On Show - the best exhibitions from around the world

King Taharqa and the Falcon Hemen © Musée du Louvre, dist. RMN Grand Palais/Christian Decamps

Exhibitions from around the world

The dates listed below may have changed since we went to print. Check the websites of the museums for the most up-to-date information and bookings.


UNITED KINGDOM

Troy: Beauty and Heroism

A select few objects from the British Museum’s 2019 exhibition on Troy have gone on a tour of the UK. This British Museum Spotlight Loan explores two of the most prominent figures in the story of the Trojan War: Helen, the Greek wife of King Menelaus who was taken to Troy by Paris, leading to the outbreak of the war, and Achilles, the famed warrior who died on the battlefield. The tour includes an Etruscan urn depicting Helen’s abduction (below), an Athenian amphora illustrating the vengeful side of Achilles, who drags the body of the Trojan prince Hector, as well as somewhat more recent depictions of these characters by Pietro Testa and Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and specially created 3D scans of the objects accessible through QR codes in a collaboration with Sketchfab. The exhibition is currently on view at the Haslemere Educational Museum, Surrey (until 8 May), and will travel to The McManus in Dundee shortly afterwards (19 May-14 August 2022).

Relief from a tufa limestone funerary urn, showing Helen being boarding the ship to Troy, while Paris sits on a stool. Made in Italy, about 125BC–100BC. (Image: © The Trustees of the British Museum)

Haslemere Educational Museum, Haslemere, Surrey
Until 8 May 2022
www.haslemeremuseum.co.uk

Freud and China

Jade and gold brooch given by Sigmund Freud to his daughter Anna. (Image: © Freud Museum London)

The office in the north London home of famous psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud is crammed with ancient Egyptian, Greek, and Roman artefacts. Figurines crowd the desk at which he once worked. While Freud’s engagement with the Graeco-Roman world – the myths of Oedipus and Electra, for example – is well known, less familiar are his connections to China, including later on in life his collecting of Chinese art, some of which stood at the very centre of his desk. This exhibition explores the Chinese objects in Freud’s collection, as well as his ideas about the Chinese language and the impact of his work in China. A highlight is the jade and gold brooch he gave to his daughter Anna (a detail is shown above).

Freud Museum, London
Until 26 June 2022
www.freud.org.uk

Raphael

Raphael, The Madonna of the Pinks (‘La Madonna dei Garofani’). Oil on yew, c.1506-1507. (Image: © National Gallery, London)

COVID-19 restrictions and closures derailed the National Gallery’s plans to mark the 500th anniversary of the death of the Italian Renaissance master Raphael (1483-1520) in 2020. This delayed exhibition charts the relatively short but varied career of the painter and draughtsman – a ‘universal’ man, in the words of artist and biographer Giorgio Vasari. It does not just feature his famous paintings, but also sheds light on his work in designing sculpture and tapestry, in architecture, archaeology, and even poetry. Works created early in his career in Urbino and elsewhere in Le Marche are featured, as are his Florentine paintings, including various versions of the Virgin and Child (some also produced in his early years in Rome) that have been brought together to illustrate how he made this subject his own.

Raphael, Study for an Angel. Red chalk over some stylus indentation, c.1515-1516. (Image: © Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford)

In 1508, Raphael moved to Rome to work for the illustrious patron Pope Julius II. While there, he created some of his most monumental paintings, a series of frescoes for four rooms in the Pope’s private apartments, including scenes from the history of the Church and a gathering of philosophers of ancient Greece, the School of Athens. While in the city, Raphael also served as surveyor of ancient Rome to Leo X, Julius’ successor as pope. During his survey of the ancient remains, he completed drawings of the major buildings, like the Pantheon, and in 1519, in a letter to Leo on display in the exhibition, described the destruction of ruins as ‘the shame of our age’. He was appointed architect of the new St Peter’s Basilica and designed private townhouses in the city, as well as the Villa Madama for the Medici; this ambitious villa outside Rome was only partially completed.

National Gallery, London
Until 31 July 2022
www.nationalgallery.org.uk

 

Japan: Courts and Culture

Iwai Yozaemon, Armour, c.1610. Sent to James I by Shōgun Tokugawa Hidetada in 1613. (Image: Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2022)

Lacquer, porcelain, fans, embroidered screens, and armour are among the wide array of Japanese works from the UK’s Royal Collection going on display in this exhibition. Some of the pieces featured are diplomatic gifts and so tell the story of relations between the royal families of both countries. It was under James I in 1613 that this relationship and English trade in Japan began. Shōgun Tokugawa Hidetada presented the king with a stunning suit of samurai armour (below) in exchange for the letters and gifts James had sent with the first English ship to reach Japanese shores. Another highlight is a pair of folding-screen paintings depicting the changing seasons sent to Queen Victoria by Shōgun Tokugawa Iemochi in 1860, recently rediscovered in the Royal Collection. Conservation work has revealed details such as the use of Victorian railway timetables to patch up wear and tear.

The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace, London
Until 26 February 2023
www.rct.uk

 

Henry Moore: Sharing form

Well known for his vast, upright forms, sculptor Henry Moore (1898-1986) was drawn to the Neolithic site of Stonehenge from an early age, as this survey of his career shows. He first encountered the stones in 1921, and remained fascinated by the play between stone, land, and sky at the site and by the scale of the stones, ideas that were explored through his own monumental outdoor forms. Moore returned to Stonehenge from 1972 for a series of etchings and lithographs, which reflect his continued interest in the grand scale of the monument and its relationship to the viewer. Its powerful stature is conveyed both in wider views, where the trilithons tower over a barely visible visitor, and in close-ups like Stonehenge I, a lithograph in three colours from 1973.

Hauser & Wirth Somerset
Until 4 September 2022
www.hauserwirth.com

In Focus: The Grand Tour – the two Horaces and the Court of Florence (1740-1786)

Horace Walpole (1717-1797), the author of Gothic novel The Castle of Otranto, once had in the library at his equally Gothic Strawberry Hill House three volumes of Studio d’architettura civile sopra gli ornamenti di porte, e finestre… tratte da alcune fabbriche insigni di Firenze, a survey of Florentine architecture illustrated by Ferdinando Ruggieri. The work was produced 300 years ago in 1722. The three volumes were dispersed in 1842, when they were sold, but they have now returned to Strawberry Hill. Putting these volumes in the spotlight, this display looks at the friendship between Walpole and Horace Mann, the British envoy to Florence; Walpole’s Grand Tour to Italy; both men’s interest in all things Florentine and the Medici family; and their various antiquarian pursuits.

Strawberry Hill House, Twickenham
Until 24 July 2022
www.strawberryhillhouse.org.uk

 


UNITED STATES

 

Gold in America: Artistry, Memory, Power

Resplendent and never tarnished, gold has often been used for objects of symbolic and emotional value – for example, betrothal and mourning rings. These pieces of jewellery, other goldwork, paintings, and photographs have been brought together to examine the role of the precious metal in America over the past 400 years. Among the highlights are a ‘Freedom Box’ given to Baron Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben when, in 1784, he was granted the freedom of the City of New York in recognition of his leadership in the Revolutionary War, and a 1735 thimble made for Elizabeth Good Hubbart (below). Though ornate, the thimble reflects Hubbart’s profession: she opened a haberdasher’s in Boston after the death of her husband.

Jacob Hurd, Thimble Owned by Elizabeth Gooch Hubbart Franklin, Boston. Gold, 1730–40. (Image: Yale University Art Gallery, Mabel Brady Garvan Collection)

Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Connecticut
Until 10 July 2022
https://artgallery.yale.edu

 

Persia: Ancient Iran and the Classical World

All three of ancient Persia’s great empires – the Achaemenids, Parthians, and Sasanians – confronted and interacted with Greece and Rome. Spanning more than 1,000 years, this exhibition explores the cultural and political connections, and artistic and religious exchanges between Persia and the classical world.

Plaque with a winged lion-griffin. Gold, 500-330 BC. (Image: The Oriental Institute of the University of
Chicago)

In the mid-6th century BC, Cyrus the Great – founder of the vast Achaemenid Empire – conquered Greek settlements in western Asia. Decades later, the Graeco-Persian Wars (490-479 BC) resulted in a Greek victory. These historic events feature on Greek works in the exhibition, while Achaemenid sculpture and jewellery showcase the spectacular skills of Persian makers. And in Lydia, Caria, and Lycia in Asia Minor, works created in Greek and Persian styles bear witness to the cultural influences at play.

Alexander the Great conquered the Achaemenid Empire, leading to a period of Greek Seleucid rule towards the end of the 4th century BC. The Parthians arose in the 3rd century, overthrowing the Seleucids in Iran and ruling for nearly 500 years between 247 BC and AD 224, with the Romans as their great rivals. Their artworks show signs of Greek, Mesopotamian, Achaemenid, and nomadic Iranian influences. The Sasanians took over in AD 224 until the Arab conquest in AD 651, and were also rivals of the Romans. Spectacular silver plates depicting kings on the hunt and other royal courtly subjects are a distinctive feature of Sasanian art. They are paired in the exhibition with Late Roman and Byzantine examples of silver.

Plaque with Bahram Gur and Azadeh. Stucco, AD 600-800. (Image: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. University Museum—M.F.A. Persian Expedition)

The exhibition is the second in the Getty’s The Classical World in Context programme, which will continue in 2024 with Thrace and the Classical World. It features an immersive on-site film and an online digital experience (available at https://persepolis.getty.edu) that gives visitors a chance to walk through a digital reconstruction of the Achaemenid palaces and chambers of Persepolis.

Getty Villa Museum, Los Angeles, California
Until 8 August 2022
www.getty.edu

Mixpantli: Space, Time, and the Indigenous Origins of Mexico

Mexica statue of Xiuhtecuhtli. Basalt stone, 1250–1521. (Image: Archivo Digital de las Colecciones del Museo Nacional de Antropologia. INAH-CANON)

Challenging narratives of conquest, this exhibition draws together pre-Columbian and early colonial works from Mexico to set them in conversation and explore the creative resilience of Indigenous artists. Mixpantli, meaning ‘banner of clouds’, was the name given by Nahua scribes and painters to the first omen of the conquest. Their worldview was central in shaping modern Mexico, as the exhibition sets out to show. More than 30 pieces – encompassing works on paper, Olmec jade, and sculpture, such as the Mexica basalt representation of the god Xiuhtecuhtli (1250-1521) shown on the right – help put the Aztec Empire and its 1521 conquest into context. Artefacts illustrate aspects of the cyclical creation, destruction, and re-creation of the cosmos in the Mesoamerican world view, and explore the role of emperor Moctezuma, betrayed and assassinated by the Spanish and depicted as Christ-like, in merging Mesoamerican and Euro-Christian cosmologies.

A companion show, Mixpantli: Contemporary Echoes, is also on view at LACMA until 12 June, featuring seven works by contemporary artists and mapmakers who have drawn on Indigenous cartographic and artistic histories.

LACMA, Los Angeles, California
Until 1 May 2022
www.lacma.org

 

 

In America: An Anthology of Fashion

The Costume Institute’s exhibition of American fashion continues with its second part, An Anthology of Fashion, which will see men’s and women’s clothing from the 18th century to the present day installed in the period rooms of the Met’s American Wing to consider the histories of the rooms and the place of dress in shaping American identity over time. In the 1830s Shaker Retiring Room, displays examine American sportswear, while John Vanderlyn’s extraordinary panoramic 1819 mural of Versailles provides a backdrop for the recreation of the 1973 fashion event the ‘Battle of Versailles’, a showdown between American and French designers. The smaller first part of the exhibition (A Lexicon of Fashion) is already open and will also run until 5 September.

Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Until 5 September 2022
www.metmuseum.org

Shell and Resin: Korean Mother-of-Pearl and Lacquer

Lacquer, a resin from a family of trees found across southern China, Korea and Japan, and mainland South-east Asia, hardens when exposed to oxygen and humidity, giving the objects it has been applied to a glossy sheen and also a protective layer. In Korea, as this exhibition highlights, lacquer has a long history of being combined with gleaming mother-of-pearl, taken from the inside of some molluscs. Surveying the evolution of this art form in Korea, the displays include early examples such as a rare 12th-century trefoil box from the Goryeo dynasty (918-1392) with elaborate mother-of-pearl and tortoiseshell inlays depicting chrysanthemums (shown below), a lacquered wood palanquin, and a group of five vividly coloured vessels by contemporary artist Chung Haecho (given to the Met by the Republic of Korea in September 2021). They also draw in comparative examples of lacquerware and of mother-of-pearl from elsewhere in Asia.

Trefoil-shaped covered box with decoration of chrysanthemums. Korea, Goryeo dynasty, c. 12th century. Lacquer inlaid with mother-of-pearl and tortoise shell over pigment; brass wire. (Image: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Fletcher Fund, 1925)

Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Until 5 July 2022
www.metmuseum.org

Falcons: The Art of the Hunt

Falcons, fierce birds of prey, have played an important part in a number of cultures around the world. In ancient Egypt, for example, they were the bird of Horus, god of the heavens. Their impressive ability to catch small prey saw them trained as hunting companions in the royal courts of early 8th-century Syria. This sport of falconry spread far and wide over the centuries, as reflected in the falcon-related paintings and objects spanning from Egypt to China in this exhibition. It was a popular pastime for the nobility of medieval England, practised in the Byzantine Empire, and many societies still hunt with falcons today.

National Museum of Asian Art, Washington DC
Until 17 July 2022
https://asia.si.edu

Mind Over Matter: Zen in Medieval Japan

Ideas associated with Zen, the Japanese school of Buddhism that stresses the importance of meditation, have retained their power into the modern age, with many people using its lessons to seek calmness. This exhibition showcases the art of Zen in Japan and China, especially the monochrome ink paintings of Japan’s Zen monks in the medieval period (c.1200-1600), including Sesson Shūkei, Ryōzen, Ikkyū Sōjun, Kaihō Yūshō (below), and Chuan Shinko.

Kaihō Yūshō, The Four Accomplishments. Ink on paper, late 16th century. (Image: Freer Gallery of Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC)

National Museum of Asian Art, Washington DC
Until 24 July 2022
https://asia.si.edu

 


AUSTRIA

Iron Men: Fashion in Steel

The place of armour in European Renaissance art and culture is investigated in this new exhibition at the Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna. Drawing on the Viennese Imperial Armoury and other European and American collections, the show features stunning examples of armour from the late 15th to the early 17th century, as well as paintings, textiles, and sculptures to further set them in context. Different types of armour served for different occasions – in warfare, tournaments, or court celebrations – but they might also be political symbols, diplomatic gifts, and mementos. Among the highlights is the north German costume helmet (c.1526) of Margrave Albrecht of Brandenburg-Ansbach (below).

Helmet with a mask-visor for Margrave Albrecht of Brandenburg-Ansbach. Northern German, steel and brass, c.1526. (Image: © KHM-Museumsverband)

Picture Gallery, Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna
Until 26 June 2022
khm.at


BELGIUM

Tales from the underground – Bruges in the year 1000

Finds from archaeological excavations in the picturesque Belgian city of Bruges are on display in this exhibition, which offers a snapshot of the metropolis and its inhabitants around AD 1000, a vital period in its development into the flourishing trading hub of the late medieval period. By the year 1000, the city already occupied an important location with access to waterways, was inhabited by traders and a range of craftspeople, and was protected by a count – factors that all contributed to its later successes. Whale bones, reflecting the importance of the sea and the river to medieval Bruges, ice skates, jewellery, pottery, and even the skull of a bear all help to bring the city back to life. Also on view, returning to the city from Denmark (where it was found), is the high-quality seal of Boudewijn IV, Count of Flanders from 988 to 1035, who ruled from Bruges.

Gruuthusemuseum, Bruges
Until 27 October 2023
www.museabrugge.be


DENMARK

Power and Gold – Vikings in the East

Gold medallion from the Vindelev hoard. Image: Conservation Center Vejle

A recently unearthed hoard of large gold medallions from Vindelev in Denmark is going on display in a new exhibition that examines the period preceding the Viking Age, when power was gradually being centralised, and how cultural encounters and alliances helped secure the positions of Viking kings. The hoard at Vindelev was buried in the 6th century AD, during a turbulent time with dramatic societal changes and a series of natural disasters. It has been suggested that a wealthy and powerful chieftain at Vindelev, just a few kilometres from the later royal seat of Harald Bluetooth at Jelling, perhaps committed his treasure to the earth, giving it up to higher powers in the hope of reconciliation. As well as discoveries from Denmark, finds from Poland are on view in the exhibition, organised by Vejle Museums and Moesgaard Museum, and draw on the latest research to shed light on Harald Bluetooth’s eastern connections. It was from close alliances with rulers in what is now Poland that this 10th-century king drew great strength.

Utzon Hall, Vejle Art Museum, Vejle
7 April to 23 October 2022
www.vejlemuseerne.dk


FRANCE

Rome: City and Empire

More than 400 artefacts are on display in Lens to tell the story of Rome from the 2nd century BC (during the Republic) up to around AD 300, when the Empire was facing difficulties. The Roman rooms in the Louvre in Paris are temporarily closed, and so now more than 300 pieces have relocated to Lens, where they are joined by works from other French collections. This expansive offering sets out to show what life was like for inhabitants of the Empire, and to consider the role of art in Rome’s history, addressing themes such as the spread of images of rulers, how Roman styles merged with other traditions in provinces like Gaul, and how trade and immigration, other cultures, and religious influences shaped artistic production in Rome. Exquisite works on show include silver goblets, mosaics, frescoes depicting the Muses – for example, Melpomene (below) – and a spectacular gilded bronze sculpture of Apollo.

Roman fresco depicting Melpomene. (Image: © RMN - Grand Palais (Musée du Louvre) / Hervé
Lewandowski)

Louvre-Lens, Lens
Until 25 July 2022
www.louvrelens.fr

From Afar: Travelling Materials and Objects

The sixth exhibition at the Louvre’s Petite Galerie – a space devoted to artistic and cultural education for all – focuses on long-distance journeys of precious materials and objects across continents over time. The exhibition considers the far-reaching trade routes of the ancient world that supplied coveted materials like carnelian, ivory, and lapis lazuli, used, for example, for the exquisite small frog bead discovered in the Sumerian city of Eshnunna, Iraq (pictured below). Dating back to 2900-2340 BC, this amulet representing an aquatic animal is linked to the god of water and wisdom, Enki. Live animals were also brought from afar, sometimes as political gifts and sometimes ending up in royal menageries in Europe. These imports enabled a range of people, including artists, to see creatures like ostriches, giraffes, elephants, and rhinoceroses, some of which were recorded in paintings.

Small bead frog shaped like a frog, discovered in the Sumerian city of Eshnunna, Iraq. Lapis lazuli, 2900-2340 BC. (Image: © musee du Louvre, dist. RMN-GP Philippe Fuzeau)

Musée du Louvre, Paris
Until 4 July 2022
www.louvre.fr

Pharaoh of the Two Lands: The African Story of the Kings of Napata

In the 8th century BC, the vast kingdom of Kush in what is now northern Sudan arose around the capital Napata. For decades, the rulers of this Nubian kingdom also controlled Egypt: ever since King Piankhy’s conquest around 730 BC, which marked the start of the 25th Dynasty. In a reversal of fortunes, as Egypt had long dominated Nubia, the two lands were ruled together under the Kushite kings until 655 BC. This exhibition explores the art of the 25th Dynasty, the importance of the Kingdom of Kush and its kings, especially Taharqa, who ruled between 690 and 664 BC and is shown making an offering to the falcon-god Hemen (below).

King Taharqa and the falcon Hemen (Image: © Musée du Louvre, dist. RMN Grand Palais/Christian Decamps)

Musée du Louvre, Paris
28 April to 25 July 2022
www.louvre.fr

 


GERMANY

Illustrious Guests: Treasures from the Kunstkammer Würth

Some works of art from the Würth Collection have been on display at the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin since 2006. Now – for the second instalment of a four-part exhibition series at different SMB institutions – objects from the collection join those of the Kunstgewerbemuseum and the Bode Museum to delve into the world of the Kunstkammer. These cabinets of curiosity, filled with small items like goblets, miniature sculptures, and boxes of precious stones, were popular among the elite in the 16th and 17th centuries, a chance to show off one’s erudition and diverse range of interests, as well as gifts received from esteemed figures. Many were disbanded, but the Würth Collection has been working to assemble its own version of a Kunstkammer. Among the works featured are a 17th-century alabaster sculpture by Leonhard Kern, depicting subjects from classical mythology, and an ornate c.1610 figurine Diana on the Stag, by Paulus Ättinger, with silver (partly gilded), diamonds, rubies, emeralds, and pearls, all used to create an intricate image of the divine huntress and her stag, with dogs, monkeys, a frog, and other animals.

Paulus Ättinger, Diana on the Stag. Silver, embossed, chased, chiselled and partially gilded, inlaid with diamonds, rubies, and emeralds, and draped with pearls; c.1610. (Image: © Würth Collection, photo: Philipp Schönborn, Munich)

Kunstgewerbemuseum, Berlin
Until 10 July 2022
www.smb.museum


GREECE

 

For a flame that burns on: Antiquities and Memory, Thessaloniki-Macedonia (1821-2021)

This exhibition, which opened last year to mark the bicentenary of the start of the Greek War of Independence in 1821, looks at the relationship between antiquities and collective memory, and how antiquities were used in the Revolution and Macedonia’s joining the independent Greek state in 1912. Ancient artefacts, archival material, and more chart the years of the Revolution and the longer course of the history of Thessaloniki (in the region of Macedonia), and are used to frame questions about the changes to the city after the Ottoman conquest, the city walls as a record of its history, and how visitors viewed its ancient Greek monuments.

Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki, Thessaloniki
Until 17 July 2022
www.amth.gr


ITALY

Stone Age Connections: Mobility in Ötzi's Time

In 1991, the natural mummy of a man who lived sometime between c.3350 and 3105 BC was discovered frozen in the Alps on the border between Austria and Italy. Now known as Ötzi the Iceman, this man was found with parts of his clothing still surviving, and objects including an axe, a knife, and a quiver of arrows. Analysis of some of these objects reveals where they come from: for example, the copper for the axes came from Tuscany, and the flint for some of the tools from around Lake Garda. Also using DNA analyses and study of pottery, this exhibition explores mobility of materials, knowledge, and people in the 4th and 3rd millennia BC.

South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology, Bolzano
Until 7 November 2022
www.iceman.it

The Farnese: Architecture, Art, Power

Renaissance collecting is the theme of this exhibition, held across different spaces at the Complesso Monumentale della Pilotta, the 16th-century palace built by Duke Ottavio Farnese. The prominent Farnese family used art and architecture to proclaim their place in the European political and cultural spheres between the 16th and 18th centuries. Included in the exhibition (part of a project to relaunch the restored spaces of the Pilotta Complex this year) are a group of some 200 architectural drawings showing the Farnese’s ambitious building projects, paintings by the likes of Raphael and El Greco which help recreate the family’s art gallery, and coins, medals, and ancient artefacts – such as the Farnese Cup, the substantial sardonyx cameo (above) – which together form a Renaissance curiosity cabinet.

Farnese Cup, sardonic agate cameo. (Image: © courtesy of the National Archaeological Museum of Naples)

Complesso Monumentale della Pilotta, Parma
Until 31 July 2022
https://complessopilotta.it

 


THE NETHERLANDS

5,000 Years of Beads

Mainly using beads excavated in the Netherlands, this exhibition delves into the lives of beads from 5,000 years ago to the present. Though small and often simple in shape, beads come in a rich range of colours and materials, from wood to gold, and are found all around the world. How beads were used, who they were worn by, and what they symbolised are all considered. As well as examples of beads – including from prehistoric megalithic tombs and Merovingian graves – images illustrating the use of beads helps set these decorative objects in further context. A statue shows a Mesopotamian prince wearing beads, while an illuminated manuscript with images of coral rosaries (below) emphasises the important role played by the late medieval prayer beads on view.

Prayerbook by Van Hooff. Parchment, Flanders, 1520. (Image: © UBVU)

Rijksmuseum van Oudheden, Leiden
Until 7 May 2023
www.rmo.nl

 

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