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Preparing a list of the best art exhibitions in the world is a lofty endeavor, but we’re not going to pretend we’ve seen every single show on the globe, only many of them. Consider this a subjective but informed list of our global favorites that we want you to know about.
#1 – Ai Weiwei: Evidence at Martin-Gropius-Bau (Berlin)
April 3–July 14
There may be half-a-dozen Ai Weiwei exhibitions in the world on any given day but this Berlin show was definitely the best I’d ever seen. Combining his video work with his design objects, sculptures, and installations, this massive show effectively conveyed the scale of Ai’s artistic vision and political proclivities. From the Sichuan works, which started his troubles with the Chinese authorities, to more poetic recent installations, like the hundreds of wooden stools from Northern China in “Stools” (2013), you leave with a clear understanding of the artist’s passion and how his now-iconic Study of Perspective series (1995–2011) was only the beginning of the big middle finger he continues to wave in the face of authorities. —Hrag Vartanian
#2 – Marcel Duchamp: La peinture, même at the Centre Pompidou (Paris)
September 24, 2014–January 5, 2015
The best 2014 show in Paris was Marcel Duchamp: La peinture, même at the Centre Pompidou. I found it to be an inspirational eye-opener that covered perfectly the painterly, technological, and social/sexual influences that spurred on Duchamp’s own painterly evolution and climax. Some of his paintings are clearly excellent. In my view, his exquisite “La Mariée” (1912) is a cyborgian masterpiece that points the way toward his post-painterly conceptual/technical leanings. All told, the exhibition proves that Duchamp did more than insist on putting ideas first in painting. He changed the idea of painting itself. —Joseph Nechvatal
#3 – Aïm Deüelle Lüski: Horizontal Photography at Bat Yam Museum of Contemporary Art (Bat Yam, Israel)
September 18, 2014–January 10, 2015
Rare is the photographer who not only creates photographs, but also the cameras that take them. Exploring Aïm Deüelle Lüski’s show in the mini-Guggenheim-like building that is the Bat Yam Museum of Contemporary Art was not only an aesthetic, but an intellectual and scientific experience. Lüski is considered a philosopher as much as a photographer, so the catalogue, which is a collaboration between the artist and visual culture theorist Ariella Azoulay, is an essential component to the show. What is the relationship between the camera and its subject? How does one capture a reality that is constantly changing? These and many other questions are at the core of Lüski’s work. Don’t expect answers, and there are no happy endings. —HV
#4 – Hans Richter: Encounters — From Dada till today at Martin-Gropius-Bau (Berlin)
March 27–June 30
This well-researched and extensive show (with 140+ works) traveled to Berlin after earlier stops in Los Angeles and Metz (France), but there’s something special about seeing the work of this Berliner in his hometown. The exhibition examined Hans Richter’s incredible body of work in 10 chapters, while focusing on his films, which demonstrate his zeal for experimentation. His collaboration with Kazimir Malevich, his radical shorts (like the three-minute 1921 masterpiece “Rythmus 21”), his landmark curation of the FiFo exhibition (Film und Foto) in 1929 (which included 60 silent films by Marcel Duchamp, Fernand Léger, Man Ray, and Charlie Chaplin), and his influence on students in the United States (including Stan Brakhage, Shirley Clarke, Maya Deren, and Jonas Mekas) are all here. This was a great academic show that worked on many levels and rewarded slow looking. —HV
#5 – A Museum of Immortality at Ashkal Alwan (Beirut)
June 11–July 18
Part of this cutting-edge organization’s Home Workspace Program series, this bizarre exhibition, titled A Museum of Immortality, was initiated by Anton Vidokle (of e-flux fame) and presented in an architectonic environment designed by Nikolaus Hirsch and Michel Müller. Fifty artists, writers, curators, filmmakers, and architects contributed to this visionary project based on the ideas of late 19th-century Russian philosopher Nikolai Fedorov, including the “end of the privileging of the living in their relationship to the dead.” Each of the contributors was asked to consider Fedorov’s thoughts on the museum as an institution that could become the basis for the immortalization of the whole of mankind. Each display — they were organized as a labyrinth of boxes — was a little world unto itself, revealing very different concepts of time, value, and memory. —HV
#6 – New Ghost Stories at the Palais de Tokyo (Paris)
February 14–September 7
Based on Plate 42 of art historian Aby Warburg’s Mnemosyne Atlas (1929), New Ghost Stories (“Nouvelles Histoires de Fantômes”) united image and afterimage, life and death, in a meditation on lamentation. With works projected on the floor and presented in a printed frieze on the walls of a long, darkened gallery at the Palais de Tokyo, the exhibition was at once cerebral and visually compelling. Bringing together such a vertiginous number of works spanning multiple centuries — from Goya to Gerhard Richter — was the Warburgian framework of Nachleben, or the survival/afterlife of images, proposed in the exhibition by its architects, the art historian and theorist Georges Didi-Huberman and the artist Arno Gisinger. While such densely art historical and theoretical exhibitions might remain rare at larger museum institutions stateside, New Ghost Stories proved that academicism hardly precludes the possibility of mounting a stunning exhibition. —Mostafa Heddaya
#8 – Ahmed Mater: 100 Found Objects at the Sharjah Art Foundation (Sharjah, UAE)
February 22–May 22
Mecca, the holiest city of Islam, is undergoing a massive transformation. The Masjid al-Haram, the largest mosque in the world, and the whole urban fabric of the city are being changed to accommodate the ambitions of a Saudi government that sees itself as the leaders of the Islamic world. Ahmed Mater’s 100 Found Objects is a continuing project that examines the transformation of Mecca through first-person narratives, pilgrim souvenirs, cameraphone images, and other items that focus our attention on the personal impact of these changes. This is an exhibition that lingers in your mind. —HV
#7 – Ramin Haerizadeh, Rokni Haerizadeh, and Hesam Rahmanian: The Exquisite Corpse Shall Drink the New Wine at Isabelle van den Eynde Gallery (Dubai)
March 18–May 18
These three Iranian artists live in Dubai and their collaborative show was an explosion of color dripping with the materialism of a city that can at times make Las Vegas look subtle. The colorful — and at times uncanny — spaces created by Ramin Haerizadeh, Rokni Haerizadeh, and Hesam Rahmanian in the gallery at first suggest a celebratory air until you look closer and then you aren’t so sure. Accumulation is destiny in this marketplace of signs and surfaces that fuse into a seductive whole. The title of the show doesn’t offer many clues: The Exquisite Corpse Shall Drink the New Wine. Having said that, I couldn’t help but drink from their wine bottle. —HV
#9 – Coming & going. Lance Wyman: Urban Icons at MUAC (Mexico City)
November 18, 2014–February 22, 2015
In 1966, Pratt-educated designer Lance Wyman traveled to Mexico City to enter a design competition for the upcoming 1968 Mexico Olympics. He left four years later, after having developed iconic design programs for the ’68 Olympic Games, the newly-created Mexico City Metro, and the 1970 World Cup. The lively retrospective Coming & going. Lance Wyman: Urban Icons at the Museo Universitario Arte Contemporanéo (MUAC) in Mexico City features these campaigns and many more from Wyman’s career of over 50 years. More than simply focusing on the aesthetic qualities of his graphics, the exhibition shows how Wyman was able to convey a wealth of information through an economy of means. —Matt Stromberg
#10 – Jerusalem Show VII: Fractures by Al-Ma’mal Foundation for Contemporary Art (East Jerusalem)
October 24–November 7
Curated by Basak Senova, this show in Jerusalem’s Old City was an incredible opportunity to place art on a fault line. Project after project in the Jerusalem Show VII revealed aspects of the city that are normally unavailable to foreigners. Artist Hera Büyüktaşçıyan’s large sculptural installation in the Greek Patriarch’s “pool” was like a drawing in space. For his part, Australian artist Tom Nicholson explored the use of eucalyptus plants by Israelis as a tool of occupation. French artist Jonathan Loppin transported a box of items to Jerusalem (and later the West Bank) that are currently banned in Gaza and unpacked them as part of his performance — everyone was scratching their heads as to why such everyday items as beef bouillon cubes, raw salt, fruit cocktail, twine, grey cement, and a French horn could possibly be banned. I’ll admit that this project isn’t only here because of the art, but also because it was incredible what Al-Ma’mal was able to pull off with such a limited budget. This was a grassroots show that brought together passionate members of the local and global art world excited to share in the community of art. It was also part of the second Qalandiya International biennial. —HV
Kamrooz Aram: Palimpsest: Unstable Paintings for Anxious Interiors at the Green Art Gallery (Dubai)
March 17–May 3
I can’t believe I had to go to Dubai to see such an impressive show of paintings by Brooklyn-based artist Kamrooz Aram. His latest series combines his experience in Turkey during Occupy Gezi with his usual sensitivity to color, space, and intuitive geometry. As a special bonus, Aram was one of the winners of the 2014 Abraaj Group Art Prize and created a fantastic installation at the Art Dubai art fair. His commissioned piece was a departure for the artist and it allowed him to explore his interests in three-dimensions. —HV
View work by over 40 experimental artists and collectives from throughout the Americas who contributed to New York’s art scene during the 1960s and ’70s.
Poussin and the Dance is a valiant attempt to break into Poussin’s staunchly academic oeuvre and provide a relatable point of entry, highlighting the exciting elements of revelry and movement despite impenetrable and unemotional rendering.
This exhibition explores how images of the human body were used to provoke profound physical and emotional responses in viewers from the 15th through 18th centuries.
N.O. Bonzo’s illustrations, murals, and literature build on radical art traditions, addressing relations of labor and identity in local communities and protest movements.
With scavenged materials, Amanda Maciel Antunes constructs a motherland.
The collaborative handmade paper- and printmaking center at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts publishes new works by Liz Collins and Sarah McEneaney.
There is a debate whether the memory of Little Syria should be seized upon to tell truthful and positive stories about Arabs in the US, or whether any conflation between its history and contemporary politics is inappropriate.
For Calderón Ruiz’s first exhibition, artists Esteban Ramón Pérez and Jaime Muñoz plumb the depths of Chicanx identity.
The profile includes works by Egon Schiele, Amedeo Modigliani, Peter Paul Rubens, and a prehistoric Venus of Willendorf figurine.