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Art Trips: 9 Cities to Visit This Spring

By Inspire Staff

As chilly January grinds into dreary February, our thoughts are turning to getting away from it all. Maybe you’re planning an early-2015 getaway and haven’t yet decided on a destination. Or maybe you simply need a locale for your next inspirational daydream. Either way, we’ve got you covered, with museums and installations that are well worth a trip.

BILBAO

What: Niki de Saint Phalle

Where: Guggenheim Bilbao

When: February 27 to June 11, 2015

Why: Niki de Saint Phalle, who died in 2000, has been called one of the most important artists of the last century (shown at left: de Saint Phalle’s Nana Power). Her works include numerous public art projects, including the Tarot Garden in Tuscany and the Stravinsky Fountain in Paris. She was also a filmmaker, as well as a costume and set designer for ballet productions, but she is perhaps best known for her Nanas, giant sculptures that “revolutionized the representation of women in art.”

While you’re in Bilbao: The Ria de Bilbao Maritime Museum is just one of many excellent museums in Bilbao. But it’s the only one with pirates! Specifically, the exhibition Piratas: Los Ladrones del Mar (Pirates: Thieves of the Sea, through March 1, 2015) tells the story of piracy from the beginning of commercial navigation until today, with maps, vintage objects, models, and replicas. (The information on the website is available only in Spanish.)

HELSINKI

What: Postmodernism: 1980–1995

Where: Design Museum

When: January 30 to May 17, 2015

Why: The primary exhibition of this museum’s spring season will examine postmodernism—in architecture, design, popular culture, and the arts—from a Finnish perspective. It includes works by Stefan Lindfors, Leena Luostarinen, Rita Taskinen, Philippe Starck, and many others.

While you’re in Helsinki: The Finnish Museum of Photography will play host to The Festival of Political Photography: To the Third Generation (from January 30 to April 12, 2015), which will present series from several photographers who are “making statements about social issues they find important” (shown at left: a photo from the series Purity, by David Magnusson).

LONDON

What: Human Rights Human Wrongs

Where: The Photographers’ Gallery

When: February 6 to April 6, 2015

Why: This exhibit features more than 200 original press prints drawn from the prestigious Black Star collection of 20th-century photoreportage. These works span the period between 1945 and the early 1990s. They examine the major political upheavals, wars, and struggles against racism and colonialism of that period, addressing the “legacy of how photographs have historically worked to raise awareness of international conflict” (shown at left: photo of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., by Bob Fitch).

While you’re in London: Also take in Snowdon: A Life in View at the National Portrait Gallery (through June 21, 2015). This exhibition highlights the Earl of Snowdon’s studio portraits, from the 1950s to the 1990s, along with other works.

MARSEILLE

What: Raymond Depardon: Un moment si doux (Raymond Depardon: Such a sweet moment)

Where: Musée des civilisations de l’Europe et de la Méditerranée (MuCEM)

When: Through March 1, 2015

Why: This retrospective of the work of French photographer, photojournalist, and documentary filmmaker Raymond Depardon features highlights from his expansive career in Europe and Africa. The exhibition features 137 color photographs; 40 were specially made for the exhibition at MuCEM. And MuCEM is a spectacular new museum by architect Rudy Ricciotti; it faces the sea and bills itself as the first museum exclusively dedicated to all the cultures and civilizations of the Mediterranean.

While you’re in Marseille: In addition to Ricciotti’s MuCEM, Marseille boasts other new museums designed by star architects, such as the FRAC museum for contemporary art, designed by Kengo Kuma, and the Villa Méditerranée (shown at left), designed by Stefano Boeri.

NEW YORK

What: Björk

Where: MoMA

When: March 8 to June 7, 2015

Why: This retrospective covers more than 20 years of work from a daring and iconoclastic composer, musician, and artist, drawing on her many adventurous projects and seven full-length albums. This unique installation will be presented as a narrative, written by Björk and the acclaimed Icelandic writer Sjón. It will feature Björk’s collaborations with artists in many media and will include a newly commissioned “immersive music and film experience” (shown at left: a still from Björk’s “All Is Full of Love” music video, directed by Chris Cunningham).

While you’re in New York: Björk’s extravaganza will overlap briefly with another multimedia exhibition at MoMA: Cut to Swipe (through March 22, 2015) features recently acquired works that “appropriate and manipulate images and sound drawn from electronic media.”

SÃO PAULO

What: Mona Hatoum (this information is available only in Portuguese)

Where: Pinacoteca São Paulo

When: Through March 1, 2015

Why: This is the first exhibition of Mona Hatoum’s work in Latin America, and it shows the artist’s wide range, from her early experiments in performance art to her famous sculptures and large-scale installations incorporating everyday objects—including an installation developed just for this show. The Pinacoteca houses a huge collection of Brazilian art, including iconic Brazilian Modernist works. Its permanent collection is a must-visit.

While you’re in São Paulo: The Museu de Arte Contemporanea’s permanent collection has works by Picasso, Klee, Modigliani, Miró, Kandinsky, and many other greats of the modern age. The museum is currently hosting a retrospective (through March 29, 2015) of the work of pioneering photographer Hans Gunther Flieg (shown at left: Divulgação, by Hans Gunter Flieg).

SAN FRANCISCO

What: @Large: Ai Weiwei on Alcatraz

Where: Alcatraz Island

When: Through April 26, 2015

Why: In this exhibition of new sculpture, sound, and mixed-media installations created specifically for Alcatraz, Ai Weiwei responds to the island’s layered legacy as a 19th-century military fortress, a notorious federal prison, a site of Native American heritage and protest, and now a national park. “Revealing new perspectives on Alcatraz, the exhibition also raises far larger questions about freedom of expression and human rights” (shown at left: With Wind, by Ai Weiwei).  

While you’re in San Francisco: If you hurry, you can still make it: Keith Haring: The Political Line, at San Francisco’s de Young (through February 16), is a major retrospective. It features more than 130 works, including large-scale paintings, sculptures, and a number of Haring’s subway drawings.

TOKYO

What: Simple Forms: Contemplating Beauty

Where: Mori Art Museum

When: April 25 to July 25, 2015

Why: Simple Forms examines the rediscovery of “simple forms” in 19th- and 20th-century Europe in the fields of mathematics, mechanical engineering, biology, geology, and archeology, and this rediscovery’s impact on art, industrial design, and architecture. This simplicity is also seen in folk art and primitive art from around the world. In Japan, a similar aesthetic takes on a physical form in crafts, the tea ceremony, and Zen Buddhist paintings (shown at left: Birdstone, by anonymous).

While you’re in Tokyo: Tokyo’s museum scene is growing rapidly. Relatively new is the National Art Center. Designed by Kisho Kurokawa, it has more than 150,000 square feet of exhibition space.

WEIL AM RHEIN

What: Architecture of Independence: African Modernism

Where: Vitra Design Museum

When: February 20 to May 22, 2015

Why: This promises to be a fascinating look at the little-known period of daring architectural experimentation that blossomed after some central and sub-Saharan African countries gained independence in the 1950s and ’60s. The exhibition will chart more than 50 public buildings in countries such as Kenya, Ivory Coast, Zambia, Senegal, and Ghana (shown at left: the Independence Arch in Accra, Ghana).

While you’re in Weil am Rhein: The Vitra Design Museum is worth the trip, but you’ll likely be staying in Basel, Switzerland, the nearest large city and one with a typically dense European thicket of museums, as well as some unique institutions such as the Cartoonmuseum, devoted to satirical art.