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    7 Exhibitions to See Around Town During Art Basel 2022, From a Survey of Piet Mondrian to Moody Figuration by Michael Armitage

    If you’re headed over to Switzerland for Art Basel, you know that this year’s edition of the fair isn’t the only show in town. Basel, a marvelously museum-rich city, has all kinds of other delights in store. Here’s a roundup of what not to miss on your trip.

    “Brice Marden: Inner Space“Kunstmuseum BaselThrough August 28
    Brice Marden, Second Window Painting (1983). © 2022 ProLitteris, Zurich.
    More than 100 works by the American painter Brice Marden, revered for his fusion of expressionist gesture and Minimalist rigor, come together for this exhibition at the Kunstmuseum Basel. Most of the pieces, made between 1972 and 2019, are on paper, but the show also includes eight paintings and a special selection of works from the artist’s collection, including never-before-seen pieces.

    “Mondrian: Evolution“Fondation BeyelerThrough October 9
    The conservation studio at the Fondation Beyeler, with paintings by Piet Mondrian. Photo courtesy Fondation Beyeler and La Prairie.
    To mark the 150th anniversary of the Dutch avant-gardist’s birth, the Fondation Beyeler has organized a retrospective looking at Mondrian’s earliest abstract experiments, in which he painted windmills and seascapes, through his radical reinvention of painting with his Neo-Plastic canvases, which he began in the 1920s.

    “Michael Armitage: You, Who Are Still Alive“Kunsthalle BaselThrough September 4
    Installation view, Michael Armitage, “You, Who Are Still Alive,” Kunsthalle Basel, 2022, featuring The Perfect Nine, 2022. Photo: Philipp Hänger/Kunsthalle Basel.
    New works by Kenyan-born artist Michael Armitage are the focus of this show, his first in Switzerland. Per the museum, the “moody, sumptuously layered figurative paintings” are intended as meditations on civil unrest, political uncertainty, and the enduring spirit of humanity.

    “Jean Jacques Lebel“Museum TinguleyThrough September 18
    Installation view of the Jean-Jacques Lebel show. Photo: Daniel Spehr.
    Jean-Jacques Lebel, an early Happenings artist, was instrumental in organizing a memorial service in 1960 in Venice for the murdered artist Nina Thoeren, during which a sculpture by Jean Tinguely was interred in the lagoon. That event—later deemed by Allan Kaprow the first European Happening—is the subject of this exhibition, which also includes later works by Lebel, such as a video installation looking at images of women in art and society.

    “Plastic: Remaking Our World“Vitra Design MuseumThrough September 9
    Panasonic Toot-a-Loop R-72S radio, 1969–72. © Vitra Design Museum. Photo: Andreas Sütterlin.
    This show, organized with the V&A Dundee and the Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology in Lisbon, looks at the ways in which plastics have shaped our lives, from electrical conductors to Lego blocks, and how they’ve evolved from a symbol of carefree consumerism to a signal of overconsumption and unsustainability.

    “Napoli Super Modern“Swiss Architecture MuseumThrough August 21
    Photograph by Cyrille Weiner, from the series “Assimilation douce,” Napoli, 2020.
    The city of Naples—its history, culture, and role in the public imagination—comes alive through this exhibition focusing on its unique architecture, organized by Benoit Jallon and Umberto Napolitano, who together run the Paris-based studio LAN. Among other exhibits, the show features photographs by Cyrille Weiner, who documents the specifically Modern aesthetic that rose out of postwar reconstruction in the city.

    “Picasso–El Greco“Kunstmuseum Basel-NeubauThrough September 25
    Pablo Picasso, Mme Canals (Benedetta Bianco) (1905).
    The influence of the Greek artist El Greco on Picasso is the subject of this show, which includes landmark loans from international collections. The exhibition—curated by Carmen Giménez, with Gabriel Dette, Josef Helfenstein and Ana Mingot—makes the case that respect for the iconoclastic artist, forgotten for years after his death, was revived in the early 1900s in large part by Picasso’s fascination with and celebration of the artist.
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    Never-Before-Seen Sketchbooks of Drawings Picasso Made With His Daughter Maya Go on View in Paris

    The Picasso Museum in Paris is staging an exhibition of never-before-seen works by the Spanish master, bequeathed by his eldest child, Maya Ruiz-Picasso, in 2021.
    The show features nine major works by the artist and personal family items dating from 1895 to 1971. The selection includes drawings, paintings, photographs, ephemera, a coloring in book, and an adorable how-to-paint book that the artist and his lover Marie-Thérèse Walter made for Maya.
    Maya Picasso, Maya au bateau (1938). Photo © Succession Picasso 2022.
    The exhibition, “Maya Ruiz-Picasso, Daughter Of Pablo,” was co-curated by Picasso Museum curator Emilia Philippot and Maya’s daughter Diana Widmaier-Ruiz-Picasso, who discovered drawings and sketchbooks by chance while going through storage. She showed her mother, who is now 86, and she remembered making the drawings with her father.
    Maya recalled that time, paper, and pencils were in short supply then. “Who has never heard it said when looking at a canvas by Picasso, ‘A child could have done that!’” Diana wrote in the book accompanying the show. “Many of the artistic revolutions of the 20th century were greeted with mockery and scandal, it is true, but in Picasso’s case there is a hint of truth in that judgment. As Maya, his first daughter, recalls, ‘the mystery of life, and therefore of childhood, always filled that father of mine with interest.’”
    Pablo Picasso, Lettre à Maya (1946). Photo © Succession Picasso 2022.
    Picasso drew with Maya the way he had with his own father, who was a drawing professor, and the sketchbooks reveal this touching exchange.
    “That’s probably why my father wrote in my exercise books and colored with my pencils. I still have fond memories of those moments when we met up in the kitchen to draw together. It was the only place in the apartment where it was warm,” Maya said, according to the Observer.
    Pablo Picasso et Maya Ruiz-Picasso, Pommes (n.d). Photo © Succession Picasso 2022.
    The drawings also give insight into Picasso as a father and as an artist.
    “There’s a beautiful page where he’s drawing a bowl and she’s drawing a bowl,” Diana told the Observer. “Sometimes she’s making an image and he’s doing another, showing her the right way to do it. Sometimes they would depict different scenes. Other times, he would draw a dog or a hat. Sometimes he’s using the whole page to draw one particular thing. Other times, he’s depicting certain scenes, scenes of the circus. It’s very interesting.”
    Pablo Picasso, Maya à la poupée et au cheval (1938). Photo © Succession Picasso 2022
    “Maya Ruiz-Picasso, Daughter Of Pablo” is on view at Musée Picasso in Paris through December 31, 2022.
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    In Pictures: See Practically Every Single Artwork in the Sprawling 2022 Berlin Biennale, Organized by Artist Kader Attia

    The 12th Berlin Biennale has opened its doors.
    Artist-curator Kader Attia has given the event the title “Still Present,” promising that his selection of 82 artists offers an overview of “more than two decades of de-colonial engagement.”
    The resulting show is particularly heavy on art that serves as illustrated lecture or data dump, with an emphasis on “forensic aesthetics.” Early reviews have called it “relentlessly grim,” which may be true—though, as with Attia’s artistic practice, journalistic critiques of injustice are leavened by moments of poetry.
    The show spans traditional marquee art venues like the KW Institute for Contemporary Art and the Hamburger Bahnhof, but also has works into the Stasi Museum, a research and memorial center about the East German secret police, and elsewhere.
    Below, see works featured in “Still Present.”

    KW Institute for Contemporary Art
    Nil Yalter, Estranged Doors (1983) and Exile Is a Hard Job (1983/2022). Photo by Ben Davis.
    Mathieu Pernot, The Gorgans (1995–2015). Photo by Ben Davis.
    Mathieu Pernot, Dikhav—The Banks of the River (2017). Photo by Ben Davis.
    Nil Yalter, Judy Blum, and Nicole Croiset, La Roquette, Frauengefängnis Women’s Prison (1974–75). Photo by Ben Davis.
    Jeneen Frei Njootli, Thunderstruck (2013/2022) and Alex Prager. Photo by Ben Davis.
    Susan Schuppli, Icebox Detention Along the U.S.-Mexico Border (2021-2022). Photo by Ben Davis.
    Mayuri Chari, I Was Not Created for Pleasure (2022). Photo by Ben Davis.
    Simone Fattal, In Our Lands of Drought the Rain Forever Is Made of Bullets (2006). Photo by Ben Davis.
    Deneth Piumakshi Veda Arachchige, Self-Portrait as Restitution—from a feminist point of view (2020). Photo by Ben Davis.
    Antonio Recalcati, Enrico Baj, Erro, Gianni Dova, Jean-Jacques Lebel, and Roberto Crippa, Large Collective Anti-Fascist Painting (1960). Photo by Ben Davis.
    Ariella Aïsha Azoulay, The Natural History of Rape (2017/2022). Photo by Ben Davis.
    João Polido, Replica Song (2022). Photo by Ben Davis.
    Zuzanna Hertzberg, Individual and Collective Resistance of Women During the Shoah (2019). Photo by Ben Davis.
    Zuzanna Hertzberg, Shibboleth Ż (2019). Photo by Ben Davis.
    Myriam El Haïk, Please Patterns (2022). Photo by Ben Davis.
    Christine Safatly, Piece 1 (2019), Piece 2 (2019), and Unknown Body (2020). Photo by Ben Davis.
    Mila Turajlić, Screen/Solidarity/Silence – Debris from the Labudović Reels (2022). Photo by Ben Davis.
    Detail of Mila Turajlić, Screen/Solidarity/Silence – Debris from the Labudović Reels (2022
    Mónica de Miranda, Path to the Stars (2022). Photo by Ben Davis.
    Works by Etinosa Yvonne. Photo by Ben Davis.
    Mai Nguyen-Long, Vomit Girl (Berlin Cluster) (2022). Photo by Ben Davis.
    Amal Kenawy, The Purple Artificial Flower (2005). Photo by Ben Davis.
    Maithu Bùi, Mathuật – MMRBX (2022) Photo by Ben Davis.
    Binta Diaw, Dïà spora (2022). Photo by Ben Davis.
    Taysir Batniji, Suspended Time (2016). Photo by Ben Davis.
    Tejswini Narayan Sonawane, Femininity I (2015). Photo by Ben Davis.
    Taysir Batniji, The Sky Over Gaza #2 (2001-2004). Photo by Ben Davis.
    Marta Popivoda/Ana Vujanović, Moss Does It Better (2022). Photo by Ben Davis.
    Asim Abdulaziz, 1941 (2021). Photo by Ben Davis.

    Hamburger Bahnhof
    Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Air Conditioning (2022). Photo by Ben Davis.
    Driss Ouadahi, Aerohabitat (2022). Photo by Ben Davis.
    Basel Abbas and Ruanne Abou-Rahme, Oh Shining Star Testify (2019/2022). Photo by Ben Davis.
    David Chevalarias, Shifting Collectives (2022). Photo by Ben Davis.
    Detail of David Chevalarias. Photo by Ben Davis.
    Alex Prager, Crowd #4 (New Haven) (2013/2022). Photo by Ben Davis.
    Birendir Yadev, Walking on the Roof of Hell (2016). Photo by Ben Davis.
    Forensic Architecture, Airstrike on Babyn Yar (2022). Photo by Ben Davis.
    Amal Kenawy, Silence of Sleep (2010). Photo by Ben Davis.
    Elske Rosenfeld, Circling (Another Round) (2012/2022). Photo by Ben Davis.
    Layth Kareem, The City Limits (2014). Photo by Ben Davis.
    PEROU, Considering That It Is Possible That Such Events May Occur Again (2015). Photo by Ben Davis.
    Praneet Soi, Paraphernalia (2022). Photo by Ben Davis.
    Works by Tammy Nguyen. Photo by Ben Davis.
    Noel W Anderson, Line Up (2016-2020). Photo by Ben Davis.
    Raed Mutar, Untitled (2012). Photo by Ben Davis.
    Jean-Jacques Lebel, Besatzung in Bagdad Soluble poison: Scenes from the American occupation in Baghdad (2013) and Sajjad Abbas, I can see you (2013). Photo by Ben Davis.
    Zach Blas, Profundior (Lachryphagic Transmutation Deus-Motus-Data Network) (2022). Photo by Ben Davis.
    Tuan Andrew Nguyen, The Specter of Ancestors Becoming (2019). Photo by Ben Davis.
    Works by Calida Garcia Rawles. Photo by Ben Davis.
    Thuy-Han Nguyen-Chi, This undreamt of sail is watered by the white wind of the abyss
    Mónica de Miranda, Path to the Stars (2022). Photo by Ben Davis.
    Akademie der Künste, Pariser Platz
    Work by Sajjad Abbas on the facade of the Akademie der Künste, Pariser Platz. Photo by Ben Davis.
    Elske Rosenfeld, Interrupting (A Bit of a Complex Situation) (2014). Photo by Ben Davis.
    Works by Moses März. Photo by Ben Davis.
    Jihan El-Tahri, Complexifying Restitution (2022). Photo by Ben Davis.
    Display of crucifixes. Photo by Ben Davis.
    Prabhakar Kamble, Broken Foot (2020). Photo by Ben Davis.
    The School of Mutants (Boris Raux, Hamedine Kane, Lou Mo, Stéphane Verlet-Bottéro, Valérie Osouf), All fragments of the word will come back here to mend each other (2022). Photo by Ben Davis.
    Taloi Havini, Beroana (Shell Money) IV (2016). Photo by Ben Davis.
    Works by Prabhakar Kamble. Photo by Ben Davis.
    Uriel Orlow, Reading Wood (Backwards) (2022). Photo by Ben Davis.
    Dubréus Lhérisson, Untitled (2015). Photo by Ben Davis.
    Prabhakar Kamble, Chandelier (2022). Photo by Ben Davis.
    Khandakar Ohida, Dream Your Museum (2022). Photo by Ben Davis.

    Akademie der Künste, Hanseatenweg
    Akademie der Künste, Hanseatenweg. Photo by Ben Davis.
    Sammy Baloji, …and to those North Sea waves whispering sunken stories (II) (2021). Photo by Ben Davis.
    Temitayo Ogunbiyi, You will order taxonomies according to your days (2021-2022). Photo by Ben Davis.
    Yuyan Wang, The Moon Also Rises (2022). Photo by Ben Davis.
    Imani Jacqueline Brown , What remains at the end of the earth? (2022). Photo by Ben Davis.
    Ammar Bouras, 24°3′55″N 5°3′23″E (2012/22). Photo by Ben Davis.
    Mai Nguyễn-Long, Specimen (Permeate) (2022). Photo by Ben Davis.
    Lamia Joreige, After the River (2016). Photo by Ben Davis.
    Susan Schuppli, Cold Rights (2021-2022) and Weaponizing Water Against Water Protectors (2021-2022). Photo by Ben Davis.
    Đào Châu Hải, Ballad of the East Sea (2022). Photo by Ben Davis.
    Dana Levy, Erasing the Green (2021/2022). Photo by Ben Davis.
    Forensic Architecture, Cloud Studies (2021). Photo by Ben Davis.
    Florian Sông Nguyễn, les chiens errants (2022). Photo by Ben Davis.
    DAAR, Entity of Decolonization – Borgo Rizza (2022). Photo by Ben Davis.
    Works by Tejswini Narayan Sonawane. Photo by Ben Davis.
    Tuan Andrew Nguyen, My Ailing Beliefs Can Cure Your Wretched Desires (2017). Photo by Ben Davis.
    Sven Johne, Medicinal Plants in the Death Strip, Germany (2021). Photo by Ben Davis.
    Clément Cogitore, Lascaux (2017). Photo by Ben Davis.
    Dana Levy, History Lessons (2022). Photo by Ben Davis.
    Paintings by Tammy Nguyen. Photo by Ben Davis.

    Stasi-Zentrale. Campus für Demokratie
    Exterior of the Stasi Museum. Photo by Ben Davis.
    Ngô Thành Bắc, Trồng Cây Chuối – Headstand (2007/2022) installed at the Stasi Museum. Photo by Ben Davis.
    Two works show Ngô Thành Bắc’s Trồng Cây Chuối – Headstand performances (2007/2022). Photo by Ben Davis.
    Omer Fast, A Place Which Is Ripe (2020). Photo by Ben Davis.Omer Fast, A Place Which Is Ripe (2020) installed at the Stasi Museum. Photo by Ben Davis.
    Omer Fast, A Place Which Is Ripe (2020). Photo by Ben Davis.
    Haig Aivazian, They May Own the Lanterns But We Have the Light, Episode 1: Home Alone (2022). Photo by Ben Davis.
    Susan Schuppli, Freezing Deaths & Abandonment Across Canada (2021-2022). Photo by Ben Davis.
    Hasan Özgür Top, The Fall of a Hero (2020). Photo by Ben Davis.
    Selection of Zach Blas’s “Fag Face Masks.” Photo by Ben Davis.
    Zach Blas, Facial Weaponization Communiqué: Fag Face (2012). Photo by Ben Davis.
    The School of Mutants (Valérie Osouf), Ziheng Jie (2022). Photo by Ben Davis.

    Dekoloniale Erinnerungskultur in der Stadt
    Work by Nil Yalter. Photo by Ben Davis.
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    Artist and Curator Kader Attia’s Relentlessly Grim Berlin Biennale Forces Audiences to Confront the Ills of Capitalism

    Take a deep, long breath before heading into this year’s Berlin Biennale, because it is heavy.
    The six-venue exhibition, which opens to the public June 11, offers little reprieve from the weight of the world. Instead, the show, titled “Still Present,” has an unrelenting focus on the destruction wrought by colonialism, patriarchy, and capitalism.
    During a rainy press preview day on Thursday, the show’s curator, French-Algerian artist Kader Attia, spoke at length about the urgency of art, which makes “the invisible visible.” Together with his curatorial team, seventy artists, including Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Omer Fast, and Uriel Orlow, have been invited to show across six venues, one of which is the Stasi headquarters, the central office of former East Germany’s secret service.
    Curator and artistic team of the 12th Berlin Biennale (from left to right Ana Teixeira Pinto, Noam Segal, Kader Attia, Đỗ Tường Linh, Rasha Salti, Marie Helene Pereira). Photo: Silke Briel
    The show starts off at Akademie der Kunste’s Tiergarten location with a boxed-away assortment of plants in a steamy greenhouse. The work, by Sammy Baloji of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, critiques the imperialist motivation to collector the world; beside it, there is an adjoining audio recording from the early 20th century made by the state-funded Royal Prussian Phonographic Commission, which sought to index sounds made by African prisoners at the time.
    Next to it is a work by the Chinese, Paris-based filmmaker Wang Yuyan that depicts a 2018 Chinese initiative to launch three fake moons into orbit to offer continuous light in order to keep society more productive.
    Sammy Baloij, Installation view, 12. Berlin Biennale, Akademie der Künste, Hanseatenweg, 11.6.–18.9.2022. Photo: dotgain.info. Sammy Baloji, … and to those North Sea waves whispering sunken stories (II), (2021).
    The tack of the exhibition, which triangulates post-colonialism and capitalist criticism, is not surprising given Attia’s CV. In Paris, he founded a now-closed arts space called La Colonie that hosted community talks and events focused on racism and colonialism. The Berlin-based artist, who is represented by a slew of international galleries, is also well-known for his sculptures considering the symbolic relationship between injury and repair. His Berlin Biennale feels like a thesis-driven dive into the collective and individual traumas wrought by modernity.
    Set against this beating sense of a foreboding, a pair of canvases by painter Calida Rawles offer a short moment of rest. Yet even these works, depicting Black children gently floating in clear blue water, deal with the trauma of centuries of oppression and the tragedies of the Middle Passage.
    Đào Châu Hải, Installation view, 12. Berlin Biennale, Akademie der Künste, Hanseatenweg, 11.6.–18.9.2022. Photo: dotgain.info. Đào Châu Hải, Ballad of the East Sea, (2022).
    “Art confronts algorithmic governance by nurturing our ability to dream and enabling us to de-automate dreams,” Attia said in his opening curatorial statement. Yet much of the work confronts disturbing realities. At KW Institute for Contemporary Art, for example, acclaimed Israeli cultural theorist Ariella Azoulay has on view a research work titled The Natural History of Rape, which examines the mass rapes that took place in Berlin after the end of the Second World War. And at the Hamburger Bahnhof, Jean-Jacques Lebel presents documentation of torture from Abu Ghraib prison.
    The show also presents several documentary displays in an approach not dissimilar to Cecilia Alemani’s in “The Milk of Dreams” at the 2022 Venice Biennale. But instead of lyrical whimsy, Attia’s time-capsules offer historic books and other artifacts that bring more context to some of the contemporary art on view.
    In all, one may leave the exhibition unsettled but wiser—and radicalized to alter the present moment.
    The 12th Berlin Biennale takes place from June 11 to September 18, 2022.
    Nil Yalter, Installation view, 12. Berlin Biennale, KW Institute for Contemporary Art, 11.6.–18.9.2022. Photo: Silke Briel. From left to right: Nil Yalter, Estranged Doors, (1983). Nil Yalter, Exile Is A Hard Job (1983/2022).
    Kruzifixe, Installation view, 12. Berlin Biennale, Akademie der Künste, Pariser Platz, 11.6.–18.9.2022. Photo: dotgain.info.
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    In Pictures: See Inside Artist and Poet Penny Goring’s Moving, Funny, and Confrontational World in a New Show at ICA London

    The artist and poet Penny Goring’s clever and biting work has been getting a lot of attention lately, and now she’s having her first U.K. retrospective, at the ICA in London.
    The exhibition, “Penny World,” takes us through 30 years of Goring’s emotive, political, and confrontational practice that encompasses sculpture, painting, drawing, video, and poetry, including some of her key series, “Anxiety Objects” (2017) and “ART HELL” (2019-20).
    As an artist who has worked through trauma and poverty, Goring makes a point of using food dye, biros, and other inexpensive or free materials to make her work. If she uses a computer, she takes advantage of the free program Microsoft Paint that often comes preloaded on it. In her more recent work, she uses her financial restrictions, lack of therapy, and housing issues to address the reality faced of a lot of creatives in London at a time of a cost-of-living crisis.
    Penny Goring, Yearn (2013). Image courtesy of the Artist and Arcadia Missa, London
    “Despite the violence they depict, there is a sense of comfort to be found in Penny’s work,” Rosalie Doubal, curator at the ICA, said in a statement. ” Her works are empathetic; they embody the disorientation and stasis brought on by states such as grief. They also offer strength and, in their humor, disarming normality.
    “ART HELL” (2019-20) looks specifically at the effects of recent legislation by the conservative government in the U.K. It was inspired by the PTSD visions of two alter egos of Goring’s, which comment on structural and systemic violence.
    Penny Goring, Those who live without torment (Red 4), (2020). Photo courtesy of the Artist and Arcadia Missa, London
    “I have always lived under the rule of men and money, and right now, I am angry at the ways it hobbles my life and my body,” said Goring. “I find the future we are in to be terrifying. Also ridiculous, in the way of a murderous clown. And I hate that it somehow feels inevitable, relentless, like a speeding juggernaut.”
    Goring’s work communicates themes of violence, humor, and emotional health or the lack thereof through her use of fabric, color, and texture. Her “Anxiety Objects” (2017), designed to be worn on the body to alleviate anxious feelings, and her dolls offer a kind of comfort for darker times. Through addressing these themes in the places that they exist her works offer solidarity and humor.
    Penny Goring, Dust Doll, (2019). Photo: Tim Bowditch. Courtesy of the artist and Arcadia Missa, London
    “The body of work that Penny has produced over the last three decades is astonishing, and her very human compulsion to create as a form of coping is profoundly moving. I could not be more honored that the ICA has had the great privilege of staging this significant exhibition,” said Doubal.

    Repeat Offender, from Fail Like Fire by Penny Goring. Photo courtesy the artist.
    Penny Goring, Dim Jaw, (1995). Photo courtesy of the Artist and Arcadia Missa, London

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    With ‘Afro-Atlantic Histories,’ the Often-Staid National Gallery of Art in Washington Finally Acknowledges Contributions It Long Ignored

    For a week in May, the sculpture garden at the National Gallery of Art was the noisiest spot in the U.S. capital.
    Each afternoon, a steam-powered carnival organ designed by Kara Walker huffed and puffed on the National Mall, drawing curious crowds. Her piece, The Katastwóf Karavan, is a calliope, a mechanical organ once common on the steam engines that lumbered up and down the Mississippi River. The cacophony is broadcast from a parade wagon wrapped in steel silhouettes depicting the artist’s storybook scenes of antebellum nightmares.
    Kara Walker, The Katastwóf Karavan (2017). Installation view: Prospect 4: The Lotus in Spite of the Swamp, New Orleans, 2018. Photo: Alex Marks © Kara Walker.
    The sour melody piping from Walker’s contraption cast a spell over onlookers. More so than its traffic-stopping appearance at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 2019—more so, even, than its magical debut at the Prospect 4 triennial in New Orleans in 2018—The Karavan’s disruptive, dyspeptic residency in DC marked a turning point for its venue. Walker’s work came to the city as part of “Afro-Atlantic Histories,” a consequential show for one of the most staid institutions in Washington. Perhaps no longer.
    “Afro-Atlantic Histories” is like nothing else ever shown before at the National Gallery. With artworks dating from the 1700s to the present moment, it traces the paths of the African diaspora as enslaved peoples arrived in the Americas and pursued their liberation. The exhibition couples collection items alongside contemporary acquisitions as well as Indigenous works, including objects that the National Gallery might not have acknowledged as art only a few years ago. 
    For the first time, a museum that has been silent on so many of these fronts in art history—or art histories—has decided to get loud.
    The show opens with A Place to Call Home (Africa America Reflection) (2020), a mirror by Hank Willis Thomas shaped like a Western hemisphere from an alternate Earth, with the North American continent tethered to Africa by way of Central America.
    The entrance to “Afro-Atlantic Histories” at the National Gallery of Art with Hank Willis Thomas’s A Place to Call Home (Africa America Reflection) (2020) in the background.
    This is one of several new acquisitions by the National Gallery for its presentation. Other new permanent-collection works in the show include a totem by Daniel Lind-Ramos of Puerto Rico and a drawing by Njideka Akunyili Crosby of Lagos. A striking, monumental, ebony portrait by Zanele Muholi (Ntozakhe II, (Parktown) from 2016, also new to the collection, can be seen all over town in promotional ads.
    Zanele Muholi, Ntozakhe II, (Parktown) (2016). © Zanele Muholi. Courtesy of the artist, Yancey Richardson, New York, and Stevenson Cape Town / Johannesburg.
    While these contemporary works are welcome additions for a museum with a laserlike focus on the canon, “Afro-Atlantic Histories” makes its strongest case through 18th- and 19th-century portrait and landscape works. This ought to be firmer territory for the National Gallery, but “Afro-Atlantic Histories” finds the museum on new footing.
    Édouard-Antoine Renard’s Slave Rebellion on a Slave Ship (1833) depicts a heroic Black man holding a mighty oar as if it were a baseball bat, the feet of a white slaver decked out beneath him. Nathaniel Jocelyn’s Portrait of Cinqué (1839–40) is a rich contemporaneous portrait of the Mende farmer who led the revolt on the Spanish slave ship La Amistad. Alongside these idealized paintings are more ambivalent scenes, such as George Morland’s European Ship Wrecked on the Coast of Africa (1788–1790), which shows benevolent Africans saving distressed Europeans, as well as Thomas Satterwhite Noble’s The Last Sale of Slaves in St. Louis, Missouri (1880), a picture of social stagnation in the heartland. Fantasy, testimony, and other ideas on view, sometimes side by side, help to ground the concept of competing histories, plural. 
    Edouard Antoine Renard, A Slave Rebellion on a Slaveship (1833). La Rochelle, Musée du Noveau Monde, France.
    Originally organized by the Museu de Arte de São Paulo and Instituto Tomie Ohtake in Brazil, “Afro-Atlantic Histories” has been adapted for presentations in the U.S. at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (where it was on view from October 2021 to January 2022) and the National Gallery (on view through July 17). From the Museu de Arte come flattened figurative oil paintings by Heitor dos Prazeres of Afro-Brazilian work and play, while the MFAH contributions include paintings on cardboard of Louisiana plantation life by Clementine Hunter. As much as anything else in the show, these self-taught artists challenge and expand the histories that the National Gallery has sought to elevate in the past.
    It would not be too strong to say that the National Gallery’s presentation of Black figurative artworks feels contemporary—hip even. The showcase of mid-century paintings by dos Prazeres, Horace Pippin, Hayward Oubre, William H. Johnson and other outlier artists aligns with similar gestures elsewhere, whether that’s Azikiwe Mohammed’s deskilled-looking installation across town at Transformer or Célestin Faustin’s inclusion at this summer’s Venice Biennale. In the art world, there’s always something in the water; the National Gallery is just usually nowhere near it.
    Heitor dos Prazeres, Musicians (1950s). Museu de Arte de São Paulo Assis Chateaubriand.
    The shift at the museum starts with staff. At the top of the org chart is Kaywin Feldman, who made “Afro-Atlantic Histories” a priority upon her arrival as director in 2019. She hired Kanitra Fletcher, the museum’s first curator of African American and Afro-diasporic art and organizer for the exhibition’s U.S. tour. (Fletcher also brought the Tate Modern’s “Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power” exhibition to Houston.) In addition, the National Gallery appointed Steven Nelson, professor of African and African American art history at the University of California in Los Angeles, as dean of the museum’s prestigious Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts. Joining them is Eve Straussman-Pflanzer, the new curator and head of Italian and Spanish paintings, among scores of other recent hires.
    Appointing a feminist art historian to run the Southern European paintings department or naming a curator to bring the African diaspora into the collection might seem like planting seeds for future growth. But changes are already happening. The National Gallery just acquired a painting of a noblewoman by the 16th-century Mannerist artist Lavinia Fontana, perhaps the West’s first professional woman artist. It picked up a second piece by Jaune Quick-to-See Smith, the first Native American painter in the National Gallery collection. And the museum is aggressively acquiring works by Black artists, among them Genesis Tramaine, Marion Perkins and David Driskell. (The National Gallery would not confirm the acquisitions of Fontana or Perkins.)
    This is a reversal from a dismal record that stretches back decades. Recent shows spotlighting Oliver Lee Jackson and Lynda Benglis (curated by Harry Cooper and Molly Donovan, respectively) represent two of just a handful of exhibits by living artists who are women or people of color. The story isn’t much better for marginalized artists of the past.
    “Afro-Atlantic Histories” can only tell so much about the National Gallery’s trajectory. It’s not a perfect fit for the museum, or for the U.S. It’s shallow on Afro-Latino artists from Haiti and Cuba: Rigaud Benoit, Wilson Bigaud and Wifredo Lam didn’t make the cut for the U.S. tour. While the exhibit proceeds both thematically and chronologically, by the end, it sprawls. A painting of the Emperor Haile Selassie by Ethiopian painter Alaqa Gabra Selasse, for example, doesn’t seem to fit the theme.
    But the show has already demonstrated what a new outlook for the National Gallery could mean for the museum, and for Washington. Incoming U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson toured the exhibition. So did the Obamas. The National Gallery has yet to produce an original show under the imprimatur of its new director, Feldman, but with a startlingly relevant first outing, the museum is already making noise.
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    Theaster Gates, the First Non-Architect to Be Chosen for the Serpentine Pavilion Commission, Unveils the Community-Oriented ‘Black Chapel’

    The 21st Serpentine Pavilion designed by artist Theaster Gates will open to the public in London on Friday. Gates is the first non-architect to be awarded the estimable commission, though it was executed with the help of starchitect David Adjaye and associates. The pavilion’s debut will kick off a summer of programming that includes music performances, workshops, and other events clustered around the project.
    Titled Black Chapel, the black cylindrical building is an ode to the artist’s late father, who was a roofer, and is also inspired by a breadth of architectural and artistic touchstones including the Rothko Chapel in Houston, the bottle kins that mark the industrial landscape of Stoke-on-Trent in England, Musgum mud huts in Cameroon, and the circular chapels of San Pietro.
    Inside, an oculus allows light to bleed into the cavernous space, which is adorned with seven of Gates’s tar paintings, in another homage to his father’s work.
    Outside stands a bronze bell the artist salvaged from the site of St. Laurence Catholic Church, which was once a landmark in Chicago’s South Side, where Gates’s Rebuild Foundation is located. The bell “acts as a call to assembly, congregation, and contemplation” while also serving as a reminder of the widespread erasure of these community sites and the people they served.
    “The name Black Chapel is important because it reflects the invisible parts of my artistic practice,” Gates said in a statement. “It acknowledges the role that sacred music and the sacred arts have had on my practice, and the collective quality of these emotional and communal initiatives. Black Chapel also suggests that in these times there could be a space where one could rest from the pressures of the day and spend time in quietude.”
    See more pictures of Black Chapel below. 
    Serpentine Pavilion 2022 designed by Theaster Gates © Theaster Gates Studio. Photo: Iwan Baan. Courtesy: Serpentine.
    Serpentine Pavilion 2022 designed by Theaster Gates © Theaster Gates Studio. Photo: Iwan Baan. Courtesy: Serpentine.
    Serpentine Pavilion 2022 designed by Theaster Gates © Theaster Gates Studio. Photo: Iwan Baan. Courtesy: Serpentine.
    Serpentine Pavilion 2022 designed by Theaster Gates © Theaster Gates Studio. Photo: Iwan Baan. Courtesy: Serpentine.
    Theaster Gates. © Rankin Photography.
    The Serpentine Pavilion is open every day, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., from June 10–October 16.
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    In Pictures: A Public Art Show in Brooklyn Bridge Park Explores the Multitude of Black Identities in America

    In the mid-1600s, Brooklyn’s East River was a bustling hub of commerce and an integral part of the network that linked Africa and Europe with the Americas and the Caribbean. It served as a shipping port, maritime harbor, and ferry landing with “finger piers” jutting from the shore where warehouses were built for storage.
    Now, the historic area is the site of a group exhibition titled “Black Atlantic,” presented by the Public Art Fund and co-curated by artist Hugh Hayden.
    The title of the show is taken from Paul Gilroy’s book Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness. Like the book, the show is intended to “illustrate a counterpoint to a monolithic perception of Blackness, and is reflective of the multitude of ways in which individuals can create a new vision within the context of American culture that is expansive, malleable and open to all.”
    The five artists included in the show—Leilah Babirye, Hugh Hayden, Dozie Kanu, Tau Lewis, and Kiyan Williams—are all roughly of the same generation, their distinct experiences inform a wide range of identities, all of which come through in their sculptural commissions.

    Babirye’s hulking nine-foot-tall sculptures titled Agali Awamu (Togetherness) are made from hollowed tree trunks fused with found objects and welded metal, creating the effect of Transformer-like totems harkening back to the artist’s West African upbringing. Babirye fled her native Uganda to escape homophobic persecution, and the black-colored monumental sculptures, which echo the high-rise architecture of New York City, represent “a chosen, queer family, whose visibility in public space is a beacon of empowerment.”
    Williams’s work, Ruins of Empire, reflects on the surrounding landmarks, specifically the Statue of Liberty and its forebear in Washington, D.C., the Statue of Freedom, which was erected and constructed by enslaved people during theCivil War. Williams’s vision is partially buried in the ground, a relic of American idealism, which is inextricably linked to subjugation.
    Below, see pictures of all the artworks included in “Black Atlantic” at Brooklyn Bridge Park. The show is on view through November 27, 2022. 
    Tau Lewis, We pressed our bellies together and kicked our feet, we became something so alien that we no longer had natural predators; We watched humankind evolve as we absorbed into the sea floor, the moon stared down at us and told us the Earth had a heavy heart; We wondered if the angels had abandoned us, or if they simply changed shape without letting us know. Every night creatures vanished, every morning strangers would arrive, (all 2022). Courtesy of the artist and Night Gallery. Photo: Nicholas Knight. Courtesy of Public Art Fund.
    Leilah Babirye, Agali Awamu (Togetherness) (2022). Courtesy of the artist, Robichaux, NY, and Stephen Friedman Gallery, London. Photo: Nicholas Knight, Courtesy of Public Art Fund NY.
    Dozie Kanu, On Elbows (2022). Courtesy of the artist and Project Native Informant, London. Photo: Nicholas Knight. Courtesy Public Art Fund.
    Hugh Hayden, The Gulf Stream (2022). Courtesy of the artist and Lisson Gallery. Photo: Nicholas Knight, Courtesy of Public Art Fund, NY.
    Hugh Hayden, The Gulf Stream (2022). Courtesy of the artist and Lisson Gallery. Photo: Nicholas Knight, Courtesy of Public Art Fund, NY.
    Tau Lewis, We pressed our bellies together and kicked our feet, we became something so alien that we no longer had natural predators; We watched humankind evolve as we absorbed into the sea floor, the moon stared down at us and told us the Earth had a heavy heart; We wondered if the angels had abandoned us, or if they simply changed shape without letting us know. Every night creatures vanished, every morning strangers would arrive, (all 2022). Courtesy of the artist and Night Gallery. Photo: Nicholas Knight. Courtesy of Public Art Fund.
    Kiyan Williams, Ruins of Empire (2022). Courtesy of the artist. Photo: Nicholas Knight, Courtesy of Public Art Fund, NY.
    Leilah Babirye, Agali Awamu (Togetherness) (2022). Courtesy of the artist, Robichaux, NY, and Stephen Friedman Gallery, London. Photo: Nicholas Knight, Courtesy of Public Art Fund NY.
    Dozie Kanu, On Elbows (2022). Courtesy of the artist and Project Native Informant, London. Photo: Nicholas Knight. Courtesy Public Art Fund.
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