10 exhibitions worth travelling to in 2020

International preview

Published 1 January 2020

From the largest-ever assemblage of works by Jan van Eyck, to the unveiling of the long-awaited Grand Egyptian Museum, 2020 promises to bring into focus some of the finest achievements in cultural history.

  • A special January edition of RA Recommends, with contributions from Kelly Grovier (From the Spring 2020 issue of RA Magazine), Imogen Greenhalgh, Amy Macpherson and Sam Phillips.

    • 1. Van Eyck: An Optical Revolution

      Museum of Fine Arts (MSK), Ghent, 1 February – 30 April 2020
      Only around 20 works by Van Eyck have survived and more than half of these will be brought together for a major exhibition of the 15th-century Flemish painter at Ghent’s Museum of Fine Arts. Among the highlights will be the recently restored outer panels of his masterpiece from 1432’s The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb (often referred to simply as The Ghent Altarpiece), a complex polyptych that took the artist over half a decade to complete. To witness up close Van Eyck’s ability to alchemise paint into a vibrating vision of redemption is worth the journey. KG

      2. Raphael 500

      Scuderie del Quirinale, Rome, 5 March – 14 June 2020 (provisional dates) Although today’s taste salivates more for Leonardo and Michelangelo, the third member of the High Renaissance trinity, Raphael, had extraordinary gifts of composition and colour that, once you get your eye in, take the breath away. Gaze at the visual fireworks of his dramatic Deposition (1507), in Rome’s Galleria Borghese: bright drapery zigzags across the canvas as the weight of the dead Christ, and the personalities of his followers, feel palpable. In 2020, the city’s Scuderie del Quirinale marks 500 years since the master’s death with what should be a memorable show, provisionally scheduled for March, that draws significant loans from the Gallerie degli Uffizi in Florence. SP

      Jan van Eyck and Hubert van Eyck, The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb

      Jan van Eyck and Hubert van Eyck, The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb, 1432.

      Oil on panel, exterior shutters. Saint Bavo’s Cathedral, Ghent © www.lukasweb.be.

    • The interior of the Bourse de Commerce building, featuring the new addition of a concrete cylinder by Tadao Ando Hon RA

      The interior of the Bourse de Commerce building, featuring the new addition of a concrete cylinder by Tadao Ando Hon RA

      Photo: Patrick Tourneboeuf. Courtesy Bourse de Commerce - Pinault Collection

      3. The Pinault Collection

      La Bourse de Commerce, Paris, Spring 2020
      Parisians will enjoy a glittering addition to their city’s cultural landscape, in the shape of a new art complex funded by billionaire François Pinault. Housed in the historic Bourse de Commerce – a vast circular building in central Paris – the museum will draw from the French businessman’s superb 5,000-strong collection of contemporary art. The Japanese architect Tadao Ando Hon RA has preserved the Bourse’s original rotunda and cupola, as well as its grand internal façade and large frescoes depicting the history of international trade, by inserting a 30ft-high concrete cylinder in the building’s centre in which to stage exhibitions. Details about the coming programme remain under wraps, although tantalisingly, an ambitious joint exhibition with the Pompidou, devoted to a yet-unnamed male artist, is slated for later in the year. IG

    • 4. Hilma af Klint

      Moderna Museet, Malmö, 4 April – 6 September 2020
      It was in 1896, with four friends known as the Friday Group, when Hilma af Klint first began to commune through séances with a mysterious syndicate of ‘"high masters". Before long, she was instructed to create a vast body of abstract work for a mystical Temple, years before her better-known contemporaries (Malevich, Kandinsky, Mondrian) began experimenting with non-figurative paintings. Moderna Museet’s comprehensive survey brings together perhaps the most remarkable series she created for the ethereal sanctuary – a group of enormous paintings called “The Ten Largest”, which gyrate with an enigmatic geometry all their own. The show follows the hugely successful exhibition of the Swedish artist’s work in New York last year, which shattered records by drawing over 600,000 visitors to the Guggenheim Museum, becoming the most visited show in its history. KG

      5. Grand Egyptian Museum

      Giza, opening date to be confirmed
      Everything about the long-awaited Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM) promises to be epic, from its size and scale (the complex will be close to 500,000 square metres) to the spectacular objects that will be on show. The museum has been under construction since 2005, and Egypt’s Ministry of Culture has vowed it will finally open its doors in 2020. Located on the Giza Plateau not far from the site of the Great Pyramids, the GEM will be the world’s largest archaeological museum. Designed by Ireland’s Heneghan Peng Architects, the state-of-the-art building will reportedly house all 5,400 objects from Tutankhamun’s tomb, a selection of which have been on a blockbusting world tour while work on the museum continues. AM

      Hilma af Klint, Group IV, The Ten Largest, No. 9, Old Age

      Hilma af Klint, Group IV, The Ten Largest, No. 9, Old Age, 1907.

      © Stiftelsen Hilma af Klints Verk. Photo: Albin Dahlström/Moderna Museet.

    • Frida Kahlo, The Little Deer

      Frida Kahlo, The Little Deer, 1946.

      Oil on masonite. 22.5 x 30.3 cm. Private Collection. © Banco de México Diego Rivera Frida Kahlo Museum Trust / VISDA 2019 Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.

      6. Fantastic Women: Surreal Worlds – From Meret Oppenheim to Frida Kahlo

      Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Denmark, 18 June – 27 September, 2020
      Surrealist women seem to be having something of a moment, with a number of recent exhibitions in the UK and elsewhere putting the spotlight on key figures such as Leonora Carrington, Dorothea Tanning and Dora Maar. This major exhibition continues the trend, presenting 250 works by 30 artists. Alongside the likes of Carrington, Meret Oppenheim and Frida Kahlo (whose paintings the Surrealist founder André Breton once described as “a ribbon around a bomb”), the Louisiana Museum will present lesser-known artists such as Kay Sage, Leonor Fini (a favourite of super-collector Peggy Guggenheim) and the Czech artist Toyen. AM

    • 7. Joan Mitchell: Fierce Beauty

      Baltimore Museum of Art, 13 September – 13 December 2020
      From fierce, jagged scrawls of clashing tones to more careful accumulations of balanced colour, the mark-making of Joan Mitchell crackles with energy in every canvas, testimony to a genius of Abstract Expressionism who – while celebrated – has never received the acclaim of her male peers. With scholarly interest in, and market action around, Mitchell increasing over the last few years, an expansive touring retrospective (from Baltimore to San Francisco to New York) is set to solidify her reputation as one of the very best painters of the last century. SP

      Joan Mitchell, Sunflowers

      Joan Mitchell, Sunflowers, 1990-1991.

      © Estate of Joan Mitchell, Courtesy of the Joan Mitchell Foundation.

    • Jacob Marius Adriaan Martini van Geffen, Boy with sugar cane

      Jacob Marius Adriaan Martini van Geffen, Boy with sugar cane, c. 1850-1860.


      8. Slavery, an exhibition

      Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, 25 September 2020 – 17 January 2021
      A young boy, no more than 10 or 11 years old, locks the viewer in his gaze, a direct and undeviating stare, while in his hands, he holds a staff of sugarcane, giving us a clue to who he might be. When the painting was made, around 1850, the sweet fibrous crop was farmed by slaves in Dutch colonies, and so the idyllic quietude of the scene is skewered by our realisation that he and his cane are here viewed as commodities, liable to be traded by a distant foreign power. The artwork, by Dutch painter Jacob Marius Adriaan Martini van Geffen, is among those on display in the Rijksmuseum’s latest attempt to reckon with the traumatic truths held within its stores, as it reveals the history of Dutch slave ownership through the nation’s collection of objects and art. IG

      9. The Morozov Collection

      Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris, 13 October 2020 – 15 March 2021
      In autumn the Fondation Louis Vuitton presents masterpieces from the collections of Mikhail and Ivan Morozov, Russian brothers and entrepreneurs who amassed a treasure trove of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist work before the Revolution: an astonishing assortment of Monets and Matisses, Pissarros and Picassos. They were more discriminating even than their contemporaries Sergei and Pyotr Shchukin, whose own horde of avant-garde wonders wowed the art world at the Fondation in 2016. KG

    • 10. Diego Rivera’s America

      San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, 24 October 2020 – 31 January 2021
      A synergy between cultures energised the easel paintings, drawings and frescoes of Diego Rivera, whose links between his native Mexico and the United States in the 1920s to ’40s invigorated his imagination. Diego Rivera’s America in San Francisco centres on the artist’s vision of a shared future for the neighbouring nations and features the largest display of work by the Mexican muralist to be organised in a generation. KG

      Diego Rivera, The Flower Carrier

      Diego Rivera, The Flower Carrier, 1935.

      San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Albert M. Bender Collection, gift of Albert M. Bender in memory of Caroline Walter; © Banco de Mexico Diego Rivera & Frida Kahlo Museums Trust, Mexico, D.F. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York; photo: Katherine Du Tiel.

  • Closer to home... 2020 at the RA

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    From Picasso to Abramović

    Beginning with Picasso and Paper, which opens in January 2020, our Artistic Director Tim Marlow introduces the coming year’s exhibition programme at the Royal Academy of Arts.

    Find out more about 2020 at the Royal Academy.