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Once-in-a-Lifetime Museum Exhibits Worth Traveling to in 2019

From Brooklyn to the Seto Inland Sea, here’s where to see some of the best art of 2019.

From prestigious biennials and triennials to ambitious new museums and exhibitions focused on everything from climate change to the work of Leonard Cohen and the distinctive style of Frida Kahlo, a slew of worldwide art events makes this year an exciting one for art-loving travelers.

1 OF 19

100 Years of Bauhaus

WHERE: Germany

This year marks the 100th anniversary of Bauhaus, which, although it existed for only 14 years before being shut down under pressure from the Nazis, became one of the world’s most influential art and design schools.

To celebrate, Germany, where the movement was born, is hosting Bauhaus 100, a roster of events throughout the year kicking off with a festival in mid-January. There will be multiple exhibitions in Germany (as well as in other countries including the United States, India, and Nigeria), three new museums will open in Weimar, Dessau, and Berlin, and a “Grand Tour of Modernism,” will lead visitors to 100 different Bauhaus and Modernist sites across Germany.

Year-long, beginning January 16.

2 OF 19

Implicit Tensions: Mapplethorpe Now

WHERE: Guggenheim, New York City

To mark the 30th anniversary of the untimely death of Robert Mapplethorpe, one of America’s most acclaimed and controversial 20th-century photographers, the Guggenheim will host Implicit Tensions: Mapplethorpe Now. The exhibition is a year-long retrospective in two parts. The first part will focus on items from the Guggenheim’s extensive collection of works by Mapplethorpe, including his early polaroids and mixed media constructions, as well as his famous self-portraits and depictions of underground scenes. The second part examines his influence on contemporary portraiture and self-expression through works by contemporary artists from the Guggenheim’s collection.

January 25 – July 10, 2019, and July 24, 2019 – January 5, 2020

3 OF 19

Frida Kahlo: Appearances Can Be Deceiving

WHERE: Brooklyn Museum, New York City

Appearances Can Be Deceiving is based on a wildly popular exhibition presented by London’s V&A Museum last year. After her death in 1954, Frida Kahlo’s wardrobe was sealed in her Mexico City home upon instruction of her husband, Diego Rivera. The room was finally opened in 2004 and curators managed to get a look at the collection, which includes clothing such as her distinctive Tehuana costumes, hand-made accessories, and decorated plaster corsets and prosthetic limbs.

Many of these personal possessions will be on display at the Brooklyn Museum alongside important paintings, drawings, and photographs from the celebrated Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection of 20th Century Mexican Art, as well as related historical film and ephemera.

February 8 – May 12, 2019

4 OF 19

Roppongi Crossing 2019: Connexions

WHERE: Mori Art Museum, Tokyo

Held every three years since 2004 at the Mori Art Museum inside Tokyo’s Roppongi Hills complex, Roppongi Crossing is a consistently good primer on what’s new in the Japanese contemporary art scene.

This sixth edition will showcase the work of around 25 Japanese artists and collectives, primarily practitioners born in the 1970-80s, responding to problems brought by the accelerated pace at which contemporary society receives information.

February 9 – May 26, 2019

5 OF 19

Desert X

WHERE: Coachella Valley, California

February brings the second iteration of the site-specific contemporary art biennial Desert X that uses the desert as its canvas. More details are yet to be announced, but the festival will invite a slew of international artists to the arid Coachella Valley to create art across multiple locations in response to the valley’s unique conditions and natural and social histories.

February 9 – April 21, 2019

6 OF 19

TANK Shanghai

Due to open in March, TANK Shanghai will be a sprawling new cultural hub combining exhibition space, parkland, plaza, pavilions, and an education center. Founded by renowned contemporary art collector Qiao Zhibing, the project, which spans over 60,000 square meters, will make use of six massive disused oil containers on the Xuhui District’s waterfront.

March 2019

7 OF 19

Sharjah Biennial 14

The 14th edition of the Sharjah Biennial is titled Leaving the Echo Chamber and will feature three distinct exhibitions by curators Zoe Butt, Omar Kholeif and Claire Tancons. A range of works located around the city—including new commissions, large-scale public installations, performances, and films—will explore how contemporary life has created a seemingly inescapable “echo chamber” of information, complex personal networks, and shifting narratives.

March 7 – June 10, 2019

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Last year Buenos Aires hosted Art Basel Project Cities, the first city chosen to host the new initiative from the art fair powerhouse. But Buenos Aires is already home to one of the most important contemporary art fairs in the Latin American region. ArteBA, held in Palermo’s La Rural exhibition center, promotes Argentine and Latin American art and brings together thousands of curators, collectors, and art lovers over three days in April.

April 11 – 14, 2019

9 OF 19

Leonard Cohen: A Crack in Everything

WHERE: The Jewish Museum, New York City

Moving from the Musée d’art Contemporain de Montréal before continuing to Copenhagen and San Francisco, the touring exhibition Leonard Cohen: A Crack in Everything is devoted to the imagination and legacy of the influential singer/songwriter. The exhibition includes commissioned works by a range of international artists (including Candice Breitz, Tacita Dean, and Kara Blake) who have been inspired by Cohen’s style and recurring themes; a video projection showcasing Cohen’s own drawings, and a multimedia gallery where you can hear covers of his songs played by the likes of Feist, Moby, and The National with Sufjan Stevens.

April 12 – September 8, 2019

10 OF 19

Sixty Years

WHERE: Tate Britain, London

From April, Tate Britain will remove work by male artists from the museum’s permanent (and free) exhibition space and dedicate it entirely to work by women artists. The new display, Sixty Yearswill tell the story of British art from 1960 to the present day, featuring around 30 artists including Bridget Riley, Rachel Whiteread, Mona Hatoum, Monster Chetwynd, and Sarah Lucas.

Women artists will be celebrated across the different Tate galleries in 2019. There will also be shows by Natalia GoncharovaDora Maar, and Dorothea Tanning at Tate Modern; Sol Calero at Tate Liverpool, Anna Boghiguian and Otobong Nkanga at Tate St Ives and Rose Finn-Kelcey and Joanna Piotrowska at Tate Britain.

From April 22, 2019

11 OF 19

Setouchi Triennale

WHERE: Seto Inland Sea, Japan

If the inclusion of Japan’s Setouchi region in this year’s Go List has you planning a trip, try timing your visit to coincide with the Setouchi Triennale, the fourth edition of the increasingly popular contemporary art festival. The festival occurs in three separate sessions throughout the year (in spring, summer, and fall) and will focus on exploring and connecting the islands of the Seto Inland Sea, with work spanning 12 islands and two ports—during the festival dates you’ll be able to buy a special three-day ferry pass to get between the islands.

Even if you miss the triennial dates, the islands appeal to art-loving travelers at any time of year. Permanent, site-specific artworks are spread throughout the islands. On Naoshima you can visit the Chichu Art Museum, where works by Claude Monet, James Turrell, and Walter De Maria are on permanent display in Tadao Ando-designed building. On Teshima, you can visit the Teshima Art Museum, housing a single work by Rei Naito, and on Inujima you can explore work by Yukinori Yanagi in the Inujima Seirensho Art Museum.

April 26 – May 26; July 19 – August 25, and September 28 – November 4, 2019

12 OF 19

Biennale Arte

WHERE: Venice, Italy

The oldest, and probably most important, biennial in the world, the Venice Biennale returns for its 58th edition in May. This year’s exhibition, titled May You Live in Interesting Times, is curated by Ralph Rugoff, the director of London’s Hayward Gallery, whose statement says that it “will no doubt include works that reflect upon precarious aspects of today’s existence, including different threats to key traditions, institutions, and relationships of the ‘post-war order.’”

The American sculptor Martin Puryear will represent the United States. Touring the pavilions is a great way to immerse yourself in the culture of participating countries. Those confirmed so far include Canada, represented by the Inuit artist collective Isuma, led by filmmakers Zacharias Kunuk and Norman Cohn; Iceland, represented by Shoplifter; Ireland represented by Eva Rothschild; Mexico, represented by Pablo Vargas Lugo, and Japan, represented by Motoyuki Shitamichi, Taro Yasuno, Toshiaki Ishikura and Fuminori Nousaku.

May 11 – November 24, 2019

13 OF 19

Manga マンガ

WHERE: The British Museum, London

Manga, the British Museum’s big summer show, will chart the history of the Japanese graphic art form back to its roots in drawings, paintings and theater design through to current expressions in anime, gaming, and cosplay, and how it has become a global phenomenon along the way.

The exhibition, the biggest of its kind ever held outside of Japan, will recreate a section of the oldest surviving manga bookshop in Tokyo and have an area for trying on cosplay costumes.

May 23 – August 26, 2019

14 OF 19

The Coming World

Garage, which opened in 2008 and moved to its current Rem Koolhaas-designed building in Gorky Park four years ago, has established itself as a major center for Russian and international contemporary art and a must-visit on a trip to Moscow. The Coming World, which will explore important issues around environmentalism and ecology, will be the first exhibition of its kind in Russia.

The title alludes to a time in the future when the planet’s oil and water resources have been depleted, but humanity has yet to colonize other planets and so is forced to live on a dying Earth with no planet B. The exhibition will feature more than 50 artists and visionaries and opens with Purple, an immersive six-channel video installation by John Akomfrah and will also feature a new commission in the atrium by Huang Yong Ping.

June 28 – December 1, 2019

15 OF 19

Lofoten International Art Festival

WHERE: Lofoten Islands, Norway

The biennial Lofoten International Art Festival is a consistently alluring event as much for its artistic expressions as its stunning setting—it’s held on the dramatically beautiful north Norwegian Lofoten archipelago, just above the Arctic Circle.

The festival, which changes setting each edition, presents site-specific works across the islands, often in such unlikely venues as an old cod-processing warehouse, fish-drying rack, or bunker. This year’s edition, curated by Hilde Methi, Neal Cahoon, Karolin Tampere, and Torill Østby Haaland, takes its inspiration from lives and processes that occur along the islands’ wide intertidal zone, with artwork to be produced along the shorelines of both the western and eastern regions of the Lofoten archipelago.

August 30 – September 29, 2019

16 OF 19

Toronto Biennial of Art

WHERE: Toronto, Canada

The inaugural edition of the Toronto Biennial of Art launches this September.  With an aim to “galvanize this city and connect its communities around art and culture,” the biennial promises to make contemporary art accessible to everyone by keeping admission to curated venues and outdoor installations around the city free and open to the public.

Curated by Candice Hopkins and Tairone Bastien, the program will be informed by the diverse and multilayered city of Toronto, “a significant site for exchange with 15,000 years of continuous Indigenous presence” and one where more than half its residents were born outside of Canada.

September 21 – December 1, 2019

17 OF 19

Claude Monet: The Truth of Nature

WHERE: Denver Art Museum

The most comprehensive U.S. exhibition of Monet paintings in more than two decades, this show at the Denver Art Museum should be of interest to travelers. Featuring more than 100 paintings spanning the French impressionist’s entire career, the show will focus on his relationship with nature and response to the varied and distinct places in which he worked, including the Normandy coast, Mediterranean, London, the Netherlands, and Norway.

October 20, 2019 – February 2, 2020

18 OF 19

Lubumbashi Biennale

WHERE: Lubumbashi, Democratic Republic of Congo

One of the most experimental artistic events on the African continent, the 6th edition of the Lubumbashi Biennale will be held in the fall under the artistic direction of Sandrine Colard. Titled FUTURE GENEALOGIES, Tales from the Equatorial Line, the exhibition explores the contemporary creation of the artistic scene in the Democratic Republic of Congo and in the world.

October 24 – November 24, 2019

19 OF 19

Museum of Image and Sound

Although it has been delayed for years, the ambitious new headquarters for Rio de Janeiro’s Museu da Imagem e do Som (Museum of Image and Sound) is due to open in 2019. Celebrating the city’s cultural and musical history, the museum will take design inspiration from Copacabana Beach, folding a reproduction of its famed sidewalk into a vertical boulevard.

Date TBA

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