Art Shows To Visit In 2017

2017 is the year to travel for art’s sake, as just about every significant art museum boasts a must-see blockbuster show

The roll call of blockbuster names expected to inspire art lovers to queue around the block in 2017 is astonishing. From Van Gogh and Renoir to Picasso, the world’s major museums are lining up a staggeringly diverse cultural feast. So the next time you’re in London, Paris, New York, Madrid or Melbourne, check to see if any of our top 10 highlights whet your artistic whistle.


Renoir: Intimacy
Till 22 January

Nudes, portraits, group scenes or landscapes—it didn’t matter. Pierre-Augusta Renoir treated them all the same: with the gentle touch of a soft caress. The Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, one of Madrid’s holy trinity of art pilgrimages after Reina Sofia and the Prado, is exhibiting more than 70 works by the artist from collections around the world that reveal “how Renoir made use of tactile qualities of volume, material and textures to show intimacy among friends, family or between lovers”. The aching delicacy of Renoir’s work will linger long after you leave.

Surrealism in Catalonia

Till 5 February

I once got hopelessly lost in the Hermitage—400 exhibition rooms, 20 km of corridor and challenging signage tend to do that—but it was the most extraordinary museum experience I’d ever had. I stumbled across Rembrandts, Picassos, Matisses, Renaissance masters and endless, literally endless, rooms of exquisite beauty. So if you can’t find this year’s 2017 blockbuster show—Surrealism in Catalonia featuring headliner Salvador Dalì—just get lost in this Russian treasure chest. You could prowl around for years and still not experience a fraction of the masterworks on show.

Max Beckmann in New York
Till 20 February
His work was described as “degenerate” by the Nazis, his pictures were confiscated from German museums, and on the way to his 1950 show at New York’s Met, he suffered a heart attack and was gone. The life (and death) of Max Beckmann was as intriguing as it was colourful. Now the Met is paying tribute to this enigmatic German with a show of his most famous self portraits, expressionistic interiors and images of performers.

Frank Lloyd Wright at 150: Unpacking The Archive
12 June–1 October

He defined a uniquely individual architectural elegance and changed the way we wanted to live. Frank Lloyd Wright created schools, churches, skyscrapers, hotels and museums during a 70-year career that spanned more than a thousand projects, countless concepts and 20 books. Incredibly, for an architectural modernist who could make concrete sing with poetry, he was born in 1867. Now in 2017, MoMA is celebrating his 150th birthday with an incredible show. Unpacking The Archive features 450 works from the 1890s through to the 1950s, including drawings, models, films, print media and photographs, in addition to works never seen in public before. Essential.

Focus: Perfection
Till 22 January

The photographer Robert Mapplethorpe polarised critics, forced national debate and was often pilloried for obscenity. No matter, the pictures remain. Mapplethorpe may have died young but his glorious images, made up of meticulously composed light and shadows, took on a life of their own and continue to challenge today. His sexual subject matter still has the power to shock, but there is no denying that whether capturing a flower, a stiletto or a lover, Mapplethorpe’s obsessive search for photographic perfection is absorbing.

Yayoi Kusama: My Eternal Soul
Alfons Mucha
22 February–22 May; 8 March–5 June

After hugely successful shows featuring works from Venetian Renaissance artists and the surrealist Salvador Dalì, the National Art Center Tokyo is lining up two monster crowd-pleasers for 2017, featuring works by Yayoi Kusama and Alfons Mucha. Kusama is showcasing work from her Eternal Soul, so expect plenty of polka-dot patterns stretching to infinity and perhaps an inflatable pumpkin or two. Exhibits for Mucha’s show were still being finalised at the time of writing, but one thing is certain: his whimsical women and art nouveau imagery are guaranteed to be big in Japan.

Van Gogh And The Seasons
National Gallery of Victoria
28 April–9 July

This is huge news for art lovers in Australia. Guaranteed to be an absolute sell-out, the exhibition will feature 40 paintings and 25 drawings loaned from some of the biggest galleries in the world, including the Van Gogh Museum itself. Adding extra frisson is the fact that many of these works have never been seen before in Australia. As the exhibition’s title suggests, the focus is on Van Gogh’s approach to the seasons, so expect plenty of blossoming orchards, flowering meadows, bountiful harvests and peasants digging potatoes out of frozen fields.

Picasso Portraits

Till 5 February

Co-organised with Barcelona’s peerless Museu Picasso, Picasso Portraits epitomises, in the words of London’s National Portrait Gallery, “the astonishing variety and innovation of his art”. More than 80 works in a wide range of media will focus on Picasso’s images of friends, lovers and family as he moves effortlessly from Expressionism and caricature to Abstraction and Cubism. Many of the works are from private collections and are being shown in the UK for the first time.

Cy Twombly

Till 24 April

A visit to Paris is not a visit to Paris without the extraordinary Pompidou Centre. Forget the queues for the Louvre and join, erm, the queues for the Pompidou. The centre’s big show for 2017 is what it describes as the first comprehensive retrospective of American icon Cy Twombly. Covering a life’s work, the show features 140 paintings, sculptures, drawings and photographs that encompass the entire range of his primitive works.

America After the Fall: Painting in the 1930s

25 February–4 June

Nutty and macabre James Ensor, strident Russian Revolutionary art and that spooky couple from American Gothic, these are just a few of my favourite things. And they are all on at London’s Royal Academy of Arts in 2017. If I had to choose one, it would the America After the Fall show. It’s impossible to resist the siren calls of Pollock, O’Keeffe, Hopper and Guston all in the same place at the same time. And, of course, Grant Wood’s famous couple—this marks the first time this influential work has ever left North America.


 By Andy Round










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