April 2018

The Getty Villa, circa 1974. Courtesy J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles.

Plato in LA: Contemporary Artists’ Visions
Palmyra: Loss and Remembrance
The Getty Villa, Los Angeles
Open April 18

 
On July 21, 356 BC, in the city of Ephesus (today Izmir, Turkey), a young man named Herostratus walked into the Temple of Artemis with a torch and a plan. The temple was considered the most beautiful building on earth, and the Hellenic equivalent of TripAdvisor designated it as one of the world’s Seven Wonders. But Herostratus wanted fame of his own — so he chucked a burning flambeau into the temple’s wooden eaves, incinerating the building and its art collection in a matter of hours. Timothy Potts, the director of the Getty Museum, is an archaeologist and historian of ancient art, and we wonder whether Herostratus crossed his mind when Los Angeles went up in flames this past December, and seemed to threaten the Richard Meier complex that can appear, as you ascend via car or tram, as the Acropolis of Brentwood. The art stayed put as the inferno spread, the outdoor sprinkler system went into overdrive, and the fire doors hidden inside Meier’s travertine walls never had to deploy. The ancient world, alas, was not blessed by Los Angeles building code.

Nor did the fire stretch as far as the Palisades, where in the early 1970s J. Paul Getty, long enraptured by the classical world, built a replica of a Roman villa not on the Gulf of Naples but by the far coast of the New World. The Getty Villa, which housed his museum from 1974 to 1997, is a wonder of its own: a realistic but not slavish remake of the Villa dei Papiri in Herculaneum, complete with beautiful gardens, abundant fountains, and, a little weirdly, a 500-seat amphitheater. When Meier’s Getty Center was completed, the Villa became home to the museum’s collection of Etruscan, Greek, and Roman art — but it has needed some refreshing, and this April the Villa reopens with expanded gallery space and a new, more cerebral presentation, which will junk the current thematic rooms for a chronological parade from the Bronze Age to the fall of Rome. (One thing that hasn’t changed at the new Getty Villa: you still have to book a ticket in advance.)

What role for the ancients in the City of Angels? An inaugural show, “Plato in LA,” seeks to classicize contemporary art by thinking philosophically, and examining Platonic themes of contemplation and ideal forms. It’s a bold debut for the rethought Villa, and we see what they’re getting at with sculptures by Jeff Koons, Huang Yong Ping, and Adrian Piper, though it is a teensy bit strange to devote an art exhibition to a philosopher who so hated representation that he wanted poets banished. The other inaugural show, “Palmyra: Loss and Remembrance,” gathers some of the finest funerary statuary from the ancient city at the crossroads of Rome and Persia. The contemporary urgency is epic: the sites where these wonders were found have been systematically razed by the gangsters of the so-called Islamic State. Some masterpieces are destroyed by fire; today’s successors to Herostratus have other weapons.

Artists and Robots
Grand Palais, Paris
Opens April 5

No algorithm can yet create an original work of art, but give it time; we may soon have a van Gogh, or a million of them, on a server farm. (Deirdre Loughridge examined the rise of computers with taste in the cover story of Even no. 3.) Until then, content yourself with this historical study of artists and the robots who love them, which include Jean Tinguely’s kinetic flailers and Takashi Murakami’s anime seductresses.

 

The Dialectic of the Stars: Extinction Dancefloor
Platform-L, Seoul
Opens April 6

The prize for the year’s best exhibition title goes to this humdinger of a two-year-anniversary show at one of Seoul’s most handsome art centers. Thirteen artists — nine from Paris, four from Seoul — investigate the wages of ecological sin and ask whether hedonism can offer any redemption; we especially admire the probing Korean filmmaker Che Onejoon and the gutsy French sculptor Mimosa Echard.

 

11th Bienal do Mercosul
Museo de Arte do Rio Grande do Sul and elsewhere, Porto Alegre
Opens April 6

Alongside São Paulo’s longer-running event, Brazil’s other big contemporary art shindig takes place in this laid-back southern city — and unlike in São Paulo’s concrete jungle, here you can head from the biennial to the beach. The Mercosul biennial has previously taken a specifically Latin American orientation, but this 11th edition, entitled “The Atlantic Triangle” and curated by the veteran Alfons Hug, looks to Africa as well.

 

Albert Oehlen
Palazzo Grassi, Venice
Opens April 8

Oehlen revived painting in the 1980s by embracing all the wrong things — stuttering lines, palettes of sickly browns and oranges — and creating a tricky aesthetic that was, in the words of Run-DMC, “not bad meaning bad but bad meaning good.” Caroline Bourgeois, this show’s curator, pulled off a revelatory exhibition of the equally skeptical painter Rudolf Stingel; there’s every reason to think this one will be just as shrewd.

 

Fashion Drive: Extreme Clothing in the Visual Arts
Kunsthaus Zürich
Opens April 20

If you want to make a splash in society, you need more than the right portraitist; you need to dress the part. This beguiling show will examine 500 years of codpieces and petticoats, velvet smoking jackets and little black dresses. Yet this isn’t an exhibition of clothing itself: expect major artworks, by the likes of Dürer and Daumier, Beuys and Warhol, Mai-Thu Perret and Wolfgang Tillmans.

 

Glasgow International
Gallery of Modern Art and 77 other venues across Glasgow
Opens April 20

The eighth edition of Britain's most reliably compelling biennial is the first under a new director, Richard Parry — and the last before Scotland, against its voters’ wishes, leaves the European Union. We’re most excited about the all-female South African collective iQhiya, at Transmission Gallery; Mark Leckey, who’s installing a booming surround-sound audio system at Tramway; and Lubaina Himid, fresh off her Turner Prize, debuting a new commission at the grand Kelvingrove museum.

 

Japan in Architecture: Genealogies of Its Transformation
Mori Art Museum, Tokyo
Opens April 25

The current issue of Even features an impassioned dive into the politics of architecture in Tokyo, from Tadao Ando’s concrete expanses to the botched plans for Zaha Hadid’s 2020 Olympic stadium. We are eager, if wary, of this major show on the recent history of Japan's builders — from the experimental practitioners of the Metabolist age to the scrap-and-build types who work for the country's housing conglomerates — taking place, almost inevitably, on the top floors of a major residential development.

 

Jason Moran
Walker Art Center, Minneapolis
Opens April 26

The jazz pianist, who appeared on our podcast this winter, has made a committed shift into art these past few years; he and his wife, the sublime performer Alicia Hall Moran, lit up the 2015 Venice Biennale with “Work Songs,” a gruff and agitated synthesis of spirituals, diva ballads, and chain-gang folk songs. His first museum exhibition will include curving sculptures that recall the ceilings of old-time ballrooms; collaborations with Lorna Simpson and Glenn Ligon; and, of course, live music.