European Exhibitions in 2013

Every year, at this point in time, the gallery goer looks to a lip-smacking future. The exhibitions that have been rolling on since the autumn are drawing to a close and a roster of new, glossy shows is waiting to be unfurled. With the modern museum calendar being what it is, many paintings clock up as many Airmiles as business travellers, as they fly – passport in hand – to take part in shows around the continent and further afield.

In fact, the big art event of 2013 promises not to be an exhibition but the long-awaited reopening of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. After 10 years, 375m euros and a four-year overrun the greatest repository of Dutch art in the world throws open its newly-varnished doors on 14th April. The Museum hopes to attract five times its previous audience of one million visitors annually. The opening offers the chance to visit the Stedelijk Museum just across the way – it’s upturned bath of a roof as striking as many of the modern art exhibits inside – including the contemporary Dutch artist Aernout Mik (from 3rd May to 28th August).

In Spain the Thyssen Museum has a particularly strong year lined up. Impressionism and Open Air Painting: From Corot to Van Gogh runs from 5th Feb to 12th May though the subtitle is a little misleading: the exhibition starts in 1780 and includes both Turner and Constable among the fresh-air Frenchmen. One of them, Camille Pissarro, has an exhibition of his own (from 4th June to 15th September) which offers a rare chance to see him standing outside his Impressionist minders. The Thyssen closes the year with Surrealism and the Dream from 8th October, examining Dalí et al’s fascination with sleep and the subconscious.

Dalí is also to be found at the Pompidou Centre in a solo show that runs until 25th March, unusually though it is his landscapes and his fascination with Millet rather than his melting clocks that are to the fore. The pick of the Paris exhibitions, however, for those with a moody sensibility at least, is the Musée D’Orsay’s The Angel of the Odd: Dark Romanticism from Goya to Max Ernst (5th March – 9th June). The exhibition highlights the themes of horror, mystery and the irrational that were the counterpoint to the earlier age of reason and includes paintings by the likes of such Romantic greats as Géricault, Füseli, Caspar David Friedrich as well as the master of the macabre Goya. This might be a good time too to visit the Louvre’s crystalline new outpost in Lens which gives gives Channel-hoppers a reason to stray off the A1 before they get to Paris.

In Rome the most toothsome exhibition is the Quirinale’s Titian (1st March – 16th June), a survey of the Venetian giant who never seems to fade with familiarity. This show also includes works by contemporaries such as Giovanni Bellini and Lorenzo Lotto to offset the major loans from the Ufizzi, Prado and the Palazzo Pitti. 2013 in Titian’s home republic is dominated by the glitziest of all artfests, the Venice Biennale, the 55th version of which runs from 1st June to 24th November. It might be worth getting to the Guggenheim Collection before the crowds descend to see The Sixties in the Guggenheim Collections with pieces by Lichtenstein, Warhol and Tapies among others. Over in Florence the Palazzo Strozzi has the mouth-watering The Springtime of the Renaissance: Sculpture and the Arts in Florence 1400–1460 – with some of art’s greatest names Donatello, Ghiberti, Brunelleschi – from 23rd March to 18th August (it then opens in the Louvre on 23rd September).

Giorgio Morandi, the painter who made bottles preternaturally haunting, is doing his quiet thing at Bozar in Brussels (7th June – 22nd September). The stillness and enigmatic nature of Morandi’s art is in stark contrast to the extraordinary assemblage of altarpieces brought back to the cathedral in Antwerp. Among them are eight huge altarpieces by the likes of Rubens and Massys that were designed for the church but were dispersed over time. They have been brought back together for the first time in centuries and will be on display in their original setting until 2017.

In Germany Yoko Ono’s idiosyncratic performance art shows up at the Schirn Kunsthalle in Frankfurt (15th February – 12th May). John Lennon once described her as “the world’s most famous unknown artist: everybody knows her name, but nobody knows what she does” and hopefully this show will include a performance of Cut, which she has been rolling out since 1964; it comprises her standing or kneeling on a stage while draped in a sheet from which the audience is then invited to chop pieces until she is left entirely naked. Meanwhile at the Alte Pinakothek in Munich Jan Brueghel, from the painter clan which became a high-end art factory, has a show of his own (from 22nd March to 16th June) – ideal for those who like to distinguish their Jan peasants from their Pieter rustics. By way of contrast the Staatsgalerie in Stuttgart becomes angst-ridden as it hosts the gloomy Norwegian Edvard Munch from 6th July to 6th October.

London saw Munch last year and this year has another enthralling crop of shows which kicks off with Manet: Portraying Life at the Royal Academy (26th January 14th April), an unprecedented showing of some 50 portraits by the idol of the Impressionists. The National Gallery has gone begging in Umbria to borrow numerous energetic altarpieces by the little-known but fascinating late-Renaissance master Federico Barocci (27th February – 19th May), which should make for a revelatory exhibition. Tate Modern’s big show is Roy Lichtenstein (21st February – 27th May), a major retrospective of the Pop dotter while, for those who don’t like brash Americana, Tate Britain offers subfusc Britishness in the shape of L.S. Lowry – all tweed caps and factory smoke. It just so happens that Lowry runs from 26th June to 20th October, the perfect time to visit a continental gallery perhaps.


© Michael Prodger. All views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to the European Commission.

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