Eight exhibitions to see around the globe this summer

Sculpture displayed in garden

Art shows in 2021 are definitely best experienced IRL. We’re talking immersive installations that dazzle and outdoor sculpture parks to get lost in. Here’s our roundup of the exhibitions you should have on your radar

By Osman Can Yerebakan    Above image: ‘Dancing Pumpkin’ by Yayoi Kusama, 2020    Friday 16 July, 2021

Endless lines curved around the block; phones raised in front of shiny Koons and Kusamas; gift shops brimming with glossy catalogues. The ritual of visiting a museum is slowly returning and art-goers are eagerly, but cautiously, filling the white cubes again. Postponed exhibitions across the globe are finally reaching their audiences, while rotundas that have been sitting in dark for months are finally seeing the daylight.

After last summer’s cloud of uncertainty, an urge for celebration and connectivity is strongly felt throughout many international metropolises – and there is hardly a grander, and airier, place to participate in the joy of revival than museums. From ambitious group shows to deep-diving solo surveys, the programming at institutions around the world reminds us why we’ve always needed art. 

Portrait of two women with pink hair heads touching

Ninagawa Mika (b. 1972) Tokyo from Utsurundesu series, since 2018. Models: AMIAYA © Ninagawa Mika, courtesy the artist and Tomio Koyama Gallery


Sugiura Hisui (1876–1965). Ginza Branch Open on 10 April 1930. Colour lithograph, 109.8 x 82.2 cm © The artist & Tokyo National Museum of Modern Art. Photograph: Arrow Art Works, 2000

Tokyo: Art & Photography, Ashmolean Museum, UK

Oxford’s  Ashmolean Museum takes on the ambitious endeavour of tracing art from Tokyo. Spanning a period of more than 400 years, the show starts from its past as a fishing village during the Edo period and brings the viewers to the present – a neon-hued melting pot of a megacity. It opens with Mika Ninagawa’s penetrating and compelling photographs of contemporary Tokyo youth. On the historical end, it includes Tosa School-era book illustrations of the Edo Castle from the late 17th century, and Utagawa Hiroshige’s woodblock print of maple trees and the Tsugi Bridge from 1857, a year prior to his passing. ‘Real travel to Tokyo is currently restricted, but we’re excited to be bringing the city to Oxford, giving visitors a “taster” of its dynamic art and photography scene,’ says the exhibition’s curator Dr Lena Fritsch. Until 3 January 2022.


Impossible Homecoming, Pera Museum, Turkey 

The Turkish word vuslat – meaning ‘meeting’ – could be the most suiting attribute to the Pera Museum’s exhibition, Impossible Homecoming, because Istanbul and visual artist Etel Adnan are finally together. Adnan’s life started in Beirut when she was born to an Ottoman father and an Orthodox mother in a Greek and Turkish-speaking household. She has, over the decades, lived between Paris and California, painting poetic landscapes and penning vivid poems about home. Along the way, the life of Adnan (who’s now 96) has continued to defy categorisations, eras, borders, and languages. Located near Soho House Istanbul, the Pera Museum presents her long oeuvre, mainly in painting, alongside pottery, textiles, drawings, and a film. Until 8 August 2021.

Flower sculptures displayed in pond in glasshouse

‘My Soul Blooms Forever’ by Yayoi Kusama, 2019

Kusama: Cosmic Nature, the New York Botanical Garden, US

Visiting NYBG’s Yayoi Kusama exhibition makes one wonder: ‘Why did this show take this long to happen?’ One of the largest botanical gardens in the world and the iconic artist of natural phenomena are a match made in heaven. Kusama was born into an affluent family who owned a plant nursery and seed farm in central Japan, and the plant universe has been a ceaseless fascination for the artist. The botanical garden’s expansive show is a recreation of Kusama’s seminal Narcissus Garden and enlivens the Native Plant Garden with mirrored orbs reflecting the surrounding greenery. There’s also an array of dotted sculptures – whether shaped like gourds or flowers – that join the blossoming flora’s summer colours. And, yes, an infinity room is not amiss. Until 31 October 2021.


Albion Fields: inaugural sculpture exhibition, UK

Whether a serene lake or an adventurous hike is in your itinerary, summer is synonymous with getaways. An option for Londoners is Albion Fields, a new sculpture park in the Oxfordshire countryside. A neighbour of Soho Farmhouse, the park has recently been inaugurated with a show of sculptures by 26 international artists spread across 50 acres. From art history heavy-lifters, Vito Acconci, Ai Weiwei, Daniel Buren and James Turrell, to younger generation darlings, Claudia Comte, Alicja Kwade, Ryan Gander or Jeppe Hein, the checklist is as ample as the surrounding lush hills. The park’s current capacity is limited to 30 guests at a time. Besides these restrictions, ‘the decision is partly to create a special atmosphere for the visitors and to preserve the natural somewhat wild feeling of Albion Fields,’ notes owner Michael Hue-Williams. Until 25 September 2021.

Man standing in flower garden

Tino Sehgal in the Rose Garden at Blenheim Palace. Photograph by Edd Horder. Courtesy of Blenheim Art Foundation

Tino Sehgal, Blenheim Palace, UK

Tino Sehgal’s art has always been socially distanced, long before we even knew the term. Blenheim Palace’s scenic park and gardens host the German-Indian artist’s exhibition of social encounters, in which his collaborators interrupt the course of a moment with a gesture, song, or conversation. Sehgal is widely known for interactions he has orchestrated between museum-goers and performers at leading world venues, such as the Guggenheim in New York and the Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall in London. Just like all art, his imitates life too, even more so when social dynamics have been shaken to their core. Fitting to the times, Sehgal’s interventions across the outdoor site include instances observed from afar. A couple locks lips on some steps, a singer serenades atop a hill – and it all happens with a fleeting swiftness, while nature provides a breathing background to silently celebrate things moving back towards normalcy. Until 15 August 2021.

Artwork hung in grid formation in gallery space

‘24 Heures De La Vie D'une Femme Ordinaire’, 1974(3) by Michel Journiac, Bourse de Commerce

Black and white portrait of woman in frame

‘A Portfolio of Models’, 1974 (détail) by Martha Wilson, Bourse de Commerce

Ouverture, the Bourse de Commerce, France

The Bourse de Commerce was built in the heart of Paris in 1797 to exchange grains. Today, it exhibits François Pinault’s storied collection of 5,000 artworks. The French businessman tapped Tadao Ando to transform the building into a temporary exhibition site in 2017. After a pandemic-mandated change in opening plans, the Pinault Collection was unveiled this May. True to its founder’s ambition, the institution boasts the finest contemporary art from across the globe, rendered in any material imaginable and at dwarfing scales. Under the umbrella title Ouverture, the offerings do not lack the usual suspects to the say the least, with Pierre Huyghe, Urs Fischer, Philippe Parreno or Rudolf Stingel gracing the sleek galleries. Make sure, however, not to sleep on the smartly put together group show, Journiac/Wilson/Levine/Sherman/Prince/Lawler. It cleverly connects the 1970s and 1980s American art movement, Pictures Generation, with its reflection on European performance art. And the show feels particularly poignant now, when notions of identity and the body seem more intertwined than ever before. Until 31 December 2021.

Woman standing looking at rows of digital landscape drawings

‘David Hockney: The Arrival Of Spring, Normandy, 2020’ at the Royal Academy of Arts, London, 23 May to 26 September 2021. Photography: © Royal Academy of Arts , London / David Parry. All works: © David Hockney

David Hockney: The Arrival Of Spring, Normandy, 2020, Royal Academy of Arts, UK

Like seasons, David Hockney thrives on transformation. Last spring, when the pandemic was arguably at its bleakest state, the artist reached for his iPad to draw the spring that he imagined. The Normandy flora that stubbornly blossomed outside his window granted Hockney with 116 drawings, which are currently on view at the Royal Academy’s new exhibition. Hockney started experimenting with an iPad as early as 2010, but his use of the device seems more urgent than ever given the sudden limitedness of access to typical art materials last year. Dense greens of Northern France take centre stage in Hockney’s colour palette throughout the loosely rendered drawings. And occasional rain and nocturnal views echo with the communal sentiment during the period they were created. The show is on view at the Main Galleries until 1 August 2021 and reopens at the Gabrielle Jungels-Winkler Galleries from 11 August until 26 September 2021. 

Isamu Noguchi: Ways Of Discovery, Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, Japan

Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum’s new survey of Noguchi’s ground-breaking minimalism builds its thesis on dualities that shaped the Japanese-American artist’s path. Two nations that eventually fought against one another, the pure aestheticism of sculpture, as opposed to functionality of architecture, and a fascination with nature against the muteness of minimalism were all fruitful contradictions evident in the show’s 90 works. From Noguchi’s signature marble ‘Void’ sculptures to the onyx-carved ‘Mother and Child’ figure, his silhouettes defy what the eye discerns and imagination captures. As the exhibition’s title promises, the selection across the museum manifests Noguchi’s search for the new – through and beyond the limits of realities surrounding him. Until 29 August 2021.


Interested in becoming a member?