Museum And Gallery Exhibitions - What's Going To Be Hot In 2009?

By Richard Moss | 01 January 2009
an abstract painting in the constructivist style with red black and white irregular triangular shapes

Rodchenko and Popova: Defining Constructivism, Tate Modern, Feburary 12 - May 17. Lyubov Popova 1889-1924, Painterly Architectonics (1918). Courtesy Yaraslavi Museum of Fine Arts

Following a new report that says more and more of us are visiting museums and galleries, Richard Moss picks out some of the exhibitions that should ensure these figures are even better in 2009.

2008 was another year of big hitters and blockbusters with Francis Bacon at Tate Britain, Warhol at the Southbank, Charles Saatchi's modern Chinese art show in his new Chelsea HQ and a slew of big name exhibitions from Rothko at Tate Modern to Gustav Klimt at Tate Liverpool. These popular exhibitions proved that visitors were prepared to pay for quality art exhibitions and big names.

Visitor records were broken for the Liverpool Capital of Culture year, with people flocking to museums and galleries on Merseyside, while the capital saw queues for everything from Renaissance Faces to Francis Bacon. But what will be the biggest show of 2009? Will the National Gallery usher in a new trend for thoughtful exhibitions? Or will Picasso or Rodchenko pack them in in 2009?

One of the best exhibitions during 2008 was the Rodchenko retrospective at the South Bank Centre and over at Tate Modern the curators evidently liked it too – because they have lined up their own Rodchenko show by twinning the Soviet Constructivist innovator with his contemporary colleague Liubov Popova.

Rodchenko and Popova: Defining Constructivism (February 12 to May 17) will reveal the extent to which these two giants of the Russian avant-garde influenced everything from fashion, media and theatre, to cinema and graphic design. Expect a high quotient of beardy types with glasses - myself included…

A busy year at the Royal Academy of Arts includes an intriguing look at one of the giants of Japanese art: printmaker Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1796 – 1861), whose capricious collection of triptychs, heroes, monsters and beauties will adorn the walls of the RA’s Sackler Galleries from March 21 – June 7.

Once the RA Summer Exhibition (June 8 – August 16) is out of the way, they return to another 19th century romantic with a penchant for mythology and an eye for the ladies - Victorian artist JW Waterhouse (June 27 – September 13). As well as more than 40 sumptuous paintings, the show will pull together his sketchbooks and drawings gathered from all over the world.

a drawing of a muscle bound man wrestling a sea creature

Kuniyoshi at the Royal Academy from March 21 – June 7 2009. Utagawa Kuniyoshi, Asahina Saburô Yoshihide wrestles with Two Crocodiles at Kotsubo Beach, Kamakura, 1849. Courtesy American Friends of the British Museum (Arthur R.Miller Collection)

Turner Prize winners and living greats...

Another notable show for the RA in 2009 includes a major solo exhibition of the Turner Prize winner and Royal Academician Anish Kapoor (October 24 – January 24 2010). Kapoor has a busy year ahead of him with plans afoot for a multi-site project at the Brighton Festival throughout May 2009.

A big name in 20th century architecture gets the five star treatment at the Barbican Art Gallery with Le Corbusier - The Art of Architecture (February 19 – May 24), which is the first major survey in London of the internationally renowned architect in more than 20 years. We’re promised a wealth of his paintings, films, sculpture and books alongside vintage photographs, original architectural models and interior settings.

The National Portrait Gallery’s big show of 2009 is devoted to a person they describe as “one of the greatest living painters.” Gerhard Richter Portraits (February 26 – May 31) is the first UK exhibition to show a selection of the special one’s portraits across the entire span of his career.

Later in the year the NPG provides a window into Regency Society with a rare look at Constable’s Portraits: the Painter and his Circle (March 15 – June 14).

a pianting of a mermaid combing her hair on pebbled beach

Waterhouse at the Royal Academy from June 27 – September 13. John William Waterhouse, A Mermaid, 1900 Royal Academy of Arts, London. Photo courtesy Royal Academy of Arts, London

Looking for adventure...?

One of the most consistently adventurous exhibition programmes can be found outside the capital, in the West Midlands at Compton Verney. For 2009 they have an intriguing programme of exhibitions starting with Diana and Actaeon, (March 21 – May 31). The show charts the response of artists as varied as Brueghel, Degas, Picasso, Poussin, Rodin, Rubens and Schiele to the tragic and macabre story from Ovid’s metamorphosis.

In the summer they host Subversive Spaces: Surrealism and Contemporary Art (June 13 – September 6), which looks at the social and psychological space of architecture and the environment via the works of artists such as Brassaï, Dali, Max Ernst, Mona Hatoum, René Magritte and Dorothea Tanning.

The exhibition has been developed by the in Manchester where it will show from February 6 to May 4, together with a major new commission from Gregor Schneider (who freaked everybody out in 2004 with his creepy Schneider Family House in London). Apparently he will be getting visitors to pick their way through a darkened gallery towards an eerily-lit nursery…

Back into the light and heading into late summer, Compton Verney will also be hosting the NPG’s Constable Portraits: The Painter and his Circle (June 27- September 6) before rounding off the year with a potentially absorbing exploration of the Artist’s Studio (September 26 – December 13) looking at the private worlds of Cezanne, Freud, Turner, Vanessa Bell, Bacon and many others.

a panoramic landscape showing a golden city seen from a balcony

(Above) Turner at Tate Britain, September 23 - January 2010. JMW Turner, Rome from the Vatican. Raffaelle, Accompanied by La Fornarina, Preparing his Pictures for the Decoration of the Loggia exhibited 1820. (detail). © Tate

A little known Spanish artist…

In the capital, the spiritual home of the high profile art show, 2008 saw a new director ushered in at London’s National Gallery. Nicholas Penny promised a move towards thoughtful explorations of lesser-known artists to break the capital’s obsession with blockbuster exhibitions.

Pronouncements like these are a gift to hacks of all hues and I’m no exception - especially as the National’s first major exhibition of 2009 is a deep exploration of a little-known Spanish artist called Pablo Picasso.

Picasso: Challenging the Past (February 25 – June 7) explores the way in which the greatest painter of the 20th century responded to the old masters – especially the master paintings in the Gallery’s own collection. Approximately 60 major works will be featured.

In fairness, it's a highly thoughtful take on the standard blockbuster format, and the following free summer exhibition draws on the National’s own collection for Corot to Monet (July 8 – September 20), which charts the development of landscape painting from the late 18th century to the first Impressionist exhibition of 1874.

The major autumn show is The Sacred Made Real: Spanish Painting and Sculpture 1600-1700 (October 21 – January 24 2010), which promises to explore some lesser known Spanish artists.

a surreal painting showing two female figures with long streaming on a strange landing with a large outsize flower

Dorothea Tanning, Eine Kleine Nachtmusik (1943). © Tate

(Above) Subversive Spaces: Surrealism and Contemporary Art at the Whitworth Art Gallery from February 6 to May 4, then Compton Verney from June 13 – September 6.

The coming of India…

One of the enduring themes of 2009 was the high proportion of Chinese themed exhibitions, with everyone from Brighton and Hove Museum to Charles Saatchi exploring the influence of the Chinese in some way or other. In 2009 the emphasis moves west with the New Year signalling the arrival of Indian art and culture to our shores.

Indian Highway has already opened at the Serpentine Gallery with a showcase of some major names in contemporary art from the subcontinent, but the big subcontinental blockbuster for 2009 is at the British Museum whose Indian Summer season is dedicated to the richness and splendour of Indian culture, boasting a vast programme of exhibitions, installations, performances, lectures and film screenings.

Garden and Cosmos: The Royal Paintings of Jodhpur, (May 28 – August 23) will be a rare opportunity to view exquisite court paintings from the collection of Mehrangarh Museum Trust in Jodhpur – all previously unseen in Europe.

Outside, in the Museum’s forecourt, India Landscape (May 2 – September 28 2009), promises an ambitious exhibition space presenting Indian biodiversity - made in collaboration with the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

The BM ventures Eastward again for its next instalment in the series, focussing on great rulers with a major exhibition about the Iranian ruler, Shah Abbas.

Shah Abbas: The Remaking of Iran (February 19 – June 14) follows the Museum’s First Emperor and Hadrian exhibitions and offers a unique opportunity to discover Abbas’contribution to the creation of modern Iran.

a photograph of an ornate gold ceiling

Baroque at the V&A from April 4 – July 19. Photography by John Ross

At the V&A they are following up the BM’s programme with Maharaja: the Splendour of India's Royal Courts (October 10 – January 17 2010), which explores the extraordinary culture of princely India by showcasing rich and varied objects that reflect different aspects of Indian royal life.

Before this exhibition there is a typically thorough V&A exploration of a similarly opulent period – the elaborate world of Baroque.

Baroque 1620-1800: Style in the Age of Magnificence (April 4 – July 19) will be a shimmering exploration of one of the most lavish styles of the 17th and 18th centuries.

The show will reflect the complexity and grandeur of Baroque, from the Rome of Borromini and Bernini to the magnificent bling of Louis XIV's Versailles and the lavishness of Baroque theatre and performance. V&A curators will also throw in the odd Rubens and Tiepolo to finish off a magnificent representation of a Baroque Palace.

At Tate Britain they are returning to a similar era with Van Dyck and Britain (February 18 – May 17). Arguably the greatest artist of 17th century Britain and painter to the famously lavish court of Charles I, Tate are promising a visually sumptuous exhibition bringing together some of the finest paintings Van Dyck produced during his years in Britain.

Hands up anyone who can remember a year when there was no Turner exhibition in the UK? Tate Britain is admirably keeping the flame burning with Turner and the Old Masters (September 23 – January 24), which will juxtapose the finest paintings of England’s greatest landscape painter alongside works by the old masters and contemporaries he hoped to imitate, rival and surpass.

a photorealistic painting of a woman in side profile reading a book

Gerhard Richter Portraits at the NPG, February 26 – May 31

(Above) Lesende By Gerhard Richter, 1994 Collection, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, purchase through the gifts of Mimi and Peter Haasand, Helen and Charles Schwab, and the Accessions Committee Fund. Copyright: Gerhard Richter, 2009

Another, albeit modern, British master is revisited in York in January when York Art Gallery unveils a most welcome Stanley Spencer exhibition (January 24 - April 19). Organised by Tate Liverpool, the show promises a paintings and drawings by one of the most original and celebrated British artists of the 20th century.

A blast of colour…

Tate Liverpool, meanwhile, is introducing its own blast of 20th century colour for the summer with its exhibition Colour Chart: Reinventing Colour, 1950 to Today (May 29 – September 13 2009).

Looking at how 20th century artists began to perceive colour as 'readymade' rather than scientific or expressive, the exhibition features a colourful roster of names including Andy Warhol, Gerhard Richter, Dan Flavin, Damien Hirst and Angela Bulloch.

In 2009, one of the UK’s most adventurous arts commissioning bodies, Artangel, will be offering a series of typically adventurous commissions and projects.

Jem Finer’s Longplayer at the London Roundhouse is one to watch out for. This wonderfully absurd exercise will see an ensemble of musicians play differently-tuned Tibetan singing bowls (September 12, 2009). The London premiere of American sculptor Charles Ledray’s very small hand-tailored sculptures (June 2009, venue tbc) also promises a work which is in turns obsessive and, you might add, compulsive...

a photoghraph of bald man with glasses wearing a two piece matching tartan outfit and white hooded jacket

Antonio Riello's B. Square at BALTIC from January 16 to March 29. Courtesy BALTIC

Suits you sir…

Speaking of tailoring, those adventurous people at BALTIC have invited Italian artist Antonio Riello to create an unusual artistic intervention that promises to go beyond the mere exhibition spaces of the gallery.

For the show, called B. Square, (January 16 – March 29), Riello has created a series of snazzy outfits to be worn by all the staff at BALTIC – and everyone from front of house to office staff and directors will be donning the Italian’s rather fetching combination of tartan trews with matching top.

At they are also venturing into the world of fashion by welcoming the V&A’s Fashion v Sport exhibition at the Walker Art Gallery (February 13 - May 31) before taking a look at the French Impressionists at the Lady Lever Art Gallery (February 20 – May 31).

The rise of women artists…

However, one of the most potentially interesting exhibitions of the year – certainly in Liverpool – is the Walker’s The Rise of Women Artists (October 23 – March 14 2010), which features work by Paula Rego, Helen Chadwick, Louise Bourgeois and Alison Britton to name but a few – shown alongside historic works from the Gallery’s collections.

Female artists are also the focus at Imperial War Museum North, where one of the best art collections in the UK gets a welcome re-examination with an exhibition focussing on the experiences and works of women war artists from the First World War to the Kosovo conflict.

Witness: Women War Artists (February 7 to April 19) brings together works from the Museum’s art collection for the first time in 50 years, together with previously unseen recent acquisitions.

The Imperial War Museum in London is still putting the final touches to their major summer show at the time of writing, but the autumn will see a major appraisal exhibition marking 70 years since the outbreak of World War Two.

a painting of man with armour, long hair and beard passing through a classical arch on a white horse

Van Dyck at Tate Britain February 18 – May 17. Anthony Van Dyck, Charles I on Horseback with M de St Antoine 1633. The Royal Collection, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. © 2008, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

Outbreak 1939 will run from September 2009 to January 2010 (exact dates tbc) and explore the build-up and preparations for war, and will include an hour-by-hour countdown of events on September 3, 1939, and a look at the early months of the conflict.

As you would expect from the IWM, the exhibition will use original artefacts as well as sound recordings and film to tell the stories of the individuals who lived through these extraordinary times. With an admirable tendency to explore the thoughts of everyone from politicians to soldiers and civilians, you can expect more than just the moving tones of Neville Chamberlain announcing the start of the war.

Their sister site, Manchester’s Imperial War Museum North, has lined up the Museum's first major exhibition to examine the experience of prisoners of war during the Second World War. Prisoners of War (working title) will run in the Special Exhibitions Gallery from May 23 to January 2010.

Darwin or Henry...?

As the lead partners in the Darwin200 celebrations, the Natural History Museum is concentrating on Darwin, whose 200th anniversary birthday is being celebrated throughout 2009 - a year that will see the NHM put the finishing touches to their multi-million Darwin Centre.

Threaded throughout will be the Cocoon, an interactive journey that allows visitors to see NHM staff at work within the new Centre. The David Attenborough Studio will allow visitors to be inspired by naturalists and the Angela Marmont Centre for UK Biodiversity will allow wildlife groups and societies to get access to the collections and provide a place to get first hand information about the natural world from Museum experts.

The NHM will also be unveiling an art project called TREE on February 14 by British artist Tania Kovats. Consisting of a wafer thin longitudinal section of an entire 200-year old oak tree, the project will include the roots, trunk and branches inserted into the ceiling of a mezzanine gallery behind the Museum’s iconic Central Hall.

a photo of a man dressed as a young Henry VIII

Visitors to Hampton Court Palace can meet Henry VIII. Courtesy HRP / Newsteam

Another anniversary gets the treatment at Coalbrookdale, which is celebrating the birth of the industrial revolution 300 years ago with Coalbrookdale 300.

The Coalbrookdale Gallery, near Ironbridge in Shropshire, will be opening in Easter with an exhibition which will celebrate the 300th anniversary of the Industrial Revolution through artistic responses to the changing scale of the iron industry. At Coalbrookdale Museum of Iron they will also be hosting an exhibition of new archaeological research, uncovered around the Old Furnace.

Look out for an accompanying programme of cast and wrought ironworking demonstrations at Blists Hill Victorian Town, plus tours, lectures and opportunities for visitors to try working with hot metal.

Finally, we can’t sign off without mentioning how 2009 is going to be a big year for fans of England’s biggest King, Henry VIII. Hampton Court Palace will be marking the 500 years since Henry VIII took the throne in 1509 and, among other things, will provide the chance for every visitor to take part in the wedding of a decidedly ageing and grouchy Henry VIII and his last wife Catherine Parr.

It's a fitting highlight for a year which is shaping up to be royally good.

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