For the Best of 2013 In Print, see the December Issue of Artforum.

Miguel Amado


Cildo Meireles, Abajur (Lampshade), 1997/2010, mixed media, dimensions variable.

Ahlam Shibli’s “Phantom Home” at Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona (January 25–April 28, 2013); Jeu de Paume (May 27–September 30, 2013); Museu de Arte Contemporânea de Serralves (November 14, 2013–February 9, 2014) This year, Paris’s usually calm summer was stormed by controversy surrounding the Palestinian artist Ahlam Shibli’s exhibition, which surveys her photographic output from the past decade. The show includes the series “Eastern LGBT,” 2004–2006, which poetically portrays individuals exiled in cities such as London and Barcelona. Also on view is Shibli’s more recent series “Death,” 2011–12, which was criticized by French Jewish groups that claimed it makes an apology for terrorism. This work offers depictions of Palestinian men and women—including suicide bombers—who died or were imprisoned (“martyrs” for Shibli) in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Connections between memory and loss and the politics of representation are at the heart of “Death,” turning it into a reflection on a most universal subject.

Kader Attia’s “Repair. 5 Acts,” KW Institute for Contemporary Art (May 26–August 25, 2013) In this comprehensive presentation by Kader Attia, the French Algerian artist expanded his previous investigations of cultural appropriation and repair between the Western and non-Western worlds. He smartly approached this matter under the lens of debt—both moral and material—between European colonial powers and African countries. He put forward this compelling idea against topical European immigration policies, including those that intend to close Europe’s borders to populations of former African colonies—think of the October 3, 2013, Lampedusa Island shipwreck, for example.

Cildo Meireles at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía (May 24–September 29, 2013); Museu de Arte Contemporânea de Serralves (November 15, 2013–January 26, 2014); HangarBicocca (March 6, 2014–June 1, 2014) Experience—physical, sensorial, emotional, intellectual—is at the core of the Brazilian artist Cildo Meireles’s latest survey. Highlights include his immersive environments that engage the viewer in dreamlike atmospheres, as in Marulho, 1991–97, an oneiric sea made of seventeen thousand open books and a sound track of murmured voices and waves. However, Meireles is at his best in his politically charged interventions, as exemplified by the series “Inserção em circuitos ideológicos” (Insertion into Ideological Circuits), initiated in 1970–, which encapsulates his critique of capitalism. Elsewhere, Abajur (Lampshade), 1997/2010, is a large-scale circular panorama—activated by the labor of four men—that pictures a fifteenth-century Portuguese caravel sailing in the Atlantic Ocean, an allusion to the slave trade that emerged from European colonialism.

Miguel Amado is a curator and critic based in Barcelona and Lisbon.