The following guide to museum shows currently on view is compiled from Artforum’s three-times-yearly exhibition preview. Subscribe now to begin a year of Artforum—the world’s leading magazine of contemporary art. You’ll get all three big preview issues, featuring Artforum’s comprehensive advance roundups of the shows to see each season around the globe.
Since the 1980s, Douglas Coupland has been building novels around the alienated miasma of the just-arrived present: surplus stores, Snackwell’s, dead dolphins, semidisposable Swedish furniture. All along, the Canadian author, who first came to fame for his novels Generation X (1991) and Microserfs (1995), has been forging art alongside these zeitgeisty narratives, and now the Vancouver Art Gallery is hosting the first major survey of his work. Set to fill nearly ten thousand square feet on-site and spill into the city beyond, the show is organized according to such topics as “Canada Noir” and the “21st Century Condition”themes articulated via pixelated-looking Lego architecture and landscapes pastiching iconic Pop artists. A catalogue with contributions by, among others, William Gibson, Michael Stipe, and the artist-writer himself rounds out the exhibition, which culminates in The Brain, 2000–14, a room-spanning sculpture Coupland assembled out of objects culled from decades’ worth of accumulated ministorage.
In accordance with the model established by the landmark 1932 show “American Folk Art: The Art of the Common Man in America, 1750–1900” at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, this long-overdue survey will encompass almost two hundred artifacts from the seventeenth to the twentieth century. The curators will consider these works from an aesthetic perspective rather than that of an ethnographer or folklorist. As did its forebear, the London exhibition will feature objects that are readily considered under the (fine-art, not folk-art) rubrics of sculpture and painting: ships’ figureheads, trade signs, and genre scenes limned by artisans and amateurs. Supplementing these familiar categories will be textiles, collages, and sundry objects, including a “large boody [sic] pottery dish.” While most of the makers in the ensemble can no longer be identified, among the more recent contributors will be figures such as Alfred Wallis and Jesse Maycock, well known to those with an interest in self-taught and outsider art.
After Artur Żmijewski’s controversial seventh edition, in which activist strategies prevailed over artistic ones, the 8th Berlin Biennale (organized by Gaitán with a team that includes six artists and curators) will attempt a more traditional presentation. Some fifty artists will show work in three venues: the KW on Auguststraße, the rather off-center Haus am Waldsee, and the ethnological Museen Dahlem, whose collection, given its colonialist ties, is currently the subject of critical debate. The ways in which such ghosts of Berlin’s cultural past continue to act on the city’s present is a primary focus of the biennial. As a prelude to the exhibition, architect Andreas Angelidakis was invited to designCrash Pad, 2014, which is already on view at the KW. Billed as a “multipurpose room,” the installation is equipped with Orientalist rugs and free Wi-Fi and, anachronisms notwithstanding, is meant to conjure a nineteenth-century salon.
From the television set’s changing form to the switch-over from analog to digital broadcasting, up through the evolving culture of the tech industry itself, Simon Denny mines the intersecting histories of media technology and cultural production, making sculptures, videos, installations, and events that often reflect in unexpected ways on the context of their exhibition. At Portikus, Dennywho is representing New Zealand in the 2015 Venice Biennalerevisits a pivotal moment in the history of Samsung Electronics known as the Frankfurt Declaration. In June 1993, at the city’s Falkenstein Grand Kempinski hotel, company chairman Lee Kun-hee delivered a three-day speech outlining his philosophy of “New Management,” a set of principles now credited with creating the corporate culture that transformed Samsung from a second-tier television brand into the world’s most powerful electronics manufacturer. Denny will present an entirely new body of work, adding another chapter to his ongoing archaeology of culture, media, and the ideologies that drive them.
This thorough overview of the Argentinean-Italian artist’s materially and aesthetically heterogeneous oeuvre will fill the Musée d’Art Moderne this spring. Realized in collaboration with the Lucio Fontana Foundation, the exhibition will include some two hundred works, presented chronologically, beginning with the artist’s earliest outputincluding his 1930s sculpture and ceramics, which notably cut across the stylistic divides of primitivism, abstraction, and realist figuration. In addition, expect neon installations from the ’50s, a broad selection of slashed canvases, and several of Fontana’s curious late religious works, which intriguingly came about during the very periodthe late ’40s through the late ’50sthat also witnessed his return to abstract painting. A comprehensive catalogue with new essays by the curators and several scholars, plus an anthology of texts by Michel Tapié, Lawrence Alloway, and others, accompanies.
It seems to be Iran’s modern moment. On the heels of the Asia Society’s well-received “Iran Modern” exhibition this past fall in New York, this survey brings together works from 1960roughly the point at which the nation began a period of rapid urbanization and developmentto the present. “Unedited History” is divided into four temporal blocks: 1960–70, the revolutionary period of 1979, the Iran-Iraq war (1980–88), and the years since. Together with this selection of fine arts, highlights from other aspects of the country’s rich visual culture, such as its formidable cinema history and the life of the Shiraz-Persepolis Festival of Arts, should encourage new and unconventional readings of Iran and its vexed experience of modernitythrough monarchy, revolution, and theocracy. An accompanying publication and public program will extend and animate some of this exhibition’s guiding questions.
Travels to MAXXI, National Museum of XXI Century Arts, Rome, Dec. 15, 2014–Mar. 15, 2015.