INSPIRATION • February 2020

Curators’ choice: this year’s must-see galleries

They’re some of the most clued up folk across London’s art scene – the curators and directors that help keep the capital’s culture ever ticking. We sit down with those from London’s finest institutions to find out which museums, galleries and exhibitions are on their expert radars for the year ahead 

Bunka Gakuen Costume Museum, Tokyo
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Bunka Gakuen Costume Museum, Tokyo

Says who: Anna Jackson, Keeper of the Asian Department, Victoria and Albert Museum
As curator of the V&A’s Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk exhibition (29 February to 21 June 2020), I enjoy visiting any museum in Japan that displays textiles and dress. One of my favourite, lesser known, places is Bunka Gakuen Costume Museum (pictured) in Tokyo. This is attached to one of Japan’s pre-eminent fashion colleges and has a wonderful collection of dress and fashion from around the world. The museum stages a variety of really interesting exhibitions, from Japanese theatre costumes to cross-cultural subjects such as embroidery, pleats and men’s fashion. The exhibitions, although quite small, are always very elegantly presented.

Léon Spilliaert, London and Paris
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Léon Spilliaert, London and Paris

Says who: Dr Rachel Sloan, Assistant Curator at The Courtauld Gallery
I’m particularly looking forward to Léon Spilliaert (work pictured), on view first at the Royal Academy in London (23 February to 25 May 2020) and then at the Musée d’Orsay in Paris (15 June to 13 September 2020). Léon Spilliaert isn’t a household name outside his native Belgium, which is a great shame: he was an extraordinary, truly radical artist who really stretched the limits of what drawing was capable of, and as a chronicler of existential angst and alienation he was every bit the equal of his contemporary Edvard Munch. This exhibition is the first ever devoted to him in the UK and the first in France in 40 years, so it’s an ideal opportunity to get to know his work.



New Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow
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New Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow

Says who: Caro Howell, Director of The Foundling Museum
The New Tretyakov Gallery (pictured) in Moscow is a treasure trove of 20th-century Russian art. It offers an unparalleled opportunity to see, in depth, work by ‘household names’ such as Kandinsky and Tatlin, and to situate these artists within the wider landscape of Russian art. The galleries devoted to work from the 1910s and 1920s recently underwent an extensive rehang and now, for the first time, visitors can see Malevich’s two Black Squares from 1915 and 1929, hanging together. Also on display are Chagall’s remarkable murals for the Jewish Art Theatre, as well as a gallery dedicated to masterpieces donated to the Tretyakov by the legendary collector, George Costakis, whose flat was Soviet Russia’s unofficial museum of modern art during the 1960s and 1970s.

Magdalena Abakanowicz, Tate Modern
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Magdalena Abakanowicz, Tate Modern, London

Says who: Clare Lilley, Director of Programme, Yorkshire Sculpture Park
I’m looking forward to Magdalena Abakanowicz at Tate Modern (17 June to 13 September 2020). She was an exceptional woman. For almost 60 years, Abakanowicz was a major figure in Polish contemporary art, completing commissions and exhibitions around the world. She is long overdue a major London exhibition. Childhood trauma during the war years and Poland’s subsequent totalitarian regime combined with an incisive intellect and concern for humanity made for an extraordinarily powerful lifetime’s work. The exhibition (pictured) is showing a number of Abakans – huge forms of distressed woven and dyed sisal dramatically hung from the ceiling in a vast gallery – and War Games – stripped tree trunks bound with iron. They are sacred objects, poignantly demanding that mankind learns from history and has the courage to reject misuse of power.

Munch Museum, Oslo
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Munch Museum, Oslo

Says who: Stella Ioannou, Artistic Director at Sculpture in the City
For the modern art lover, Edvard Munch is synonymous with Norway. A defining artist of the 20th century and the painter of the iconic The Scream, Munch is finally getting the museum he deserves. The 45,000-work collection will be moving into an impressive 13-floor, 58-metre-tall building (pictured) located in Oslo’s waterside area of Bjorvika. Designed by Spanish architect Juan Herreros, the unconventional museum building will open this summer with an exciting exhibition pairing Munch with Tracey Emin, the acclaimed contemporary British artist. Emin, who exhibited works in both the 2012 and 2018 editions of Sculpture in the City, is known for creating highly autobiographical works that explore the human condition, presenting a piercing rawness that Munch also masterfully represented throughout his work. 

Dhaka Art Summit, Bangladesh
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Dhaka Art Summit, Bangladesh

Says who: Dr Cliff Lauson, Senior CuratorHayward Gallery
Now in its fifth edition, this annual art gathering in Bangladesh’s capital city has become a fixture in the calendars of artists, curators, and anyone interested in expanding their artistic horizons. Produced by the Samdani Art Foundation, this nine-day event shines a spotlight on art related to South Asia and includes exhibitions, performances, film screenings and discussions. This year’s theme is ‘Seismic Movements’ and attendees can expect the participation of over 500 artists who are making ground-breaking work – both literally and figuratively – that looks beyond the conventional format of the museum exhibition. Best of all, the whole event is free to attend.

Young Rembrandt, Oxford
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Young Rembrandt, Oxford

Says who: Elenor Ling, Assistant Keeper of Prints,Fitzwilliam Museum
The first show on my radar for 2020 is this one at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford showcasing very early paintings, drawings and prints by Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn (1606-69). It’s the first ever exhibition dedicated to the first ten years of Rembrandt’s career (from 1624-34) and the curators promise that visitors will feel as if they are looking over Rembrandt’s shoulder, and witness to his meteoric rise from student in Leiden to recognised master in Amsterdam. The Fitzwilliam is lending seven of its exceptional prints and one drawing, but visitors to Cambridge shouldn’t worry – the Fitzwilliam has hundreds more prints that will be staying put, and visitors can request to see them in our study room.

Institut Valencià d'Art Modern in Valencia, Spain
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Institut Valencià d'Art Modern in Valencia, Spain

Says who: Simon Martin, Director of Pallant House Gallery
In summer 2020, I’ll be looking forward to visiting the exhibition MORAL DIS/ORDER: Sexuality and Visual Culture in Europe between the Wars (9 July to 12 October 2020) at the Institut Valencià d'Art Modern in Valencia (pictured). Including painting, sculpture and photography by over 50 artists, it promises to be a fascinating exploration of art and society during a period of enormous social upheaval, when a certain sense of freedom in cities such as Paris and Berlin ran counter to conservatism and repression in other parts of society. I will be particularly interested to see some Modern British artists such as Edward Burra, Glyn Philpot and the gender fluid artist Gluck shown alongside their international counterparts.

The Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh
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The Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh

Says who: Jennifer Scott, Director of the Dulwich Picture Gallery
I am excited to visit the Scottish National Portrait Gallery (picturedin Edinburgh for Bright Star: The Art and Life of King James VI and I (20 June to 22 November 2020). James was the son of Mary Queen of Scots. He united the crowns of England and Scotland in 1603. How interesting it will be to learn about this significant historical moment through paintings, jewels, books and textiles, especially within the current political climate in the UK. The Scottish National Portrait Gallery feels more like a palace than a museum. Its soaring red sandstone architecture is a distinctive feature of the stunning Edinburgh skyline. It opened in 1889 as the world’s first purpose-built public gallery dedicated to portraiture.

Vivian Suter: Tintin’s Sofa, Camden Art Centre
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Vivian Suter: Tintin’s Sofa, Camden Art Centre, London

Says who: Eleanor Pinfield, Head of Art on the Underground
The exhibition I’m most looking forward to catching is Vivian Suter’s first UK retrospective, which has just opened at Camden Arts Centre. Suter’s work brings the jungle of Guatemala to her audiences, drawing together nature and civilisation through dense installations of unstretched, raw paintings. Art on the Underground is working with Suter on a commission for summer 2020, and this exhibition will be an ideal introduction to Suter’s work for London audiences. Then with the International Festival returning to Glasgow (pictured) in April 2020, I am excited to see works from Martine Syms, France-Lise McGurn, and Yuko Mohri.

Capitonline Museums at Palazzo
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Capitonline Museums at Palazzo Caffarelli, Rome

Says who: Bruce Boucher, Director at Sir John Soane’s Museum
For me, the great highlight of the coming year will be the exhibition of the historic Torlonia Collection of antiquities in Rome. The Torlonia Marbles: Collecting Masterpieces will show 96 marbles that have not been seen for decades in a new venue for the Capitonline Museums at Palazzo Caffarelli – itself recently restored by Sir David Chipperfield and his studio. Led by the distinguished archaeologist and scholar Salvatore Settis, the exhibition will be a veritable history of collecting in Rome as the Torlonia acquired a number of earlier collections in the 19th century. The initiative also marks the conclusion of long and often tortuous negotiations to bring the collection back to public view, and it will be a welcome addition to the attractions of Rome.

Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art
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Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art

Says who: Andrew Nairne, Director, Kettle’s Yard, Cambridge
I am looking forward to visiting the dynamic Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art (MIMA) in 2020. Under new director Laura Sillars it has a mission to put 'Art into Action'. A terrific modern building in the town centre, MIMA (pictured) offers a superb combination of changing exhibitions and collection displays, alongside a programme of activities and events working with local communities. The makers shop, café (which has the best salads) and roof terraces, with views to the North Yorkshire Moors, are also not to be missed. From mid-March to June, MIMA will present a new solo exhibition by Otobong Nkanga (an artist born in Nigeria in 1974). We can expect a captivating exhibition of tapestry, drawing, photography, video and performance by the boundary-pushing artist.

MADRE, Naples
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MADRE, Naples

Says who: Roberta Cremonicini, Director of theEstorick Collection of Modern Italian Art
I am making plans to visit MADRE, Naples’ Museum of Contemporary Art (pictured), housed in the 19th-century Palazzo Donnaregina. The museum presents an incredible collection of works highlighting the contrast between the old and the new, and comprises works by a number of the most important artists from Italy and around the world, such as Andy Warhol, Fausto Melotti, Jan Fabre, Tony Cragg, Michelangelo Pistoletto and Nam June Paik. I am particularly interested to see how the more abstract and challenging works fit within an architectural structure which – like the Estorick Collection – is not a simple white cube. In addition to the permanent collection itself, I am keen to visit exhibitions such as I sei Anni di Marcello Rumma 1965-1970, a key figure in the Italian and international cultural debate in the 1960s and 1970s.



2) Léon Spilliaert, Woman at the Shoreline, 1910

4) Embryology 1978–80, Tate

6) Dhaka Art Summit 2016. Courtesy of the Dhaka Art Summit and the Samdani Art Foundation

7) Rembrandt van Rijn (1606–69) Rembrandt’s Father, 1628–9 Pen, brown ink and brown wash, 19 x 24 cm, Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford

9) The Great Hall at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, courtesy National Galleries of Scotland

11) Statua di divinità, c.d. Hestia Giustiniani,Marmo pario. Alt. m. 2,0Inv. 490DIDA: Collezione Torlonia, Hestia Giustiniani, © Fondazione Torlonia PH Lorenzo de Masi 

13) Daniel Buren, Axer / Désaxer. Lavoro in situ, 2015, Madre, Napoli – #2 (detail). © DB-ADAGP Paris. Courtesy Fondazione Donnaregina per le arti contemporanee, Napoli. Photo © Amedeo Benestante

This article has been tagged Destination, Travel Tips