Art & Design Art & the Artist

Creative Scene: The Return of the Artist and the Unmissable Art Event

Art lovers are spoilt for choice this year with unmissable events showcasing the work of many types of artist taking place in Italy, America, Japan, and the UK.

All eyes will be on Italy this spring, as the Venice Biennale makes a triumphant return with the art of today, while a groundbreaking show of master artist Donatello’s world-famous bronzes celebrates the father of the Renaissance in Florence. Art experts and enthusiasts will also be drawn to New York and London by new and classic work, with the Far East also on the map for unmissable events in 2022.

Venice Biennale, April 23-November 27

This spectacular assembly of national pavilions in the Giardini, converging with free-standing exhibitions at sites all around Venice, contrasts 20th-century greats with up-and-coming artists who are all about the shock of the new.

This year’s theme, The Milk of Dreams, is taken from a book title by surrealist Leonora Carrington, reflecting the surreal shared experience of the world living through the pandemic.

Lots of hands touching one another in artwork by Melanie Bonajo
Artist Melanie Bonajo, born in the Netherlands in 1978, defies attempts to define her and her work. Confronting issues facing society, she creates photography, visual art, and video work. Courtesy: Sydney Rahimtoola

Artists selected to represent their country in this year’s pavilions include Simone Leigh (USA) and Sonia Boyce (UK)­—both known for work around the experience of Black women.

Marco Fusinato, who plans to recreate Goya’s Disasters of War series in sound with a discordant electric guitar performance all day, every day, in the Australian pavilion, also features along with Melanie Bonajo (the Netherlands), an artist, filmmaker, and feminist, whose startling work featuring nudes in close proximity can be seen as a response to the hands-off restrictions we’ve been living with.

Her Biennale exhibit—When the Body says Yes—will be on display at the Chiesetta della Misericordia, a deconsecrated 13th-century church (the Netherlands has given its pavilion over to Estonia this year).

Hopes for Ukrainian Artist Pavlo Makov

There will also be great interest in the Ukrainian pavilion—its exhibit by artist Pavlo Makov is all too presciently named The Fountain of Exhaustion.

Alluring as the national pavilions can be, Venice is also about collateral events featuring the world’s greatest modern artists. Anish Kapoor will be simultaneously showcased at the Gallerie dell’Accademia and the Palazzo Manfrin, for new work created with carbon nanotechnology as well as older pieces, while Anselm Kiefer is making a site-specific installation at the Palazzo Ducale.

Never to be missed in Venice is Peggy Guggenheim’s magnificent gallery on the Grand Canal, majoring on surrealism as befits the former wife of Max Ernst. Surrealism and Magic features two more women linked to Ernst, Leonora Carrington and Dorothea Tanning, as well as overlooked female surrealists and artist masters of the Salvador Dalí and René Magritte movement, among others.

Donatello: The Renaissance, Florence, March 19-July 31

Bronze figures by Donatello
Donatello, the father of the Renaissance, was a prolific master of many mediums including stone, bronze, wood, stucco, clay, and wax. Courtesy: Ela Bialkowska, OKNO studio

Bronzes by great master Donatello, who pre-dated fellow Renaissance artists Michelangelo, Raphael, and da Vinci by a century, have been moved from elsewhere in Italy for the first time since their installation in churches six centuries ago. This exhibition will bring together all of Donatello’s major works—another first. A collaboration between the Palazzo Strozzi and the Bargello, the show will feature paintings and drawings as well as sculptures, reliefs, and doors, incorporating works lent by 50 major institutions around the world.

Whitney Biennial, New York, April 6-September 5

Venice is not the only city with a keenly anticipated art biennial. This year marks the 90th anniversary of the show initiated in 1932 at the world’s greatest treasure trove of American art. Once alternating painting and sculpture, the Whitney Biennial now exists to show work in all media produced in the previous two years by invited contemporary artists.

This year’s show—Quiet as It’s Kept—features 63 artists whose ages span half a century, from 1947, when Awilda Sterling-Duprey was born, to 1995, the birth year of artist Andrew Roberts.

Henri Matisse: The Red Studio, New York, May 1-September 10

Henri Matisse's Red Studio painting
Henri Matisse’s The Red Studio (1911), which shows his workspace in Paris, was first met with bafflement or indifference. Today, it’s considered a foundational work of modern art. Courtesy: The Red Studio

A Matisse exhibition is always an event, especially when it includes The Red Studio, one of MoMA’s most important works since its acquisition in 1949. This show is special because it reunites—for the first time since they left the artist’s studio—the artworks he featured in miniature in the 1911 painting of his atelier, together with related paintings and drawings never seen before.

“The picture remains a touchstone for any artist taking on the task of portraying their studio,” says curator Ann Temkin, adding that the artist’s decision to saturate the surface with a layer of red before superimposing the objects within was considered “radical” 110 years ago. “Yet much remains to be explored in terms of the painting’s origin and history.”

The six surviving paintings and four sculptures Matisse featured on his canvas will be displayed in their full glory alongside the 1911 work, which depicts them in his studio outside Paris. It lay on his hands for 16 years after a patron who had bought Matisse’s The Pink Studio declined to take its deeper-hued successor.

Frieze Masters: London, October 12-16 / Seoul, September 2-6

Two people in front of a large painting at Frieze in London 2021
Skarstedt was founded in 1994 by Per Skarstedt to present a program of museum-level exhibitions by contemporary European and American artists. This picture shows Skarstedt at Frieze Masters in 2021.

Nothing less than a world-class art museum spanning the masterworks of every civilisation on the globe in a tent, Frieze Masters is reason enough to visit London in October, when art lovers flood into the British capital for the main Frieze fair.

At Frieze Masters, established in 2012, dealers representing Old Masters sit alongside those specialising in pre-classical sculptures from Africa, Asia, and Oceania, with contemporary greats also on display.

The picture remains a touchstone for any artist taking on the task of portraying their studio—Ann Temkin, curator

It’s a supremely elegant event in Regent’s Park, with pop-ups by London’s most happening restaurants. “Frieze Masters was established to look at the art of the past through the eye of the present,” says director Nathan Clements-Gillespie, pointing out that unlike museum works, all here are for sale at prices ranging from £500 ($657) to £40 million ($53m). He is excited about a Spotlight section for 2022 showcasing the pioneering work of female artists of the 20th century.

Frieze Masters has been exclusive to London for a decade, but this year it will debut a second location in Seoul: “It felt like a natural hub given the proliferation of Korean artists, dealers, and galleries—a rich artistic tradition in an urban art market,” says Clements-Gillespie.

Setouchi Triennale, April 14-May 18 / August 5-September 4 / September 29-November 6

In a remote but beautiful area of western Japan, Monet’s Waterlilies and other masterworks meet quirky innovation in an area successfully regenerated by art.

The Monets live side by side with a skyspace and other works by James Turrell, and there’s a room devoted to an installation by Walter De Maria, in the magnificent permanent Chichu Art Museum on the island of Naoshima. Like other museums on the Benesse Art Site featuring world-class art, it’s designed by Tadao Ando.

The Triennale is an island-hopping event that takes place during three separate sessions—the first in cherry blossom season, the last perfectly timed to capture fall foliage. Don’t miss Teshima for the Benesse Foundation’s permanent teardrop-shaped museum, featuring a single meditative exhibit celebrating water in perpetual motion, as well as site-specific temporary installations for the Triennale.

Be sure to also visit the mysterious but magically peaceful island of Oshima, which was once a leper colony, and beautiful, hilly Ogijima, all connected by ferry. A plus on Naoshima is a pair of Yayoi Kusama’s giant pumpkins, one at the ferry port and another on the waterfront near the Benesse Art Site.

The EY Exhibition: Cezanne London, October 6-March 12

The Basket of Apples, a still-life oil painting by French artist Paul Cézanne, created c. 1893. The painting rejected realism and instead distorted objects, an approach that later influenced Fauvism and Cubism. Courtesy: The Art Institute of Chicago

The great post-Impressionist’s landscapes, still lifes and portraits will draw the crowds to Tate Modern with the promise of many paintings never seen in the UK. They’re being assembled from all over the world for this major retrospective spanning the entire career of artist Paul Cézanne, 115 years after his death, confronting the many contradictions that confounded him during his troubled lifetime.

Banner image: Still Life with Apples (oil on canvas), Paul Cézanne, 1893–1894. Courtesy: J Paul Getty Museum