Art 2008: A Preview of the Year in Art

The roster of international art exhibitions for 2008 encompasses both small and big wonders around the world. Here’s a sampling of shows that caught our eye.

Jeff Koons, Gilbert and George

American enfant terrible Jeff Koons had his first U.S.-based survey at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago in the 1980s, and he returns with his latest exhibition from 31 May through 21 September 2008. The assembled pieces, drawn from the MCA and various collections, asks the viewer Is it art or is this guy pulling our leg? An inflatable toy bunny made of hard metal?

An Impressionism show of about 80 paintings by the likes of Monet, Cézanne and Degas begins a national tour from Atlanta (where it closes at the High Museum on 13 January) to Denver to Seattle in winter 2008. Inspiring Impressionism: The Impressionists and the Art of the Past takes an unusual look at a much-examined era, exploring how the old masters inspired a group of artists who liked to be thought of as revolutionary. You can see the show at the Denver Art Museum from 23 February to 25 May, and the Seattle Art Museum from 19 June to 21 September.071221_gilbert_And_george_Tate_De_Young.jpg

San Francisco’s de Young Museum hosts the Gilbert and George retrospective (right; England, 1980) from the Tate Modern from 16 February until 18 May. The artists, a couple of button-down British guys, use their own bodies as “living sculptures,” and effectively erase the line between themselves and their art. The show goes on to Milwaukee and Brooklyn.

Courbet, Poussin, and Turner
New York’s Metropolitan Museum premieres a show of landscapes by Nicolas Poussin (12 February to 11 May 2008). Arcadia Visions is an eye-opening exhibition about the 17th-century artist whose better-known themes revived Greek culture and myth in neoclassical France. Also coming to the Met is the big Turner show (1 July to 21 September) from Tate Britain, and the Courbet retrospective (27 February to 18 May) that played Paris in 2007.

After its first stop at the Whitney Museum in New York (where it closes on 10 February 2008), the Lawrence Weiner retrospective, As Far As The Eye Can See, opens at the Geffen Contemporary in L.A. on 13 April and runs through 14 July. The New York artist, who has convinced us that words can be art, is represented by paintings, videos, books, posters, films, and public commissions.

The Louvre presents an exhibition about the ancient city of Babylon from 14 March through 2 June 2008. Using artworks and historic objects from all over the world, the show helps the visitor sort out the myth of the city from its historical reality. The Louvre is also sending a group of 70 sculptures from its ancient Roman collections to Atlanta’s High Museum for the exhibition Louvre and the Ancient World, through 7 September. The show is part of “Louvre/Atlanta,” the High Museum’s ongoing loan program with the Paris museum. Meanwhile Roman Art from the Louvre features 180 sculptures at the Seattle Art Museum from 21 February to 11 May.

Terracotta Warriors, Parmigianino
Avoid the hordes of tourists at Florence’s Uffizi Gallery and check out the small but choice show of Fra Angelico’s illuminated manuscripts in the 15th-century Convent of San Marco, where the monk lived and worked. The monastery hosts Fra Giovanni Angelico: Illuminist Painter or Painting Illuminator? from 20 December 2007 through 29 March 2008. The monastery is in Piazza San Marco, a stone’s throw from Michelangelo’s David at l’Accademia.

Not exactly a household name, Pompeo Batoni (1708-1787) is finally getting his due in a major exhibition at London’s National Gallery from 20 February through 18 May. The most gifted portrait painter of his age, Batoni painted a who’s who of visitors to the Continent during their 18th-century Grand Tours. The exhibition, the first thorough-going Batoni show in 40 years, offers works new to the viewing public as well as newly discovered and restored works.

London is also home to two blockbuster shows in 2008. The First Emperor: China’s Terracotta Army, at the British Museum through early April 2008, examines the life and legacy of China’s first emperor, Qin Shihuangdi through art and artifcats unearthed in one of the 20th-century’s greatest archaeological discoveries. The exhibition includes some of the celebrated terracotta warriors from Xi’an, China.

Meanwhile over at London’s 02 Exhibition Center — AKA the Millennium Dome — the much-ballyhooed Tut Exhibition, a showcase of 130 objects uncovered from Tutankhamun’s tomb in 1922, continues through August 31, 2008. The show then moves on to Dallas, Texas.

The Alte Pinakothek in Munich is presenting an exhibition devoted to a painting by the exquisite mannerist artist Parmigianino, The Madonna at the Alte Pinakothek, through 24 February. Focusing on a 16th-century painting that was attributed, then de-attributed, then re-attributed to the Italian master, it brings together contemporary evidence, both pro and con, in a kind of art historical sleuthing investigation.

Also Noteworthy:

California Video, from 1968 to the Present, March 15, 2008 through June 8, 2008, The Getty Center, Los Angeles

Lee Friedlander: A Retrospective, February 2008 through May 2008, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

The American Evolution: A History through Art, March 2008 through July 2008, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, DC

Frida Kahlo, a Retrospective, February through May 2008, Philadelphia Museum of Art

El Greco to Velazquez: Art During the Reign of Philip III, April 20 through July 27, 2008, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Photography on Photography: Reflections on the Medium Since 1960, April 2008 through October 2008, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

New Perspectives in Latin American Art, 1930–2006: Selections from a Decade of Acquisitions, through February 25, 2008, Museum of Modern Art New York

Tapping Currents: Contemporary African Art and the Diaspora, through April 2008, the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, MO

Richard Rogers + Architects: A Retrospective, through March 3, 2008, Centre Pompidou, Paris

Alexander Rodchenko: Revolution in Photography, February through April 2008, Hayward Gallery, South Bank, London

Per Kirkeby Retrospective, 3 September through 25 January 2009, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebaek, Denmark

Will Shank

Bonus: Step inside Fodor’s Spain 2008 to learn about Spain’s amazing new culinary scene.