If the past year has left you feeling starved of culture, this summer's art exhibitions will offer just the relief you need. From Jean Dubuffet in London to Yayoi Kusama in Berlin, these are some of the most highly anticipated exhibitions to catch in Europe in 2021.
Jean Dubuffet: Brutal Beauty
Barbican Art Gallery, London
Until 27 August 2021
French painter and sculptor Jean Dubuffet is renowned as one of the most original and provocative voices in postwar modern art. A champion of the so-called 'low art' movement, he eschewed conventional image-making approaches, experimenting instead with unorthodox tools and materials, including glass, leaves and tin foil. Brutal Beauty at London's Barbican Centre serves to convey Dubruffet's rebellious spirit, with a series of works that showcase four decades of his career, from early portraits and fantastical statues, to butterfly assemblages and giant colourful canvases. The exhibition also features works from Dubuffet's own collection of art brut ('raw art') that he acquired throughout his lifetime.
Until 29 August 2021
This groundbreaking exhibition at Amsterdam's renowned Rijksmuseum focuses on the period of Dutch colonialism – an era spanning 250 years that is an integral yet often overlooked part of the Netherlands' history. Showcasing over 100 objects, paintings and archival documents, including items that were cherished by enslaved individuals and tools used on plantations, Slavery tells the true stories of of 10 individuals. The people range from those who were enslaved to those who profited from the slave trade. As you view the objects on display, audio sources voiced by narrators who share a personal connection with the people involved, along with music and poetry, bring the exhibition to life.
Henri Cartier-Bresson: Revoir Paris
Musée Carnavalet, Paris
Until 31 October 2021
After four years of restoration work, Musée Carnavalet, the oldest museum in Paris, has finally reopened its doors, welcoming art lovers back with open arms. Its first exhibition since its reopening celebrates one of the most influential French photographers of the 20th century – Henri Cartier-Bresson – and the incredible influence that the French capital had on his artistic practice. Revoir Paris features a series of original photographs, including 30 unpublished works, as well as audiovisual recordings of Cartier-Bresson. With a heavy focus on Cartier-Bresson's street photography, It's a valuable insight into mid-century Paris and the people who inhabited it.
Yayoi Kusama: A Retrospective
Gropius Bau, Berlin
Until 15 August 2021
Presented across almost 3000 m², Yayoi Kusama: A Retrospective at Berlin's Gropius Bau offers a deep dive into the key periods of one of the world’s most important contemporary artists, whose unique and instantly recognisable work spans many mediums. The exhibition traces the development of Kusama's creative journey over the course of more than 70 years – from her early paintings and accumulative sculptures to her immersive environments (including her famous Infinity Mirror Room), as well as her lesser-known artistic activity in Germany and Europe. You're guaranteed to come away with a broadened mind.
Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid
Until 8 August 2021
If you happen to be in Madrid during the summer, be sure to check out the incredible paintings of celebrated pioneer of abstraction Georgia O'Keeffe at Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza. This major retrospective is the first in Spain and is a complete survey of O’Keeffe’s career from 1910 to her death in 1986, featuring over 90 works that range from the artist's famous flower paintings to her bold landscape paintings of New Mexico. Once it has shown in Madrid, the exhibition will travel to Paris and then Basel, cementing it as one of the must-visit art exhibitions in Europe this year.