BY frieze in Critic's Guides | 28 OCT 21

The 7 Best Shows to See Around the World this Autumn

From Simone Fattal’s ceramics in response to the archaeological site of Pompeii to Elyse Pignolet’s critique of imperialist visual practices in Los Angeles, here are a selection of exhibitions everybody should be talking about

BY frieze in Critic's Guides | 28 OCT 21

After the opening of new exhibitions around the world, our writers reviewed the shows you shouldn’t miss.

Simone Fattal, 'A breeze over the Mediterranean', 2021, exhibition view, ICA Milano. Courtesy: the artist; photograph: Andrea Rossetti

Simone Fattal

ICA Milano, Italy

8 September 2021 – 9 January 2022

In 79 CE, Mount Vesuvius erupted catastrophically, destroying the prosperous Roman port city of Pompeii in a matter of days. The city and its inhabitants were buried under six meters of volcanic ash and pumice – a whole civilization frozen in time, its fate sealed as a unique archaeological site. This ancient city is the subject of ‘A breeze over the Mediterranean’ at ICA Milano, where the Syrian-born artist Simone Fattal deftly employs its history, ancient religions and mythologies in a series of new ceramics that mine the past to remind us of the fragility of the present. – Ana Vukadin

'HR Giger & Mire Lee', 2021, exhibition view, Schinkel Pavillon, Berlin. Courtesy: the artists and Schinkel Pavillon, Berlin; photograph: Frank Sperling

HR Giger and Mire Lee

Schinkel Pavillon, Berlin, Germany

18 September 2021 – 2 January 2022

‘Have you seen Schinkel Pavillon’s HR Giger show?’ has been the question of the month in Berlin. In fact, the exhibition pairs the late Swiss artist with the South Korean sculptor Mire Lee, a detail that has mostly footnoted ensuing conversations. Although it’s hardly a surprise. An obvious novelty factor accompanies this appearance of Giger’s sculptures, paintings, drawings and prints, which – due to their creator’s work on the Alien film franchise (1979–2017) – fundamentally impacted society’s collective imagination of the far-flung other. – Mitch Speed

Phyllis Christopher Grand Union
Phyllis Christopher, Party, Los Angeles, 1999. Courtesy: the artist, Grand Union, Birmingham and BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead

Phyllis Christopher

Grand Union, Birmingham, UK

September 2021 – March 2022

Phyllis Christopher’s ‘Heads and Tails’ at Birmingham’s Grand Union shares the delights of defiant queer kinship. As the experiences of LGBTQ+ communities become more prevalent in mainstream media, focus is often placed on the tragic conclusions of individual narratives, while the joys of queer lifestyles are sidelined. Christopher documents San Francisco between 1988 and 2007, from the height of the AIDS crisis to the years of collective healing that followed. – Emily Scarrott

Jordan Casteel, Direct Response, 2021, oil on canvas, 183 × 142 cm. Courtesy: the artist and MASSIMODECARLO, London; photograph: Todd-White Art Photography

Jordan Casteel


11 October – 17 November

For everything, there is a season. This belief animates Jordan Casteel’s first UK solo show, an exhibition concerned with ephemerality and small instances of connection. The nine works on display offer a representative sample of the artist’s luminous painting, from portraits of fellow passengers (‘Subway Series’, 2019–ongoing) through to landscapes (Nasturtium, 2021) and domestic tableaux (Still Life [at home with Yvonne and James], 2021). These are big, colourful paintings, but they depict quiet, intimate encounters, as Casteel looks from the train carriage to the suburban garden, the sidewalk to the windowsill. Attention becomes a kind of prayer. – Tara McEvoy

Pamela Rosenkranz, ‘Healer’, 2021, exhibition view, Sprüth Magers, London. Courtesy: the artist and Sprüth Magers, London/Berlin/Los Angeles; photograph: Benjamin Westoby

Pamela Rosenkranz

Sprüth Magers, London, UK

8 October – 20 November

There is a serpent loose in Pamela Rosenkranz’s solo show, ‘Healer’, at Sprüth Magers. The product not of sticky biology, but of a pristine robotics lab, this work – titled Healer (Anamazon) (2021) – comprises 1.3 metres of servo motors, sensors and semiconductors sheathed in a reflective 3D-printed skin, into which scales have been incised using a technique borrowed from the Japanese craft of kirigami (paper cutting). When I first glimpsed the Swiss artist’s snake-bot through the gallery’s picture window, shimmering beneath a bank of jungle-green ceiling lamps, it was lying motionless on the floor, as though it were the inhabitant of a reptile house, conserving energy until an obliging zookeeper tipped some small, scrabbling rodent into its tank. – Tom Morton

Elyse Pignolet, Declaration of Rights and Sentiments (Trump), 2020 Two-piece stacked ceramic vase with glazes and gold luster 29 x 11 x 11.5 inches Signed and dated on bottom. Inv. #12740
Elyse Pignolet, Declaration of Rights and Sentiments (Trump), 2020, two-piece stacked ceramic vase with glazes and gold luster, 74 × 28 × 29 cm. Courtesy: the artist and Track 16, Los Angeles

Elyse Pignolet

Track 16, Los Angeles, USA

24 September – 20 November 

An elaborate, Chinoiserie-style wallpaper adorns the entrance to Elyse Pignolet’s solo exhibition, ‘I’m Not Like the Other Girls’, at Track 16 in Los Angeles. Rendered in a traditional blue and white palette and appropriating stock orientalist elements (pagodas, weeping willows, swooping birds) from 18th-century British ‘willow’ pattern ceramics, the opening salvo of the LA-based, Filipino-American artist’s show would seem to suggest a critique of the imperialist visual practices that shaped the history of the decorative arts in the West. But the presence of the words ‘Gold Spa’ in bubble lettering across the top eave of every tranquil pagoda – a damning allusion to the three massage parlours where six women of Asian descent were shot and killed by a white man in Atlanta in March of 2021 – reveals the artist’s concern with more contemporary issues of subjugation and domination. – Amber Power

Mike Lopez, 'Dealer's Choice', 2021, exhibition view, Material, Chicago. Courtesy: the artist and Material, Chicago
Mike Lopez, ‘Dealer's Choice’, 2021, exhibition view, Material Exhibitions, Chicago. Courtesy: the artist and Material, Chicago; photograph: mboshphoto

Mike Lopez

Material Exhibitions, Chicago, USA

3 October – 7 November

In ‘Dealer’s Choice’, Mike Lopez is essentially showing his good work, bad work and everything in between, crowding the sparse, tasteful hang. He also frequently gives away his art on Instagram to the first Chicago resident that DMs him – fifteen works in the last year alone. Perhaps there’s a light cynicism towards the market or so-called arbiters of taste in the art world, which raises the question: is Lopez shooting himself in the foot? But here he shares with us the uncertainty of what it’s like to be an artist: that those cycles of thrill and doubt in art-making and the pressure to monetize your craft are very real. – Alex Jen

Main image and thumb: Jordan Casteel, Noor and Adam, 2021, oil on canvas, 229 × 198 × 34 cm. Courtesy: the artist and MASSIMODECARLO, London; photograph: Todd-White Art Photography

Contemporary Art and Culture