Winter is usually a sleepy season for museums across the world. Fall exhibitions remain on view with the hope of luring visitors during the cold months while curators typically prep big retrospectives for the spring. But that will not entirely be the case this time around.
In Germany, a year-long celebration devoted to Caspar David Friedrich, the Romantic painter born 250 years ago, is set to kick off, and Latin America is set to get one of its biggest shows ever devoted to the Chilean-born artist Cecilia Vicuña in Buenos Aires. Retrospectives are also in the offing for Yoko Ono, Emily Kam Kngwarray, and more.
New additions to the canon will also share the limelight. The little-known Renaissance master Pesellino is getting a fresh look in London, and Anu Põder, an Estonian sculptor who appeared in last year’s Venice Biennale, will receive a survey in Switzerland. And a blockbuster exhibition at the Met devoted to the Harlem Renaissance looks to initiate new understandings of African American art history.
These shows and more figure on the list below, featuring 33 must-see museum shows and biennials opening across the world between the beginning of December and the end of February.
“Prelude – Rayyane Tabet. Trilogy” at Mudam Luxembourg
Technically, Rayyane Tabet’s latest exhibition is the first part in a series of three shows, each of which will continue his exploration of histories that are just barely visible. He has plans to cloak Mudam’s I. M. Pei–designed pavilion in curtaining that once appeared in his grandparents’ Beirut apartment. He’ll also cover the structure’s overhead windows in deep blue film, an allusion to a practice used by Lebanese people during the Six-Day War in 1967 to avoid being seen by those conducting air raids above. Tabet has also directed his attention toward more recent tragedies, too. In these darkened spaces, he will show jugs crafted from shards collected after the 2020 blast that rocked Beirut.
December 1, 2023–May 12, 2024
“David Goldblatt: No Ulterior Motive” at Art Institute of Chicago
Many bore witness to the horrors of apartheid in South Africa, but few recorded them with the clarity and precision that the photographer David Goldblatt did. He pictured racism, segregation, class differences, and more, and also created essential documents of the AIDS crisis as it impacted his home country. Some 140 of his pictures will be assembled for this show, one of the biggest devoted to Goldblatt since his death in 2018; these works will appear alongside works by other South African photographers, including Lebohang Kganye, Zanele Muholi, and Santu Mofokeng.
December 2, 2023–March 25, 2024
“Karlo Kacharava: Sentimental Traveler” at S.M.A.K., Ghent, Belgium
Although he died of a brain aneurysm at 30 in 1994, Georgian artist Karlo Kacharava produced thousands of artworks. His paintings riff on images found in arthouse cinema and allude to a post-Soviet youth culture that was still taking hold when his career was cut short, and while these works and his writings have earned him cult status in Georgia, they have only recently found an audience outside his home country. His S.M.A.K. show—his first museum exhibition ever staged outside Georgia—will place an emphasis on Kacharava’s transnational lifestyle, which took him far beyond Tbilisi, to European metropoles like Paris, Madrid, and Cologne.
December 2, 2023–April 14, 2024
Emily Kam Kngwarray at National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Within Australia, the Anmatyerr painter Emily Kam Kngwarray is well-known for abstractions that envision the natural world via dazzling blasts of color and coolly arranged lines. Some have sold for vast sums, both in and beyond the continent; dealer Larry Gagosian and actor and collector Steve Martin are among her fans. But beyond simply viewing her as an abstractionist with mass appeal, the curators of this retrospective—Kelli Cole of the Warumunga and Luritja peoples and Hetti Perkins of the Arrernte and Kalkadoon peoples—specifically position her as an Aboriginal artist whose work was rooted in her people’s culture. Tellingly, the show spells her name in accordance with the preferred Anmatyerr stylization, not the more widely used Anglophone one (Emily Kame Kngwarreye).
December 2, 2023–April 28, 2024
“Imagined Fronts: The Great War and Global Media” at Los Angeles County Museum of Art
These are tough times, with simultaneous conflicts in many different parts of the world making headlines regularly—and, as this exhibition goes to show, this was also the case a little over the century ago, when the Great War had engulfed the world. How that conflict was pictured in the media and art forms the basis of this 200-object show, whose offerings include posters advertising wartime efforts with an eye toward gender equality and a Félix Vallotton painting that abstracts the carnage of the Battle of Verdun.
December 3, 2023–July 7, 2024
“Hernan Bas: The Conceptualists” at the Bass, Miami
Among the top institutional offerings during Art Basel Miami Beach will be this solo show by Hernan Bas, a painter native to the Florida city. In the past, he has taken up 19th-century modes in service of explicitly queer tableaux that belong to our moment. He’ll return to that style for the 35 works included in this show, which focus on a character who undertakes activities that Bas believes fall under the umbrella of “conceptual art,” such as persistently chewing gum and other rituals.
December 4, 2023–May 5, 2024
“Ahmed Morsi in New York: Elegy of the Sea” at Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami
This Egyptian-born painter has been a quiet giant of New York ever since he moved there in 1974, and now his surreal imagery, featuring many-eyed humanoids and upturned horses, will find new audiences with this exhibition featuring works produced between 1983 and 2012. The show explores Morsi’s repeated use of the sea, which he uses as a symbol for the places between nations and worlds that many, including himself, have crossed.
December 5, 2023–April 28, 2024
“Pesellino: A Renaissance Master Revealed” at National Gallery, London
Francesco Pesellino is certainly not a household name in 2023, but more than five centuries ago, in Renaissance Italy, things were very different. His commissions by the powerful Medici family made him a star, and scholars of his day prized his abilities to paint small figures that were rich in detail. Seeking to rescue Pesellino from semi-obscurity, the National Gallery’s conservators have spruced up The Story of David and Goliath (ca. 1445–55), a sprawling battle scene cramped with dueling soldiers, and are now ready to present the results of their work alongside other pieces by Pesellino, whose oeuvre is small because he died at 35. The show is among the very few major Pesellino shows ever mounted, making it a must for Renaissance fanatics.
December 7, 2023–March 10, 2024
“Cecilia Vicuña: Dreaming Water” at Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires
In the minds of many, the 2022 Venice Biennale may be synonymous with Cecilia Vicuña, the Chilean-born artist whose fantastical imagery was used to advertise the show, which that year gave her its lifetime achievement award. With their emphases on feminist cosmologies, Indigenous knowledge, and worlds beyond our own, her paintings spoke well to the exhibition’s themes—and have continued to hold the attention of many in the year since it closed. More than 200 works by Vicuña are headed to Buenos Aires for this retrospective, which aims to explore how South American politics and culture have influenced her art since the ’60s.
December 8, 2023–February 26, 2024
The itinerant Thailand Biennale, now in its third edition, has returned, this time in Chiang Rai, a province in the country’s northeast region. With two prominent artists—Rirkrit Tiravanija and Gridthiya Gaweewong—at the helm, the show takes its name, “The Open World,” from a Buddha sculpture at the ancient site of Wat Pa Sak, but its ambitions exceed the local. “Can we imagine the possibility of a better future?” the curators ask in a statement that alludes to centuries of shifting borders, both in Thailand and beyond. The participants include a number of acclaimed Thai artists, including the collective Baan Noorg Collaborative Arts, which memorably placed a functional half-pipe in a museum for Documenta 15 last year, but biennial superstars like Ho Tzu Nyen, Ernesto Neto, and Haegue Yang will also be on hand.
December 9, 2023–April 30, 2024
Leda Papaconstantinou at EMST, Athens
Within Greece, Leda Papaconstantinou is well-known for her risk-taking performances, which, during the ’60s and ’70s, destabilized the binary between male and female. Appropriately, EMST is feting her in a feminist-minded series called “What If Women Ruled the World?” But the offerings in this retrospective will extend beyond Papaconstantinou’s explicitly feminist art and will also address her work on the island of Spetses, where, between 1971 and 1979, she ran a theatre company that enlisted locals alongside professional actors in its productions, which sought to understand what truly constitutes a community.
Opens December 14
“Caspar David Friedrich: Art for a New Age” at Hamburger Kunsthalle, Germany
To celebrate the 250th anniversary of Caspar David Friedrich’s birth, several German institutions are partnering for a series of exhibitions devoted to the Romantic painter, whose era-defining images of people standing before grand vistas evoke awe and terror in equal measure. First up is this exhibition featuring 50 paintings, including Monk by the Sea, his 1808–10 masterpiece depicting a tiny figure before a stormy ocean, which rarely leaves its home in Berlin. Some 90 works on paper by Friedrich and others in his circle will also be on hand, attesting to his influence on German art history.
December 15, 2023–April 1, 2024
“John Chamberlain: THE TIGHTER THEY’RE WOUND, THE HARDER THEY UNRAVEL” at Aspen Art Museum
This exhibition, billed as the first institutional survey devoted to John Chamberlain in a decade, is a meeting of minds: the artist Urs Fischer, himself a maker of grand sculptures, has curated it. With loans from New York’s Dia Art Foundation, Fischer’s show will bring together early works and late works by Chamberlain, who is internationally recognized for his assemblages of crushed cars. Fischer, seeking to draw out some lesser-known sides of the artist’s oeuvre, has a stated focus on the folds of Chamberlain’s sculptures, with a special section devoted to his photography, which abstract interiors and his own body into wavy lines and blurs.
December 15, 2023–April 7, 2024
“Ay-O: Hong Hong Hong” at M+, Hong Kong
The endlessly creative artist Ay-O found fame in the ’60s with his rainbow-colored prints. By then, he had already helped shape the Fluxus movement with creations that ranged from lightbulb sculptures to “Tactile Boxes,” whose insides viewers were invited to finger and feel around. Assembling works from the 1950s to the 2000s, this survey for the nonagenarian is the first in a new series of monographs devoted to Asian artists of note at M+.
Opens December 15, 2023
“Lacan, The Exhibition: When Art Encounters Psychoanalysis” at Centre Pompidou Metz, France
Jacques Lacan, the famed French psychoanalyst, had a thoughtful understanding of the human subconscious, but it turns out he was a perceptive art lover, too. He once owned Gustave Courbet’s L’Origine du Monde (1866), whose subject matter—a close-up of a woman’s genitals, rendered in fine detail for all to see—was so provocative that even Lacan couldn’t find the words to discuss it publicly. But discuss it publicly, many have done since the Courbet painting entered the French national collection, and it will once again become a topic of conversation when it heads to this show surveying Lacan’s impact on art history. Pieces about kinky desires and reflectivity dating from many centuries, from Caravaggio to Maurizio Cattelan, have been brought together for an ambitious look at how the ideas guiding Lacan’s theories have been visualized.
December 31, 2023–May 27, 2024
“Anu Põder: Space for My Body” at Muzeum Susch, Switzerland
Split-open bodies and gangly tongues are two of the recurring elements in the sculptures of Anu Põder, an Estonian artist whose work explores corporeal states that are hard to describe via representational means. Informed by her own experience as a mother and as a woman living in a post-Soviet Estonia, Põder, who died in 2013, sculpted in ways that did not adhere to the artistic trends of her day. They still felt like objects flung out of the future when they appeared at the 2022 Venice Biennale, whose curator, Cecilia Alemani, has returned to organize this retrospective, which dwells on how Põder utilized materials that acted as surrogates for body parts and visually evoked senses beyond sight.
January 3–June 30, 2024
“Tetsuya Yamada: Listening” at Walker Art Center, Minneapolis
With a stated focus on the “question of who I am and how I want to exist,” Tetsuya Yamada has worked with a light touch, producing sculptures crafted from old newspapers, thumbprints, branches strung up with knotted rope, clay, and more. Drawing on sculptures by Eva Hesse, Constantin Brancusi, Isamu Noguchi, Ron Nagle, and others, the Tokyo-born artist has proven a key figure in the Twin Cities, where he is now based, with works that explore how people shape time and nature. This 60-work show, his first major US museum exhibition, looks to cement his reputation in the Midwest.
January 18–July 7, 2024
“Zanele Muholi: Eye Me” at San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
Photographer Zanele Muholi has described themselves as a visual activist, and with good reason—their work has repeatedly shed light on the lived realities of queer people in South Africa, the country where Muholi was born and is based. The 100 works assembled for Muholi’s first West Coast museum survey will span documentary photography and other less classifiable modes of working, including their acclaimed “Somnyama Ngonyama” series, in which the artist poses in ways meant to recall—and subvert—historical portraits of Black subjects.
January 18–August 11, 2024
“Tobias Spichtig: Everything No One Ever Wanted” at Kunsthalle Basel, Switzerland
Tobias Spichtig’s 2021 Swiss Institute show in New York was set within a mirrored gallery and lined with empty display cases that he obtained from closed stores. The show, with its off-putting air, encapsulated the creepy vibe of the Swiss artist’s work, which frequently undoes the glamour of high fashion. In new paintings, sculptures, and installations making their debut this season at the Kunsthalle Basel, Spichtig will turn his chilly gaze on the culture of the 1950s.
January 19–April 28, 2024
“Loie Hollowell: Space Between, A Survey of Ten Years” at the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, Ridgefield, Connecticut
Two years ago, Loie Hollowell explained the experience of childbirth as “leaving one version of yourself behind and moving toward another”—a description that could just as well apply to her paintings, which depict fleshy forms that seem to split apart and transform anew. Working under the sign of modernists like Agnes Pelton and Neo-Tantric painters like G. R. Santosh, she has translated interior states into paint, at times even bringing her abstracted breasts and buttocks into the third dimensions via foam extensions. Those paintings will be included in her first-ever museum survey, which will mark the public debut of works on paper from her archive.
January 21–August 11, 2024
Leonard Rickhard at Astrup Fearnley Museet, Oslo
Leonard Rickhard, one of Norway’s most important living artists, has gained a following for his spare paintings depicting still, calm structures, sometimes with people looking on at them. Beneath these paintings’ serenity, disquietude lurks—some depict military barracks in allusion to the relics of Germany’s occupation of Norway. Seeking to explore the ways Rickhard has explored the post–World War II Norwegian consciousness, the Astrup Fearnley Museet is mounting a full-dress retrospective, marking the second time in the 21st century that the museum has done so.
January 24–May 19, 2024
FESTAC ’77, the 1977 arts festival held in Lagos that highlighted the richness of African culture, continues to loom large nearly 50 years on; its influence is one of the focuses of this week-long biennial in the Nigerian city, now in its fourth edition. Under the title “Refuge,” this week-long festival will focus on how African artists of all kinds can gather anew in a time when climate change is disproportionately impacting the Global South. The offerings span architectural presentations, talks, and an art exhibition called “CAPTCHA,” curated by Sarah Rifky and Kathryn Weir, which “reflects on regimes of seeing and strategies of taking refuge in plain sight,” according to its description.
February 3–10, 2024
“Entangled Pasts, 1768–now: Art, Colonialism and Change” at Royal Academy of Arts, London
A spread of London art institutions have begun to place due attention on their role in British colonialism, most notably Tate Britain, whose rehang earlier this year put a focus on the country’s painful conquests in Africa and the Caribbean—a topic that had rarely made it into the permanent collection galleries previously. The latest museum to do so is the Royal Academy of Arts with this 100-work show, whose checklist spans multiple centuries and artists of many nations. On view will be J. M. W. Turner’s paintings of disturbed seas, Kara Walker’s provocative meditations on slavery, and Hew Locke’s Armada (2017–19), an installation composed of 45 suspended models of boats, some of which are accompanied by sculptures of Portuguese colonialists.
February 3–April 28, 2024
“Harold Cohen: AARON” at Whitney Museum, New York
The abstractions that Harold Cohen began producing with the help of a computer called AARON during the 1960s may seem quaint by today’s standards, but their squiggly lines and striped swatches were just about unthinkable before the software spit them out. The Whitney, seeking to underline Cohen’s place in the canon, will survey AARON’s output with a sampler of paintings and drawings. Yet not all of the offerings are static, fixed things. In something of a landmark moment for art-and-tech enthusiasts, AARON’s process will be enacted live in the galleries at various points in the show’s run.
February 3–June 2024
“Stanley Whitney: How High the Moon” at Buffalo AKG Art Museum, New York
Think of an artwork based on a grid, and you might conjure the colorless, austere kind that recurs throughout Minimalist art. Stanley Whitney’s grids stand in stark opposition to those ones, with bright hues, unevenly arranged forms, and divisions that slant out of alignment. The joy Whitney has taken in returning over and over to the grid, showing where order breaks down into controlled chaos, will be on full display in his 150-work retrospective, which supplements his paintings with works on paper that attest to his process.
February 9–May 27, 2024
Outi Pieski at Tate St. Ives, United Kingdom
The Sámi artist Outi Pieski, who is based in Helsinki, has become a star of the biennial circuit, with recent showings in Venice, Sydney, and Gwangju, South Korea, under her belt. At these shows, she has exhibited textile works composed of hanging threads in bright hues and wood, all harnessed in the Sámi tradition of duodji, which holds that objects contain powers of their own. Her Tate St. Ives show, one of her biggest solo outings to date staged beyond the Baltic region, will include paintings and installations focused on Indigenous rights.
February 10–May 6, 2024
“Yoko Ono: Music of the Mind” at Tate Modern, London
Back in 1971, Yoko Ono held a solo show at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, which she rechristened the Museum of Modern [F]art. The show didn’t really exist, even though she advertised in the Village Voice and produced a catalogue—it was mostly a performance that involved releasing butterflies into the museum’s sculpture garden. In the half-century since, Ono’s work has entered institutional galleries in sanctioned ways, and this 200-work show acts as proof. Her Tate exhibition will feature work from her Fluxus days during the ’60s, including documentation of her famed 1964 performance Cut Piece, in which spectators were invited to snip away at her clothes, as well as more recent installations and sculptures that speak out against war and urge peace.
February 15–September 1, 2024
“René Treviño: Stab of Guilt” at Wellin Museum of Art, Clinton, New York
René Treviño has researched Mayan and Aztec history, explored his own experience as queer person of Mexican-American heritage who grew up in Texas, and cast his eye toward the heavens, focusing on solar flares and more with awe. All of these interests fuse in his prints, sculptures, and paintings, which look to the past to gaze into the future. Some 200 of his artworks will figure in this survey focusing on 15 years’ worth of his art.
February 17–June 14, 2024
Diriyah Contemporary Art Biennale, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
This winter’s most high-profile biennial bears an ironic name, given that it is set in a desert: “After Rain,” a reference to the hope that change will come, as its curator, Uta Meta Bauer, has said. The 92 artists include a mix of locals and foreigners. Saudi Arabian artist Ahmed Mater is set to work with Armin Linke on a project that tracks the growth of the oil industry, while the Oslo-based Senegalese restaurant NJOKBOK—here participating as an artist of sorts—will set up a functioning juice and tea bar. Also on tap will be works by artists such as Ibrahim El-Salahi, Alia Farid, Sopheap Pich, Tomás Saraceno, and more.
February 20–May 24, 2024
“Janet Sobel: All-Over” at Menil Collection, Houston
A flurry of support for Ukrainian artists last year spurred new interest in Janet Sobel, an Abstract Expressionist painter who was born in what is now the Ukrainian city of Dnipro and enjoyed a fruitful career in New York—even as male critics sought to denigrate her output. A pioneer of a style known as “all-over” painting, in which drips are flung around a composition, Sobel’s embrace of unusual materials like enamel and sand have proven influential, especially among feminist scholars, who view her as a woman ahead of the men in her circle. Her work will only continue to grow in prominence with this small show, which assembles 30 paintings and drawings.
February 23–August 11, 2024
“Henok Melkamzer: Telsem Symbols and Imagery” at Sharjah Art Foundation, United Arab Emirates
The Ethiopian artist Henok Melkamzer produces abstractions that are in dialogue with telsem, a talismanic form of art-making that typically exist as scrolls or writing. But this show, curated by art historian Elizabeth Giorgis, asserts that Melkamzer’s art cannot only be couched in Ethiopian tradition, even if it does draw on the zodiac, Orthodox Christian symbolism, and other Ethiopian subject matter. It also has a lot to do with modernism, Giorgis suggests. The 100 works on view will suggest the ways that Melkamzer reinterprets non-representational painting of the 20th century. Among them will be his paintings that make use of the hareg (vine), a twisting form that snakes around and around in Melkamzer’s hands, producing eye-popping compositions that the artist has designed to be viewed by starting in the center and moving outward.
February 24–June 16, 2024
“The Harlem Renaissance and Transatlantic Modernism” at Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
It has been more than three decades since the Harlem Renaissance has been surveyed by a New York museum—the Studio Museum in Harlem was the last one to do so, in 1987—and with this show, the Met aims to take a fresh look at the movement, which kicked off in the ’20s and has influenced many generations afterward. As writers like Zora Neale Hurston and Langston Hughes were reshaping literary prose to account for new Black subjectivities, artists like Jacob Lawrence, William H. Johnson, and Meta Warrick Fuller were revolutionizing painting and sculpture, producing images of African Americans in ways they had rarely been depicted before. The movement produced a litany of memorable works, some 160 of which will be assembled here, with many on loan from museums operated by historically Black schools. Among them in will be photographs of stylish Harlemites by James Van Der Zee, whose vast archive was recently acquired by the museum in collaboration with the Studio Museum.
February 25–July 28, 2024
“Isabel Quintanilla’s intimate realism. Retrospective” at Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid
Ironically, although Isabel Quintanilla was Spanish, many of her realist paintings are better known in Germany than they are in her home country. That may soon change, however, with this retrospective, the first ever devoted to a Spanish woman at the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza. Some 100 paintings and drawings will be brought together for the show. Many will be the still lifes for which Quintanilla is fondly remembered: glasses on tables, arrangements of fruit, and small vases stuffed with flowers, all gently lit and rendered with a piercing sense of naturalism that is unusual for 20th-century painting.
February 27–June 2, 2024