Four Major Art Retrospectives This Season

It’s been 100 years since the foundation of the Dada movement, and cultural institutions across Europe are holding a clutch of retrospective exhibitions on leading artists whose ideas and stylistic roots grew out of Dadaism. Here are four of the biggest you should visit.

By James Louie


“René Magritte – The Treachery of Images”

One hundred paintings from the Belgian surrealist master René Magritte—with many on loan from collections around the globe—have been mounted at the hallowed halls of the Centre Pompidou in Paris, as the latest installment in a series dedicated to major figures of 20th-century art. The exhibition offers a fresh take on Magritte’s body of work, inviting the viewer to explore each painting through the artist’s keen interest in philosophy. One highlight is the seemingly contradictory but fiercely logical La trahison des images, painted with the famous words “Ceci n’est pas une pipe” (This is not a pipe) below a realistic depiction of the smoking device (Until Jan. 23, 2017).


“The EY Exhibition –Wifredo Lam”

Heavily influenced by the close connections he enjoyed with both Cubist and Surrealist painters, Wifredo Lam sought to revive Afro-Cuban culture by expressing themes such as Santería (a syncretic religion developed in the Spanish West Indies) with avant-garde techniques learned from his European peers. London’s Tate Modern is now showing a comprehensive study of his life and work, spanning a long career that saw major political turmoil on both sides of the Atlantic. A Cuban painter of Chinese, African, and Spanish descent, Lam challenged the prevailing perceptions of other cultures held by western Modernist artists 
(Until Jan. 8, 2017).


Jean Tinguely with Méta-Matic No. 17 in front of the Eiffel Tower, 1959. Photo: John R. Van Rolleghem, c/o Pictoright Amsterdam, 2016

Jean Tinguely with Méta-Matic No. 17 in front of the Eiffel Tower, 1959. Photo: John R. Van Rolleghem, c/o Pictoright Amsterdam, 2016

“Jean Tinguely – Machine Spectacle”

Amsterdam’s pre-eminent venue for modern art has opened a showcase on this playful Swiss sculptor, whose Dada-inspired kinetic artwork satirized the excesses of consumer society. Over a hundred machine sculptures—including his trademark self-destructing installations—are on display at the Stedelijk, along with a trove of videos, photos, and drawings that detail his artistic development. The grand finale is the haunting installation Mengele-Totentanz, a danse macabre of moving sculptures made with objects salvaged from a fire in 1986. Timed to coincide with the 25th anniversary of his death, the Tinguely retrospective is billed as the largest exhibition on the artist ever held in a Dutch museum (Until Mar. 5, 2017).


“Alberto Giacometti – Beyond Bronze”

Best known for his elongated, blade-like human figures in bronze, Alberto Giacometti’s artistic footprint went far beyond his native Switzerland. Kunsthaus Zürich will mark the 50th anniversary of his passing with a major exhibition focused on Giacometti sculptures made with other mediums such as marble and wood. Artworks drawn from every stage of his career will be shown, while 75 original plasters donated to the museum from Giacometti’s estate form the centerpiece of the display, providing a rare glimpse into his technique and creative process (Oct. 28–Jan. 15, 2017).


This article originally appeared in the October/November print issue of DestinAsian magazine (“Eye Candy”).

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