Counsel for the month ahead.
September 2017

Francisco Artigas and Fernando Luna. Residence in El Pedregal de San Angel, Mexico City. 1966.
In “Found in Translation: Design in California and Mexico, 1915–1985.” Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

Pacific Standard Time
LA/LA: A Celebration Beyond Borders

J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, and 70 other cultural institutions
Opens September 15

 
A few years before she became chief curator of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, Helen Molesworth mounted an exhibition of art of the 1980s called “This Will Have Been.” The title’s rare verb tense — it’s the future perfect, referring to some posterior moment not all the way in the distance — is one that the new US president, not known for his linguistic facilities, would do well to learn. On April 23, via the First Samsung, he tapped out this pronunciamento for the First Twitter Account: “Eventually, but at a later date so we can get started early, Mexico will be paying, in some form, for the badly needed border wall.” Sorry, when? Eventually but later — in some hazy, retarded future anterior, between now and the day America becomes great again — something will have happened, something he can already tell you now. Numerous grammarians see the future perfect as an impossibility; it is, in that way, the perfect Trump tense.

In California, that will-have-been wall appears especially delusional — for here, the US and Latin America are already intertwined. Nearly four in ten people in the state are of Latin ancestry, a quarter of the country’s undocumented immigrants live here, and Maluma and Romeo Santos sell out as many stadiums as Adele. So there’s a particular kind of Americanness expressed through this third edition of Pacific Standard Time — a region-spanning collaboration years in the making, given extra urgency by the new administration’s future-perfect immigration policies. Spearheaded by the Getty, PST unites museums, libraries, and universities from Santa Barbara to the border, all of which mount separate exhibitions arrayed around a single theme. This year it’s California’s hemispheric inheritance, stretching from the pre-Columbian era (in the Getty’s own “Golden Kingdoms,” an archaeological study of the Andes and Mexico) to last week. Whatever the future of the border, southern California’s latinidad is already a fact.

Of the more than five dozen shows, not to mention performances and lectures and a few cooking classes, the most promising components of this year’s PST examine Latin America as a region in constant motion, whose meanings and statuses don’t easily correspond to lines on maps or languages spoken. At UCLA’s Fowler Museum, the exhibition “Axé Bahia” studies the African influences on modern and contemporary art in northeastern Brazil. The Huntington Library, in Pasadena, looks at Spanish explorers’ scientific and botanical documentation of the New World, placed alongside indigenous depictions of the continent’s flora and fauna. The Japanese American National Museum will show art by immigrants to Lima and São Paulo, Asian and Latin American at once. And at the Mexican-American museum LA Plaza, “¡Murales Rebeldes!” reconstructs the community paintings of Roberto Chavez, Barbara Carrasco, and other California artists who found their voice not in galleries but on public barriers. Walls have more uses than one.

Rachel Whiteread. House. 1993 (destroyed).

The Self-Evolving City
Seoul Museum of Art
Opens September 4

How to live together in a metropolitan area of 50 million? The architects and urban planners in this exhibition have spent the past year huddling at conferences and charrettes, and will unveil proposals for a new Seoul which draw more on cognitive science and evolutionary biology than on the top-down planning methods of the last century.

 
Rachel Whiteread
Tate Britain, London
Opens September 12

The quietest (and smartest) of the young guns lumped together in the 90s as Young British Artists, Whiteread hit on a technique and stuck with it: casting the undersides and voids of furniture or architecture in concrete, rubber, resin, or steel. Her melancholy, history-freighted art gets the full treatment in this long-awaited retrospective, though her greatest work, the Judenplatz Holocaust Memorial, remains in Vienna.

 
Opening of Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa
Cape Town, South Africa
Opens September 15

The former Puma CEO Jochen Zeitz has turned an operating grain silo in Cape Town’s harbor into a Heatherwick monument to his personal art collection. The Zeitz is directed by the German collector’s art advisor — though neither is willing to spill the beans on the collection’s size or value. Fulfillment or folly? We reserve judgment until opening day, but you can always seek out some R&R at the continent’s most expensive city hotel, just six floors above the museum.

 
15th Istanbul Biennial
Istanbul Modern and elsewhere
Opens September 16

The last edition, shadowed by a contested election, was hot enough; now the long-running exhibition finds itself in a country where the president has won dictatorial powers and journalists, academics, and Kurds languish in jail. (Even’s fall issue reports from Istanbul courtroom where the editors of the country’s best newspaper are on trial.) The artist duo Elmgreen and Dragset, curating this year’s biennial, insist the show must go on. Whether it should is an open question.

Zinaida Serebryakova. Bleaching the Cloth. 1917. Oil on canvas. 56 × 69 in. State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow.

 
Apichatpong Weerasethakul and Cão Guimaraes
EYE Film Institute, Amsterdam
Opens September 16

The Thai director — who also goes by the easier-to-pronounce sobriquet Joe — won the Palme d’Or at Cannes for his beneficent ghost story Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives. But Apichatpong is also an artist and collaborator of Philippe Parreno and Rirkrit Tiravanija; this show, at the Netherlands’ film museum, puts his moving images beside those of a similarly atmospheric Brazilian director.

 
Never Built New York
Queens Museum, New York
Opens September 17

A two-mile geodesic dome enveloping Midtown in clean air and room temperatures. A wasp-waisted tower over Grand Central, steel reinforced to withstand nuclear bombs. A utopian community on Ellis Island with moving sidewalks instead of cars. What was the New York that could have been, but never was? Visionary designs from the last two centuries are sure to add to a heavy dose of nostalgia to our present surroundings.

 
Louise Bourgeois
Museum of Modern Art, New York
Opens September 24

Lest we forget: Bourgeois was 70 years old when she first garnered acclaim, and her art is still ripe for further discovery. Before the sculptures, she made prints, and continued to make them in the last two decades of her life — donating a complete archive of 1,200 of them to the same museum that honored her with a retrospective in 1982. Now MoMA is making full use of its bequest by showing 220 of Bourgeois’s printed works, still rarely seen and little known.

 
Somebody Called 1917
State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow
Opens September 28

It’s the centenary of the most momentous year in Russian history, which saw two revolutions that upended the tsar’s rule and then put the Bolsheviks in the Kremlin. New York and London institutions have already mounted their Russian Revolution shows; this is the big one in the motherland. If museums here sometimes have to sidestep the full messiness of history, the 120 paintings and sculptures here, almost all from state collections, will nevertheless show the competing visions, agrarian and modernist, of what the new nation should look like.