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The best global exhibitions to see in 2019

A roundup of must-see exhibitions for the year ahead—from a major Dior exhibition in London to Afrofuturism in Cape Town and the 100th anniversary of Bauhaus

By Vogue Living | January 21, 2019 | Category Design

Text by Hettie Judah, Vogue Living

This year, we’re obsessed with taste – in art and elsewhere. What figures have we looked to over the centuries, and who do we look to today? Who dictates taste, and how do you avoid it? From global festivities marking the centenary of the Bauhaus art and architecture school, to the V&A’s Christian Dior fashion spectacular, the influence of art critic John Ruskin, to that of the trailblazing Studio Museum in Harlem – this year a plethora of exhibitions celebrate the impact of visionary individuals and institutions. Keep reading to see all the highlights.

Black Refractions: Highlights from The Studio Museum in Harlem
The artist residency programme is the heart of Harlem’s Studio Museum. A powerful incubator for African American creativity, the studios have given an early career boost to talents that now command the global stage, from Kerry James Marshall and Njideka Akunyili Crosby to Mickalene Thomas. The museum’s exhibitions have also given early institutional recognition to artists such as Mark Bradford and Amy Sherald, who have since achieved international renown: in the case of Bradford, representing the US at the Venice Biennale in 2017; in the case of Sherald, via her official portrait of Michelle Obama. The museum is poised to move into new David Adjaye-designed digs in a few years. Meanwhile, an exhibition showing highlights of the collection – led by Barkley Hendricks’s divine Lawdy Mama (1969) – is doing a victory lap of the US.

Museum of the African Diaspora, San Francisco, 16 January to 14 April, then touring nationwide


Image: Osborne Macharia, General Ngujuna 2017

Still Here Tomorrow to High Five You Yesterday
Artists, performers, writers and architects from Africa and the diaspora explore concepts of utopia and progress. The word “utopia” suggests a perfect place or society, but the original Greek word literally meant “no place”: in other words, an unattainable fantasy. This exhibition takes its cues from the rich melding of history, science fiction and fantasy that informs Afrofuturism, to suggest alternative, post-colonial futures. It may sound brain-meltingly theoretical, but someone on board this spaceship has a sense of humour: the title comes from cartoon series Adventure Time: “This cosmic dance of bursting decadence and withheld permissions twists all our arms collectively, but if sweetness can win, and it can, then I'll still be here tomorrow to high-five you yesterday, my friend. Peace.”

Zeitz MOCAA, Cape Town, 30 January to late July

Image: Christian Dior with model Lucky, Courtesy of Christian Dior

Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams
Christian Dior
 only headed the couture house that bore his name for 10 years: from his first collection in 1947 to his death in 1957. The designer’s debut in the post-war years defined the look of an era, introducing the full-skirted, feminine silhouette dubbed the New Look. Requiring lavish quantities of fabric (and figure-shaping underwear), Dior’s garments re-introduced fantasy to fashion after years of drab and functional clothing, and his house re-asserted poor, war-torn Paris’s status as the international capital of couture once more. Designer of Dreams explores Dior’s obsessions – among them the British aristocracy, stately homes, flowers and gardens – and his legacy, up to and including the work of creative director Maria Grazia Chiuri. The largest fashion exhibition to be held at the museum since Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty, the V&A’s Dior show promises silky spectacle.

V&A Museum, London, 2 February to 14 July


Image: 7. Dress, Franco Moschino (Italian, 1950–1994) for House of Moschino, fall/winter 1989. Photo: Johnny Dufort, 2018. Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Camp: Notes on Fashion
“Camp is the consistently aesthetic experience of the world. It incarnates a victory of style over content, aesthetics over morality, of irony over tragedy,” suggests Susan Sontag in Notes on Camp (1964). Sontag is spiritual fairy godmother to The Met’s Camp costume extravaganza: a celebration of glorious artifice, irony and the tricky line fashion treads to stay so bad it’s good. Se camper – to “posture boldly” – was a practice born in the French royal courts of Louis XIV and XV. The exhibition opens with a visit to Versailles – a “camp Eden” – before plunging into queer subcultures of the 1890s. All this is a prelude to the fashion displays: an unrestrained celebration of everything OTT, from Christian Lacroix to Viktor & Rolf, Vivienne Westwood to Walter Van Beirendonck.

The Met, New York, 9 May to 8 September

Image: Courtesy Arieh Sharon Digital Archive.

Bauhaus Week Berlin

The centrepiece of this year’s global celebration of all things Bauhaus sees performances, exhibitions and events rolled out across Berlin’s public spaces and museums. It’s 100 years since the influential art and architecture school was founded in Weimar. Fourteen years later, after moves first to Dessau then Berlin, the Bauhaus was shut down by the Nazis. The furious creativity of that period continues to influence all aspects of visual culture today and the Bauhaus style is now synonymous with modernism. Four Bauhaus Imaginista exhibitions open earlier in the year in Japan, China, Brazil and Russia: in Berlin they’ll be brought together in a single massive display at Haus der Kulturen der Welt. Other museums will show original Bauhaus designs, explore links to the Arts & Crafts movement and look at the school’s influence on the art and architecture of today.

Various venues, Berlin, 31 August to 8 September

Image:L Lauren Greenfield's Beauty CULTure documentary, Los Angeles, 2011. From the series Generation Wealth. Courtesy Lauren Greenfield.

Civilization: The Way We Live Now
“These days most people around the world dress in much the same way: the same jeans, the same sneakers, the same T-shirts,” wrote historian Niall Ferguson in his book Civilization. “It is one of the greatest paradoxes of modern history that a system designed to offer infinite choice to the individual has ended up homogenising humanity.” This image of the modern world – infinitely connected, and networked, yet still alien – lies at the foundation of this ambitious exhibition. Through the work of over 100 leading photographers Civilization explores everything from extreme wealth, to faith, entertainment, travel, conflict and the environment.

Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing, 9 March to 26 May

National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 20 September to 2 February 2020

Get more of the best exhibitions for 2019 on Vogue Living

Feature Image: Beauford Delaney, Portrait of a Young Musician, 1970, Acrylic on canvas. Photo credit: Marc Bernier. Courtesy American Federation of Arts


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