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The top 10 museum exhibitions you need to see this summer

From New York to London, St Petersburg to Vienna, when everyone's on vacation, museums still step it up

‘Mädchen mit entblter Schulter’ by Franz Rumpler (1880).
‘Mädchen mit entblter Schulter’ by Franz Rumpler (1880).

Museums have a reputation for saving their “serious" exhibitions for the winter, spring and fall—the Whitney Biennial at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, the Shchukin Collection at the Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris, the David Hockney retrospective at the Tate in London, for instance. Summer, when patrons and donors and critics are on vacation, is supposedly the time for low-budget follies. However, many museums make use of their excellent, often unseen permanent collections to create quiet, highly creative shows that are well worth a visit. The following 10 exhibitions are all cases in point: They range in scope, scale and content, but each, in its own way, is proof that summer is still a season for art.

1. Eduardo Arroyo: Dans Le Respect Des Traditions

At the Fondation Maeght, Saint-Paul de Vence, France

The Fondation Maeght, a private exhibition space perched on a mountainside in the south of France, was founded in 1964 by art dealers Marguerite and Aimé Maeght. Its permanent collection, which includes sculptures by Giacometti and a “labyrinth" designed by Joan Miro, is always a draw, but its temporary shows are equally good. A collection of work by the Spanish painter Eduardo Arroyo (born 1937 in Madrid) showcases one of the giants of postwar painting who, for whatever reason, has been undervalued by the art world for decades. That probably won’t last long. On till 19 November

‘La mujer del minero Prez Martinez llamada Tina es rapada por la policia’ by Eduardo Arroyo (1970).

2. The Henkin Brothers: A Discovery. People Of 1920-30s Berlin And Leningrad

At the Hermitage, St Petersburg

Rarely has an exhibition made more sense, or seemed more clever, than the juxtaposition of photographs by the brothers Evgeny and Yakov Henkin. Born in Rostov-on-Don, a port city in southern Russia on the border of Ukraine, in 1900 and 1903, respectively, the brothers split up after the October Revolution, one moving to Berlin, the other to Moscow. The Hermitage, a museum known for its unparalleled collection of old-master paintings, has organized an exhibition that contrasts the trajectory (and parallels) of the two brothers’ lives as their respective cities transitioned from the comparatively ebullient 1920s to the increasingly despotic and bellicose 1930s.

On till 24 September

3. China And Egypt. Cradles Of The World

At the Neues Museum, Berlin

In a very different example of contrasting timelines, this show comprises 250 objects spanning nearly 4,000 years and charts the development of the two earliest and most sophisticated societies on the planet. The exhibition’s objects include a full Chinese burial suit made out of jade blocks from about 200 BCE, a perfectly preserved polychrome Egyptian stella from about 1350 BCE, and a gorgeously filigreed 13th century BCE Chinese wine vessel in the shape of an ox, on loan from the Shanghai Museum. A bonus: the Neues Museum’s beautifully designed interiors by starchitect David Chipperfield.

On till 3 December

4. Female Images From Biedermeier To Early Modernism

At the Leopold Museum, Vienna

In a prime example of a museum making excellent use of its extensive permanent collection, the Leopold Museum, Vienna’s pantheon of Germanic modernism, has organized a thematic show around “female images". While any mandate that sweeping runs the risk of falling flat, reassessing the evolution (or lack thereof) of depictions of gender feels timely. The first part of the show is organized around themes (mother and child, young/old, formal portraits, etc.), while the latter part includes works created by female artists.

On till 18 September

A Chinese jade burial suit.

5. Soul Of A Nation: Art

In The Age Of Black Power

At the Tate Modern, London

Perhaps it requires a British arts organization to truly interrogate what it meant to be a black American artist. This sweeping show—which includes work by Romare Bearden, Norman Lewis, Sam Gilliam and more than 50 others—seeks to articulate a relatively fresh narrative from the race riots of the 1960s through the early 1980s and the establishment of the Black Power movement. Equally refreshing, the show includes work from the birth of Black Feminism, along with less overtly political pieces, like the aesthetic photography of Roy DeCarava, the first black photographer to win a Guggenheim fellowship.

On till 22 October

6. Fred Forest

At the Centre Pompidou, Paris

Fred Forest, a French artist born in 1933, became famous (or at least art-world famous) in the 1970s for his conceptual, performative and largely incomprehensible practice. Forty years later, the theory behind much of his art remains muddled, but his embrace of new technology—he was a leading practitioner of video art—has begun to appear dramatically ahead of its time. Given that Forest has largely disappeared from recent contemporary discourse, the Pompidou’s show is part retrospective and part introduction to a younger audience that wasn’t alive when he was first scandalizing (or sending up) the art world.

On till 28 August

7. Sarah Lucas: Good Muse

At the Legion Of Honor, San Francisco

Sarah Lucas has been an art-market juggernaut for the better part of 25 years, having first appeared on the scene with her peers Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin in the early 1990s under the umbrella of the much maligned moniker Young British Artists. Unlike her peers, though, Lucas has managed to evolve, persistently creating art that feels fresh, challenging and fun. This show at the Legion of Honor is the result of the museum’s invitation to Lucas to create new works that “dialogue" with works from its exhibition Auguste Rodin: The Centenary Installation, which closed in April. Many of those works will remain on view alongside Lucas’ sculpture.

Opens today and runs through 17 September

A sculpture by Joan Miró at the Sculpture Park at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art.

8. Cristóbal De Villalpando: Mexican Painter Of The Baroque

At the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

The Met might be in the throes of a much publicized budget crisis and management shake-up, but you wouldn’t know it from the quality of its 2017 exhibitions. One of the most exciting displays is a colossal painting by Cristóbal de Villalpando (c. 1649–1714), a Mexican baroque painter. The painting is more than 28ft tall and depicts two biblical scenes (Moses and the brazen serpent, and the transfiguration of Jesus). Ten additional works round out the show, but the massive painting is the star: This is the first time in more than 300 years that it’s left Mexico.

On view from 25 July-15 October

‘Black Children Keep Your Spirits Free’ by Carolyn Lawrence (1972).

9. Playing With Fire: Paintings By Carlos Almaraz

At Lacma, Los Angeles

It’s entirely reasonable that Carlos Almaraz’s reputation is intertwined with Los Angeles: He founded a Chicano (Mexican) artist collective in the city in the 1970s and subsequently created a series of prominent murals in East L.A. depicting the struggle for Chicano civil rights. But his paintings, which are bright, vivid, and often verge on the surreal, practically beg for an international audience. This show—the first major retrospective of his work—includes more than 60 pieces from 1967 until his death from AIDS-related complications in 1989.

On view from 6 August-3 December

10. The Sculpture Park

At the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebaek, Denmark

No round-up is worth its salt without a glaring exception, and there’s no better exception than the Louisiana Museum’s outdoor sculpture park. Truly, it’s one of the most beautiful summertime destinations for art viewership. Set on a rolling lawn overlooking the Öresund Sound, the park contains more than 60 sculptures dotted amid trees, flowers, and meandering paths. The park is about a half- hour drive from downtown Copenhagen and well worth the trip.

The sculpture park is open year-round. Bloomberg

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