Artists and Museums Leading the Way Into a New Decade
2019’s notable trends in art included bold colours, mixed textures and patterns, including a penchant for metallics in art and furnishings; 3D design in 2D media; and revival of Art Deco in interior design and architecture, such as the newly-refreshed Red Room at One Wall Street. As well, the year brought hopeful sociopolitical reflections, such as environmental-themed installations and non-traditional collaborations between artists and environmental non-profit organizations; a re-imagining and democratization of fine art via social media; greater female representation in leadership positions across art institutions; and increased sales of works by female, non-white artists.
In a rapidly changing global creative and environmental landscape, the possibilities are wide open for this year, and this new decade, to transform the arts scene. This month, we’re profiling some of the potential forerunners of that change with the works they’re bringing forward this winter and spring.
Yayoi Kusama on Love and Nature
Fans of Yayoi Kusama, the acclaimed Japanese contemporary artist best known for colourful polka dots, pumpkins and elemental forms, can still catch her exhibit “Love is Calling” at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston. The iconic installation features Kusama’s Infinity Mirror Room, consisting of a room lined with mirrors and hanging lights that form a seemingly endless stretch of bright orbs. This has been described as an experiential contemplation of space. The exhibit also features giant sculptural finger-like forms, and a poem read and recorded by Kusama, who expresses her love of the universe through art. The exhibit continues until February 7, 2020.
Beginning in May, she will also debut an exclusive showing of works at the New York Botanical Garden, titled “Kusama: Cosmic Nature”. This promises to include installations and paintings of nature-based themes, as well as original works staged in a greenhouse that speak to the artist’s “profound engagement with nature through the changing seasons”. More information: nybg.org/event/kusama/
Forgotten Masters: Indian painting for the East India Company
Presented by the Wallace Collection in London, this exhibition is the first of its kind in the United Kingdom. It features 18th and early 19th century works from largely unknown Indian artists commissioned by the East India Company that once dominated the Indian subcontinent. The exquisite collection represents a naturalist study of local flora and fauna, from a fruit bat to a Malabar squirrel, to the opium poppy and coffee plant. The subject matter reflects the ethos of heightened scientific interest and inquiry into the natural world, while the artistry reflects mixed stylistic influences drawn from the Mughal Empire and European aesthetic.
The artists were also keen social observers, depicting Company officials juxtaposed with Indian “natives” in a visual record of the realities of colonialism. Poignantly, the paintings were often given obscure and anonymous titles such as “Company Painting”, without attribution to the overlooked artists.
Curated by the historian William Dalrymple, “Forgotten Masters” brings to light the intersection of English colonialism and Indian masters in this period of social and cultural collisions. The exhibit runs until April 19, 2020. More information: wallacecollection.org
Specialty museums: Museum of Graffiti and Makeup Museum
Specialty museums have become popular in recent years, paying homage to everything from ramen to toilets. Two new additions to this roster include the Museum of Graffiti, which opened its doors in December 2019 in Miami, and the Makeup Museum slated to open in New York City in May 2020. Both are touted as the first of their kind.
The Museum of Graffiti features over 3,000 square feet of murals, archival photographs and private collection pieces from renowned graffiti writers such as Lady Pink. The collection speaks of the history of graffiti and its practitioners, from an underground movement that struggled to find expression and legitimacy, to a global creative genre increasingly seen in galleries, museums and mass advertising. The Museum of Graffiti provides a home for the collection, and for an art form that had once only known fleeting existence on warehouse walls and train cars. More information: museumofgraffiti.com.
Documenting the 10,000-year history of makeup and its cultural impact, the Makeup Museum will showcase cosmetics artifacts from around the world. Its debut exhibition, “Pink Jungle: 1950s Makeup in America”, celebrates the birth of the American beauty industry. Visitors will be treated to a visual history of the makeup trends and products worn by the most celebrated women of this decade, including Marilyn Monroe and Greta Garbo. The museum collaborated with the skincare and beauty company Erno Laszlo to bring never-before-seen vintage products used on these famous faces. Tickets and more information: makeupmuseum.com