the “refabrication” of the sculpture Never Mind, a mysterious, zephyr-shaped work with a sensuous faceted surface that Middleheim bought back in 1993, when Antwerp was designated the Culture Capital of Europe. Wooden strips were replaced by stainless steel versions, and the base was restored, in essence creating an entirely new work—an act that’s pure Deacon. 

Middelheim Open Air Sculpture Museum, Antwerp Belgium. Through September 24.

Frank Lloyd Wright at 150: Unpacking the Archive

One would imagine that an exhibition celebrating the 150th anniversary of an architectural icon’s birth would be not just a major survey but a grand, pulling-out-the-stops retrospective of the sort museums didn’t and couldn’t do 50 years ago. Instead, MoMA chose to fete the life and work of Frank Lloyd Wright by delving into the Frank Lloyd Wright Archive, which MoMA acquired jointly with Columbia University in 2012, enlisting scholars to unearth and research little-known drawings, photographs, writings, and building models that would illuminate the American architect’s creative processes, worldview, and prodigious imagination. Among the must-see highlights are an eight-foot-tall drawing of Mile-High, a skyscraper Wright envisioned for New York City (had it been built, it would be the world’s tallest building still); ads for mass-produced homes Wright designed that he envisioned as the way of the American future; color drawings of the Guggenheim that reveal the architect considered making the exterior salmon or pink, rather than the beige it became; and fantastical megastructures for city centers as far-flung as Madison, Wisconsin, Bagdad, and Pittsburgh that, like many of the projects the exhibition spotlights, were never realized. It could be that the museum’s real goal was to ignite in visitors a desire to seek out the Frank Lloyd Wright masterpieces that were built and see them in a whole new light. 

Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY. Through Oct 1.

Charles Howard: A Margin of Chaos

A retrospective of a visionary yet enigmatic, little-known artist is always a must-see, and in this case it’s even more of one thanks to its organizer’s new venue: The Berkeley Art Museum inaugurated its new Diller Scofidio + Renfro–designed megabuilding, which it shares with the Pacific Film Archive, in 2016. In fact, the show’s location is more than fitting, considering Charles Howard (1899–1978) was the son of John Howard, the supervising architect of U.C. Berkeley, which commissioned the building. This thoughtful exhibition chronicles Howard’s work, from his early mural work in NYC to Surrealism and abstraction, with approximately 75 pieces, largely paintings and works on paper. Howard’s meticulously rendered creations are extraordinary, particularly those that nod to abstraction while retaining the spatially complex, exquisite graphic surety of an accomplished Surrealist. (Howard encountered and then studied Surrealism upon moving to London in 1933.) The artist’s dynamic works reveal a master we should have known about earlier, yet are grateful not to have missed this time around. 

Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, U.C. Berkeley campus, Berkeley, CA. Through October 1. 

From Hopper to Rothko: America’s Road to Modern Art

If there was ever any doubt that Hasso Platner’s new Museum Barberini in Potsdam would be a major player on the international scene, this show, a collaboration with the Philipps Collection in Washington, D.C., will put it to rest. The far-reaching exhibition tells the story of American art in the first half of the 20th century, from post–Hudson River School landscapes and portraiture to cityscapes, post-WWI realism, color field painting, and such an astounding array of Abstract Expressionists that one wonders how a single designation can encompass them all. To its credit, the show shines the spotlight on U.S. artists that until now may not be household names in Europe, like Marsden Hartley, Richard Diebenkorn, and Philip Guston, alongside luminaries like Edward Hopper, Georgia O’Keeffe, and Mark Rothko who need no introduction. The show may just inspire a trip to the Phillips Collection itself, to see all the works, the vast majority of its holdings – that stayed behind.

Museum Barberini. Potsdam, Germany. Through October 3.


For an immersion into the visual worlds of four postwar German artists grappling with questions of form and space, it’s worth a trip to Munich’s Sammlung Goetz. The exhibition FarbRaumKörper, named after a term coined by the artist Gotthard Graubner (1930-2013) to describe his dense paintings on fabric (it means, roughly, “color/space/forms”), brings together the work of Graubner, whose work mined the tension between the ethereal and the material; Blinky Palermo (1943-1977), the artist who borrowed the name of an American mafioso and who, in his short but prolific life, experimented with the dynamics of sequential line, color, and negative space; Imi Knoebel (b. 1940), who explores shape and color through machine-cut works exhibited in series (you may have seen his 24 Colors – For Blinky at Dia: Beacon between 2008 and 2014);  and Reiner Ruthenbeck (1937-2016), whose sculptures often made use of everyday objects to take on the likes of gravity. All four share a connection with the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf, the renowned art school whose alums include painters Gerhard Richter and photographers Thomas Struth and Andreas Gursky.

Sammlung Goetz, Munich, Germany. Through October 14.

Minneapolis Sculpture Garden/Walker Art Center

After a $10 million makeover and an almost two-year wait, Minneapolis’ beloved sculpture garden reopens to the public in June. The 29-year-old public green space, on the expansive campus of the lauded contemporary art–focused Walker Art Center and perhaps best known for its Spoonbridge and Cherry fountain by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen, has added 18 sculptures to the 42 works in its collection. Among them are Robert Indiana’s Love sculpture and six new works commissioned for the site, among them Hahn/Cock by German-born sculptor Katharina Fritsch, a 20-foot-tall ultramarine blue rooster that recalls the Midwestern weathervane while also poking fun at the notion of monumental sculpture. Yet the main stars are the park itself, which was upgraded with state-of-the-art irrigation and stormwater drainage systems, a new native plant meadow, and the addition of 300 new trees, and the Walker Art Center, which is undergoing massive renovations of its own; during the garden’s closure it added a new entry pavilion, a green roof, and an outdoor plaza designed by the late Sol LeWitt. “Katharina Fritsch: Multiples,” a solo show of the artist’s monochromatic work, is on view at the Walker through October 15.

Minneapolis Sculpture Garden/Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Calder: Hypermobility

The last exhibition curated by the Whitney’s Jay Sanders is far more than a gathering of some of the museum’s—and the Calder Foundation’s—most beloved possessions. That’s because the works it showcases are appearing, for the first time in decades, just as their maker, Alexander Calder, intended them to: in active motion, whether motorized with a switch, as is the case with eight rare mechanized works, or simply set in motion by the careful hands of Whitney staffers. (Preservation edicts until now had dictated that the works be kept still to keep them safe.) 

Though Calder invented the mobile, he did not, in fact, invent the term; mobile was coined to describe Calder’s work by none other than his friend Marcel Duchamp, who clearly recognized that the form’s genius – and, by incorporating movement, a kind of fourth dimension, its uniqueness – rendered the word sculpture, and every other word, for that matter, insufficient. The wonder that is Calder’s work may well hit you anew on the Whitney’s expansive eighth floor when the mobiles begin to flutter and spin. Plan to stay a while, as you won’t want to miss these rare pieces in action (the motorized pieces are activated just three times a day on weekdays, six on weekends). After all, you never know if you’ll get to see them dance again.  

Whitney Museum of American Art. Through October 23.

The Great Graphic Boom

Organized in conjunction with Oslo’s National Museum, this ambitious show gives center stage to American printmaking, an often overlooked art form, created between 1960 and 1990. The panoply of American artists featured, from Ellsworth Kelly and Cy Twombly to Louise Bourgois and Ed Ruscha, is a who’s who of American art of the time that includes Abstract Expressionists and minimalists – many of whom had already made a name for themselves as painters before turning to the medium – alongside Pop art practitioners for whom printmaking was central, including Andy Warhol and Roy LIchtenstein. It looks at the role several print-centric publishing houses played in the rise of graphic arts, in particular New York’s Universal Limited Art Editions and Los Angeles’ Gemini G.E.L, with a stellar collection of single sheets, portfolios, and artist’s books. Among the show’s noteworthy highlights, most of which are lithographs and screen prints, are Barnett Newman’s Cantos series (1964), Agnes Martin’s On a Clear Day (1973), woodcuts by Donald Judd and Helen Frankenthaler, a selection of Andy Warhol’s Campbell’s soup and celebrity series, and Roy LIchtenstein’s Brushstroke (1965). You may find yourself wondering why printmaking doesn’t always get the attention it deserves.

Staatsgalerie Stuttgart. Stuttgart, Germany. Through November 5.

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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