The Most Anticipated Museum Shows of 2015

With six shows alone opening in February, get ready for a very full agenda of exhibitions in 2015. Artsy’s Institutions team has picked the very best from museums around the world, with shows that feature everything from Old Master paintings  to avant-garde post-war art to the very cutting-edge of new media art and beyond. Appearing among these are a Triennial, a Biennale, several retrospective surveys, and the triumphant return of The Whitney Museum of American Art. 

Marlene Dumas: The Image as Burden” at Tate Modern, Feb. 5–May 10

Taking its title—and a point of departure—from one of her paintings from 1993, Marlene Dumas’ solo exhibition at Tate Modern presents a survey of her enigmatic, expressive paintings. “The Image as Burden” previously appeared at Amsterdam’s Stedelijk Museum; born in South Africa, Dumas moved to the Netherlands in 1976 and has lived there since. Often provocative, touching on themes of sexuality, politics, segregation, love, and death, Dumas’ paintings capture figures (sometimes with the faces of recognizable pop culture personas) drawn from her own imagination; though rendered without direct models, Dumas’ works remain fully in touch with reality, revealing her subjects’ truer selves below the surface.


On Kawara—Silence” at the Guggenheim Museum, Feb. 6–May 3

The first complete overview of On Kawara’s career—beginning in 1964—“Silence” assembles in one show the many genres and media that define Kawara’s diverse work. Inspired by time and humanity’s rather arbitrary ways of measuring it, Kawara created ongoing works that range from his best-known “date paintings,” postcards, maps, and lists of names, to newspaper clippings, inventories, and calendars. A series of drawings and paintings from the mid-’60s will also be on view, and a continuous reading of his One Million Years (a ledger of seemingly endless numbers) will accompany the exhibition, performed on the museum’s ground floor. 


Kehinde Wiley: A New Republic” at the Brooklyn Museum, Feb. 20–May 24

Kehinde Wiley has finessed a highly recognizable style of painting over the years, composing portraits of contemporary African-American subjects that borrow motifs from traditional European portraiture while also incorporating elements of their own culture into the frame. His paintings open an oft-suppressed dialogue regarding history, power, wealth, and contemporary urban environments. “A New Republic” will highlight 60 paintings and sculptures from Wiley’s 14-year career; included in this selection are a number of works from his “World Stage” series (initiated in 2006), for which Wiley traveled the world, painting models in Dakar, Senegal, Haiti, Israel, Mumbai, Rio de Janeiro, and more. 


J. M. W. Turner: Painting Set Free” at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Feb. 24–May 24

Master British painter J.M.W. Turner gets his first major exhibition on the West Coast at The Getty this year, focused on the later years of his career. Over 60 oil paintings and watercolors created by Turner between the years of 1835 to his death in 1851 come together in “Painting Set Free,” including some of his most important works. Turner’s late works are representative of his constantly evolving style and technique—the show features several square canvases, for example—but simultaneously reveal him to be a modern artist who never fully abandoned his roots, using new ways of capturing familiar themes, whether religion, mythology, or history. At the time of their production, the paintings were met by his contemporaries with confusion, as they were so different from their own; critics of his late works attributed their otherness or incomprehensibility to his old age. “Painting Set Free” comes to the U.S. from London, where it’s currently on view at Tate Britain (through Jan 25, 2015). 

“2015 Triennial: Surround Audience” at the New Museum, Feb. 25–May 24

New York’s only recurring museum exhibition to feature international, emerging artists, the New Museum Triennial serves as a platform for young artists to launch new innovations in contemporary art and shape its future. Now in its third edition, the 2015 Triennial will usher 51 artists and collectives (representing over 25 countries) into the museum’s first, second, third, and fourth floor galleries, and is organized by Museum as Hub and Digital Projects curator Lauren Cornell and artist Ryan Trecartin (previously a participant in the 2009 Triennial). The extensive exhibition, titled “Surround Audience,” will explore the effects of technology, particularly social media, on society and our personal psychology—taking cues from Trecartin’s own work. Video, sound, an internet talk show, and dance and poetry performances will be presented alongside sculpture, painting, and installation, as the Triennial paves the way for the next generation of art.


“Velázquez” at the Grand Palais, Mar. 25–July 13

Spanish Golden Age master Diego Velázquez will be subject of an exhibition at Paris’ magnificent Grand Palais in Spring-Summer 2015, where his work will be shown alongside a selection of his contemporaries, in order to explore the art of the time, as well as both his influence on other artists and theirs on him. A court painter, Velázquez created many portraits throughout his career, but also delved into landscapes and historical tableaux; the exhibition at the Grand Palais will observe the artist’s transition in style and subject matter, from his early works onward, observing his movement from naturalism to heavily baroque Caravaggism and his ease with seemingly all subjects. This exhibition is an absolute must for any student of art history!

“What’s happening?” at the Statens Museum for Kunst, Mar. 26–Aug. 2

The 1960s and ’70s were a time of questioning, experimentation, and challenging the status quo, and the art world felt the ripple effect of these movements in the work being produced at the time. “What’s Happening?,” at Denmark’s Statens Museum for Kunst, revisits these revolutionary works and juxtaposes them with the boundary-pushing oeuvres of today, in two side-by-side segments within the exhibition. “Avantgarde, feminisme og sammenstød” (which translates roughly to “avant-garde, feminism, and clash”) showcases radical work from the ’60s and ’70s (in particular that of Danish pioneer Bjørn Nørgaard and the movements surrounding his work, such as Fluxus and the Ex-school), investigating contemporary pop culture and the sexual and women’s liberation movements, which influenced and refreshed the art of the time. “1960s and 1970s Art in 2015” features contemporary works from these same avant-garde artists, including Per Kirkeby, Jørgen Leth, Bjørn Nørgaard, Lene Adler Petersen, Jytte Rex, and Marina Abramović, in addition to some older works by these artists, reconstructed for 2015. 

“The Oasis of Matisse” at the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, Mar. 28–Aug. 16

The Stedelijk Museum will welcome the first survey in more than 60 years of Matisse’s illustrious career to be presented in the Netherlands. The museum’s permanent collection will be complemented by an array of paintings, sculptures, and works on paper, culminating in a gallery of Matisse’s brilliant cut-outs (wildly popular at the Tate Modern and MoMA), the stand-out of which is pulled from the museum’s own collection. An impressive large-scale cut-out anchoring the exhibition as a whole, La perruche et la sirène (1952-1953), is perfect in its use of form and color and is one of the Dutch museum’s most popular works. Also in the final gallery, works in fabric and stained-glass will hang beside the cut-outs, for a broader look at Matisse’s harmonious handling of color. “The Oasis of Matisse” will be enhanced by a public program that includes a screening of the film The Icon Matisse and a discussion surrounding the restoration of the cut-outs, among other events. 


“Poussin et Dieu” at the Musée du Louvre, Apr. 2–June 29

The religious painting of Nicolas Poussin, regarded as the founder of French Classicism and one of the most important French painters of the 17th century, will take center stage at the Musée du Louvre in Summer 2015 on the occasion of the 350th anniversary of his death. A painter, poet, and philosopher, Poussin built an oeuvre laden with classical themes and form, inspired by the ancient poetry of Ovid and Virgil; however, his religious works went overlooked or even criticized (notably, his 1628 papal commission The Martyrdom of Saint Erasmus), despite their prevalence. “Poussin et Dieu” examines this mix of the “sacred and profane” in the painter’s practice, observing even secular, historical, or mythological works through the context of religion. 


“Inaugural Exhibition” at the Whitney Museum of American Art, opening May 1

After moving out of its old Marcel Breuer home on the Upper East Side and into its new Renzo Piano building in the Meatpacking District, the Whitney will make its grand re-entrance into the art world in May with the largest exhibition of its permanent collection to date. In progress since 2012, this comprehensive exhibition of modern American art required an assessment of the 21,000 works that form the museum’s permanent collection, amassed over the course of nearly 85 years.. Every gallery in the museum—including one 18,000-square-foot space that will be the largest column-free museum gallery in New York—plus outdoor exhibition space will be filled, together totalling over 60,000 square feet. The new building, tucked between the High Line and the Hudson River offers  terraces facing the elevated park and a whole slew of new features to heighten the museum’s educational program, including classrooms, theaters, and study centers. The Whitney and its inaugural show will be a must-make stop on a stroll through the Meatpacking District this summer.


Venice Biennale, May 9–Nov. 22

Curated by Okwui Enwezor, the 56th exhibition of the Venice Biennale takes as its central theme the relationship between artists, art, and the current state of affairs in the world, and the present’s rapport  with the past. Titled “All the World’s Futures,” the Biennale will present a range of artists and media, its theme processed through a series of what Enwezor calls “intersecting filters”—“Liveness: On Epic Duration,” “Garden of Disorder,” and “Capital: A Live Reading”—to allow for such diversity of work. Enwezor takes inspiration from Paul Klee’s iconic Angelus Novus (1920) and philosopher Walter Benjamin’s interpretation of the monoprint as being “the angel of history,” observing its ability to resonate with moments of crisis in the past, present, and future. The Biennale will dissect our current ever-shifting, self-re-adjusting reality, using the exhibition as a stage on which to play out historical and “counter-historical” narratives.

Kate Haveles


Find out what else to look out for in 2015 and revisit our 2014 highlights.