Four Unmissable Museum Shows to See in May 2019


M ay is a busy month in the art world, and with so many worthwhile exhibitions opening, now is the time to make your visits count. Luckily, Tim Marlow has chosen four fantastic exhibitions worthy of your time. Coinciding with the May auction season in New York, the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s annual Costume Institute exhibition takes its inspiration from Susan Sontag’s seminal essay "Notes on ‘Camp’" – it’s sure to be a unique, humorous and outright fabulous fashion exhibition. Nearby, the Frick Collection has invited British ceramicist Edmund de Waal to display his site-specific sculptures alongside objects from the museum’s permanent collection. In London, the British Museum is staging the largest-ever exhibition of Manga outside of Japan, and Hermann Nitsch, notorious for using animal entrails and blood in his art, will have a focused presentation at the Albertina Museum in Vienna. There’s a fantastic range of exhibitions this month – something, hopefully, to satisfy all types of art lovers.

1. The Citi exhibition: Manga マンガ

British Museum, London
23 May–26 August

The British Museum is hosting the largest ever exhibition outside Japan of Manga. In Japanese, the word ‘Manga’ encapsulates the art of cartooning, describing an epic tradition of storytelling through ‘whimsical’ or ‘impromptu’ (man) and ‘pictures’ (ga).

Hoshino Yukinobu, Professor Munakata’s British Museum Adventure, 2011. © YUKINOBU HOSHINO/SHOGAKUKAN INC.
Noda Satoru, Golden Kamuy, 2014 onwards. © Satoru Noda / SHUEISHA.

This artform’s characteristically bold aesthetic will be showcased through a huge array of Manga comics, Anime films and CosPlay apparel, charting its evolution to international phenomenon. The long-overdue celebration will highlight the expressive power of this Eastern artform and its impact on Western culture. It will examine how issues of politics, gender, sexuality, faith, race and nature are explored through adventures in the Manga-sphere, where fantastical worlds and surreal narratives touch on the beguiling nature of our existence in the real world.

(From left) Hagio Moto, The Poe Clan, 1972–76; Higashimura Akiko, Princess Jellyfish (Kuragehime), 2008–17. © Akiko Higashimura / Kodansha Ltd.

The Citi Exhibition, Manga マンガ will be on view at the British Museum from 23 May–26 August.

2. Nitsch. Spaces of Color

Albertina Museum
17 May–11 August

Hermann Nitsch, notorious for using animal entrails and blood in his art, is renowned as one of the most vigorous and versatile contemporary artists working today. Whilst the spectrum of Nitsch’s creativity seeks to stimulate all five human senses, the Albertina has chosen to be the first museum to explore his assault on our vision through a focussed presentation of his acclaimed ‘Poured Paintings’.

Hermann Nitsch, 2017. © Philipp Schuster Philipp H Schuster

These works, also referred to as Action Paintings, are alive with the physical process of their creation. Nisch, who has toyed with the medium – pouring, splattering, or even spreading and smearing the paint with his body and bare hands – wants to convey the ‘sensuousness of the substance’, even once the canvas has dried. The show will trace Nisch’s lively investigations into the materiality of paint up until the present day.

Hermann Nitsch, Schüttbild, 2011. Courtesy Albertina Museum.

Hermann Nitsch is on view at the Albertina Museum from 17 May–11 August.

3. Elective Affinities: Edmund de Waal at The Frick Collection

Frick Collection, New York
30 May–17 November

Edmund de Waal’s sensibility to the material qualities of ceramics, how they are displayed and their relationship with their surroundings is the essence of this temporary exhibition. The artist will display new site-specific sculptures created from porcelain, steel, gold, marble and glass within the main galleries of the institution, which will sit alongside the objects from the Frick’s permanent collection.

Edmund de Waal, London, 2018. © Pablo Gómez-Ogando. Courtesy Ivorypress.

De Waal, who also considers the building a sculpture in its own right, has designed his additions to the space to respond to and echo its architecture. Through his choice of materials, the pieces will be engineered to catch the light in situ, and to acknowledge the museum’s founder Henry Clay Frick, a man who made a large proportion of his fortune in steel manufacturing.

Edmund de Waal, that pause of space, 2019, on view in the Frick's North Hall. Photograph by Christopher Burke.
Christopher Burke
Edmund de Waal, some gold across the water I, 2018. © Edmund de Waal. Mike Bruce

This is de Waal’s first such site-specific exhibition to take place in the United States and an opportunity to experience the transformative effects of his serene ceramic compositions.

Elective Affinities: Edmund de Waal at The Frick Collection will be on view from 30 May–17 November.

4. Camp: Notes on Fashion

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
9 May–8 September

Inspired by American writer and activist Susan Sontag’s pivotal essay, "Notes on 'Camp’", the show will examine the evolution and impact of the camp aesthetic since the 1960’s, and consider its expressions through fashion, touching upon themes of subculture, identity and self-expression.

Ensemble, Bertrand Guyon for House of Schiaparelli, fall/winter 2018–19 haute couture. Courtesy Schiaparelli. Image courtesy The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Photograph © Johnny Dufort, 2019

Visitors can expect to see some of the most extravagant and wildly imaginative creations ever to grace the catwalk from some of the fashion world’s most celebrated designers. Featuring approximately 175 objects, including womenswear and menswear, as well as sculptures, paintings, and drawings, from the 17th century to the present, the exhibition will explore the origins of ‘camp’ and focus on how it has sashayed from the suppressive shadows of the past into the bright, technicolour future of the 21st century.

Coat, Jean-Charles de Castelbajac, fall/winter 1988–89. Courtesy The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Photograph © Johnny Dufort, 2018.
Shirt, Franco Moschino for House of Moschino, spring/summer 1991. Courtesy The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Photograph © Johnny Dufort, 2018.
Ensembles, Marc Jacobs, spring/summer 2016. Courtesy The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Photograph © Johnny Dufort, 2018.

This is set to be one of the most compelling, humorous and outright fabulous fashion exhibitions ever staged, and certain to be one of the most significant.

Camp: Notes on Fashion will be on view at The Metropolitan Museum of Art from 9 May–8 September.

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