14 Art Exhibitions To See in the First Half of 2021

Top Lists, Exhibition Announcements

January 4, 2021

The year 2020 was tough for museums and galleries, as well as for the rest of the world. Institutions all around the world have spent the majority of the year closed. Hopefully, the year 2021 is looking better. Exhibitions that have been announced so far will be remarkably diverse, examining works by artists such as Francis Bacon, René Magritte, Yayoi Kusama or Sophie Taeuber-Arp. Many of the shows were initially planned for the year 2020 but had to be postponed due to the coronavirus restrictions. Since the end of the pandemic doesn't seem near yet, these dates are subjects to change, so please check the venue's website before visiting. 

Here are fourteen art exhibitions around the world that you should definitely check out in the first six months of 2021. 

Featured image: Yayoi Kusama, “Infinity Mirror Room – Phalli’s Field” (detail), 1965.


Grief and Grievance at the New Museum

New York's New Museum brings us a show that features works that address black grief as a national emergency in the face of a politically orchestrated white grievance. Originally conceived by the celebrated late curator Okwui Enwezor, the exhibition Grief and Grievance: Art and Mourning in America will present works by 37 artists, such as Jean-Michel Basquiat, Dawoud Bey, Mark Bradford, LaToya Ruby Frazier, Theaster Gates, Arthur Jafa, Daniel LaRue Johnson, Deana Lawson, Kerry James Marshall, Julie Mehretu, Lorna Simpson, Hank Willis Thomas, Kara Walker, and Carrie Mae Weems. Initially planned to open in proximity to the American presidential election, the exhibition was postponed due to the pandemic. Yet, it still holds a mirror to America’s past, present, and future.

The exhibition Grief and Grievance: Art and Mourning in America will be on view at the New Museum in New York from February 17th until June 6th, 2021.

Featured image: Theaster Gates - Gone Are the Days of Shelter and Martyr, 2014. Video, sound, color; 6:31 minutes. © Theaster Gates. Courtesy White Cube and Regen Projects, Los Angeles. All images courtesy New Museum.

Francis Bacon at the RA

One of the most celebrated painters of the post-war period, Francis Bacon is celebrated for his outstanding, yet chiseling portraits of mostly hybrid bodies. For this purpose, the artist paid close attention to the exploration of animals to ultimately comment upon the human beastiality. The exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts titled Francis Bacon: Man and Beast explores this particular fascination, featuring a total of forty-five paintings that span Bacon's career - from his earliest works made in the 1930s and 40s to the final painting Study of a Bull he made in 1991 - to be shown for the first time in the UK.

The exhibition Francis Bacon: Man and Beast will be on view at the Royal Academy of Arts< in London from January 30th until April 18th, 2021.

Featured image: Left: Francis Bacon - Portrait of George Dyer Crouching, 1966. Oil on canvas. Private collection © The Estate of Francis Bacon. All rights reserved, DACS/Artimage 2020. Photo: Prudence Cuming Associates Ltd / Right: Francis Bacon - Study for Bullfight No. 1, 1969. Oil on canvas, 197.7 x 147.8 cm. Private collection, Switzerland © The Estate of Francis Bacon. All rights reserved, DACS/Artimage 2020. Photo: Prudence Cuming Associates Ltd. Images courtesy the Royal Academy of Arts.

Magritte / Renoir. Surrealism in full sunlight at the Musée d'Orsay

The Musée d’Orsay is bringing together works from René Magritte’s Renoir Period, comparing Magritte's works with those of Auguste Renoir who inspired him. Upon the end of the World War II, the artist produced around fifty paintings as well as gouaches and a considerable number of drawings – illustrating Sade, G. Bataille, Éluard and Lautréamont. Titled Magritte / Renoir. Surrealism in full sunlight, the exhibition brings together around sixty paintings and forty drawings. Magritte’s paintings from the period are set alongside Renoir’s masterpieces, contemporary paintings by Picabia and other works, notably by Jeff Koons, giving an idea of the influence of these little-known works.

The exhibition Magritte / Renoir. Surrealism in full sunlight will be on view at the Musée d’Orsay in Paris from February 10th until June 21st, 2021.

Featured image: René Magritte - The Gift © Photothèque R. Magritte / ADAGP Images, Paris, 2020.

Niki de Saint Phalle at MoMA

The work of Niki de Saint Phalle, a visionary feminist and activist artist, will go on view at MoMA in spring 2021. The first New York museum exhibition of her work will feature over 100 works that highlight Saint Phalle’s interdisciplinary approach and engagement with pressing social and political issues. Central to the showcase is an examination of her large-scale outdoor sculptures and architectural structures, including her central life project Tarot Garden, a massive architectural park in Italy.

Initially planned for the year 2020, the exhibition Niki de Saint Phalle will be on view at MoMA in New York from March 11th until August 2021.

Featured image: Niki de Saint Phalle. Photo de la Hon repeinte. 1979 © 2019 NIKI CHARITABLE ART FOUNDATION. Photo: Katrin Baumann. Courtesy MoMA.

Sophie Taeuber-Arp: Living Abstraction

A pioneer of abstraction, the Swiss artist Sophie Teuber-Arp fused the experimentalism of the avant-garde circles in which she moved in Zurich and Paris with her technical training and experience as a teacher of applied art. Her oeuvre spans textile pieces such as pillows and tablecloths, bead works, a puppet theater, costumes, murals, furniture, architecture, graphic designs, paintings, drawings, sculptures, and reliefs. The Kunstmuseum Basel will dedicate a comprehensive retrospective to the artist titled Living Abstraction. Finally establishing her as one of classic modernism’s leading avant-gardists, the exhibition will introduce her oeuvre from her beginnings in applied art to the architecture-related projects and abstract paintings.

The exhibition Living Abstraction will be on view at the Kunstmuseum Basel from March 20th until June 20th, 2021; at Tate Modern in London from July 15th until October 21st, 2021; and at MoMA in New York from November 21st, 2021 until March 12th, 2022.

Featured image: Sophie Taeuber-Arp, via Kunst Museum Basel.

Alice Neel at The Met

In the artist's first museum retrospective in New York in two decades, The Met's Alice Neel: People Come First will be a delightful look at one of the century's most radical painters. On view there will be some hundred paintings, drawings, and watercolors, featuring depictions of a broad range of humanity. Among Neel's affectionate, raw portraits, there will be sitters such as activists demonstrating against fascism and racism, the impoverished victims of the Great Depression, as well as the painter's neighbors in Spanish Harlem. On display there will also be Neel's erotic, nude figure watercolors and pastels from the 1930s.

The exhibition Alice Neel: People Come First will be on view at The Met Museum in New York from March 22 until August 1, 2021.

Featured image: Alice Neel - Geoffrey Hendricks and Brian, 1978. Oil on canvas. San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Purchase, by exchange, through an anonymous gift. © The Estate of Alice Neel.

Felix Gonzalez-Torres at MACBA

The Cuban-born and American-based artist Felix Gonzalez-Torres is best known for his minimal installations and sculptures in which he used materials such as packaged hard candies, clocks, strings of light bulbs, or stacks of paper. His major solo exhibition will be staged at MACBA in spring 2021, situating his work within the postcolonial discourse and the connected histories between Spain and the Americas. Titled Felix Gonzalez-Torres: The Politics of Relation, the show will be arranged in a series of four rooms focused on discrete sets of concerns that can be found in his work.

The exhibition Felix Gonzalez-Torres: The Politics of Relation will be on view at MACBA in Barcelona from March 2021.

Featured image: Felix Gonzalez Torres - Untitled (Last Light), 1993. Light bulbs, bulb sockets, electric wire and transformer; Overall dimensions vary with installation. Copyright Felix Gonzalez-Torres. Courtesy Felix Gonzalez-Torres Foundation. Photographer: Jordi V. Pou. MACBA Collection. MACBA Foundation. Long-term loan of Brondesbury Holdings Ltd.

Yayoi Kusama at Gropius Bau

In spring 2021, the Gropius Bau will present the first comprehensive retrospective in Germany to Yayoi Kusama’s work. Simply titled Yayoi Kusama: Retrospective, the exhibition will offer an overview of the key periods in her oeuvre, tracing the development of her creative output from her early paintings and accumulative sculptures to her immersive environments. The exhibition will also reconstruct her major shows, making accessible Kusama’s early exhibition projects in Germany and Europe in the 1960s and central solo exhibitions in the USA and Asia from the 1950s to 1980s.

The exhibition Yayoi Kusama: Retrospective will be on view at the Gropius Bau in Berlin from March 19th to August 1st, 2021.

Featured image: Yayoi Kusama, “Infinity Mirror Room – Phalli’s Field”, 1965 © YAYOI KUSAMA, courtesy: Ota Fine Arts, Victoria Miro & David Zwirner.

Georgia O'Keeffe, The Traveling Exhibition

One of the leading 20th century modern American artists is ready to take Europe by storm. Some 80 works, produced by one Georgia O'Keeffe between 1910 and 1920, will go on view in three European cities, starting with Madrid - and turning the show into the artist's first retrospective in Spain. The exhibition will consist of O'Keeffe's legendary Flower paintings, pioneering abstractions, as well as views of New York and paintings of New Mexico. It is produced in partnership with the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Georgia O'Keeffe is on view at the Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza in Madrid from 20 April to 8 August, 2021. It will then travel to the Centre Pompidou in Paris from 8 September to 6 December, 2021, and to the Fondation Beyeler in Basel from 23 January to 22 May, 2022.

Featured image: Georgia O'Keeffe - New York Street with Moon, 1925. Oil on canvas. 122 x 77 cm. Carmen Thyssen- Bornemisza collection on loan at the Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid. © Georgia O’Keeffe Museum.

Elles font l'abstraction at Centre Pompidou

The Centre Pompidou will host an exhibition highlighting the contributions of women artists to abstraction, bringing together more than five hundred works by one hundred and six artists dating from the 1860s to the 1980s. Titled Women in Abstraction, the exhibition brings to light many artists who suffered from a lack of visibility and recognition beyond the borders of their country. At the same time, the show integrates the history of feminism in the 1970s, through the struggles led by artists and great theorists, and questions the legitimacy of the notion of "female artist".

The exhibition Women in Abstraction will be on view at the Centre Pompidou in Paris from May 5th until August 2021.

Featured image: Saloua Raouda Choucair - Fractional Module, 1947 - 1951, (détail) © Galerie Saleh Barakat

Surrealism and Magic at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection

The upcoming exhibition at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection explores the myriad ways, in which magic and the occult informed the development of Surrealism in international perspective. Titled Surrealism and Magic: Enchanted Modernity, the exhibition will trace these trajectories from the “metaphysical paintings” of Giorgio de Chirico through to the politically contentious climate of the postwar years. It will bring together works by a diverse range of artists, including Victor Brauner, Leonora Carrington, Salvador Dalí, Paul Delvaux, Maya Deren, Max Ernst, Leonor Fini, René Magritte, Maria Martins, Roberto Matta, Wolfgang Paalen, Kay Sage, Kurt Seligmann, Yves Tanguy, Dorothea Tanning, and Remedios Varo.

The exhibition Surrealism and Magic: Enchanted Modernity will be on view at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice from May 8th until September 13th, 2021 and at Museum Barberini in Potsdam from October 2nd, 2021 until January 16th, 2022.

Featured image: Max Ernst - Attirement of the Bride (La Toilette de la mariée), 1940. Oil on canvas, 129.6 x 96.3 cm. Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice (Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, New York). 76.2553 PG 78.

The Paradox of Stillness at the Walker Art Center

The upcoming exhibition at the Walker Art Center will explore the notion of stillness as both a performative and visual gesture. Titled The Paradox of Stillness: Art, Object, and Performance, the exhibition will present more than 100 works from the early 20th century to today by around 65 artists who test the boundaries between stillness and motion, mortality and aliveness, the still life and the living picture. Among featured artists are Marina Abramović, Giovanni Anselmo, Francesco Arena, Vanessa Beecroft, Larry Bell, Robert Breer, Trisha Brown, Pier Paolo Calzolari, Elliot Caplan, Paul Chan, Merce Cunningham, Giorgio de Chirico, Fortunato Depero, VALIE EXPORT, Lara Favaretto, T. Lux Feininger, Urs Fischer, Simone Forti, Gilbert & George, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Anthea Hamilton and David Hammons.

The exhibition The Paradox of Stillness: Art, Object, and Performance will be on view at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis from May 15th until August 8th, 2021.

Featured image: Goshka Macuga - Death of Marxism, Women of All Lands Unite, 2013. Courtesy the artist and Andrew Kreps Gallery, New York.

Paula Rego at Tate Britain

Known for the monumentality and psychological drama of her art, Paula Rego has played a key role in redefining figurative art in the UK and internationally. Tate Britain is organizing the largest and most comprehensive retrospective of the artist's work to date, highlighting the personal nature of much of her work and the socio-political context in which it is rooted. Simply titled Paula Rego, the exhibition will bring together over 100 works, including collage, paintings, large-scale pastels, ink and pencil drawings, etchings and sculpture, from hear early work produced in the 1950s to her richly layered, staged scenes from the 2000-10s.

The exhibition Paula Rego will be on view at Tate Britain in London from June 16th until October 24th, 2021.

Featured image: Paula Rego - The Dance 1988. Tate. © Paula Rego.

The Obama Portraits Tour

Unveiled in 2018, the official portraits of President Barack Obama and Mrs. Michelle Obama painted by Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald have become iconic. The works, that have inspired unprecedented responses from the public, will go on a five-city tour around the United States from June 2021 until May 2022, accompanied by audio-visual elements, Portrait Gallery-led teacher workshops, curatorial presentations, and a richly illustrated book.

The Obama Portraits Tour will be on view at the Art Institute of Chicago in Chicago from June 18th, 2021 until August 15th, 2021; at the Brooklyn Museum in New York from August 27th, 2021 until October 24th, 2021; at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in Los Angeles from November 5th, 2021 until January 2nd, 2022; at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta from January 14th, 2022 until March 13th, 2022; and at The Museum of Fine Arts in Houston from March 27th, 2022 until May 30th, 2022.

Featured image: Left: Kehinde Wiley - Barack Obama, 2018. Oil on canvas. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution. © 2018 Kehinde Wiley / Right: Amy Sherald - Michelle LaVaughn Robinson Obama, 2018. Oil on linen. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution.© 2018 Amy Sherald.