The 7 Best Spring Shows to See Around the World

From Bruce Nauman in Hong Kong to Carla Accardi in Milan, here are a selection of hand-picked shows by our editors 

BY frieze in Reviews , Reviews Across The World | 23 MAR 21

Herman Chong Safe Entry
Heman Chong, Safe Entry (Version 2.0 - 2.7), installation view, 2020, acrylic on canvas, 200 × 130 × 3.8 cm each. Courtesy: © Heman Chong and STPI – Creative Workshop & Gallery, Singapore

Herman Chong

STPI, Singapore

SafeEntry, a national digital check-in system that collects personal data for contact tracing, has become a metonym for Singapore’s efficient management of the COVID-19 pandemic. The system forms the basis of Heman Chong’s Safe Entry (Version 2.0 – 2.7) (2020), a suite of eight, near-identical paintings of QR codes on flesh-coloured backgrounds, which are included in the artist’s first solo exhibition at STPI. Most visitors instinctively take out their smartphones to scan them but, rather than being directed to SafeEntry, they are linked to a point-of-view video of Chong walking through Singapore’s Changi Airport during the government’s stay-at-home order. – Wong Bing Hao 

setting a good corner bruce nauman
Bruce Nauman, Setting a Good Corner (Allegory & Metaphor), 1999, video still. © Bruce Nauman / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York and DACS, London 2021. Courtesy: the artist, Sperone Westwater, New York and White Cube

Bruce Nauman

White Cube, Hong Kong, China

‘My work’, Bruce Nauman told Art in America in 1988, ‘comes out of being frustrated about the human condition.’ Reviewing the artist’s retrospective at MoMA, New York, in 2019, Che Gosset observes how Nauman ‘plays at the edges of the human, blurring and fraying its conceptual boundaries.’ The artist’s first solo exhibition in Hong Kong presents video works in which Nauman uses his body as a tool to expose the charged space between idea and action. ‘Nauman is less occupied with ending what Giorgio Agamben calls in The Open: Man and Animal (2002) the ‘anthropological machine’,’ writes Gosset, ‘than he is in laying bare its inner workings and questioning its protocols.’

Amelie von Wulffen, Ohne Titel (Untitled), 2019, oil and photos on canvas. Courtesy: the artist and Galerie Meyer Kainer, Vienna

Amelie von Wulffen

KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin, Germany

Amelie von Wulffen is an expert at spotting the outgrowths of German folklore and romanticism in packaging, adverts and children’s television, and welding them together with their historical counterparts – or, at least, our warped ideas of them. These simultaneous references are not a matter of incongruity or juxtaposition, but manifestations of equivalence. Though weird in the extreme, Von Wulffen’s motifs don’t read like an ironic employment of kitsch, chosen for their outlandishness. Rather, the accumulated works constitute a kind of mise-en-abyme, wherein each piece is the core of an uncannily familiar and potentially infinite interior. – Kristian Vistrup Madsen

Carla Accardi in front of Tenda at Galleria Notizie, Turin, 1966. Courtesy: Museo del Novecento, Milan

Carla Accardi

Museo del Novecento, Milan, Italy

‘My purpose’, the Italian artist Carla Accardi declared in an interview with Paolo Vagheggi in 2004, ‘is to represent the vital impulse that is in the world.’ ‘Contexts’ at Milan’s Museo del Novecento, the first retrospective dedicated to the painter since her death in 2014, is a rich survey that pays homage to one of Italy’s seminal, postwar artists. Accardi’s artistic practice emerged from the energy of a creative community in postwar Rome and the show opens with a colourful group display contextualising her early works from the 1940s. As a founding (and lone female) member of the collective Forma 1, Accardi resisted popular figurative styles and, instead, found liberation in abstract art. Drawn to experimental practices and embracing the methods of art informel, she soon began painting canvases laid flat on the ground. – Thea Hawlin 

Mark McKnight Tear, 2021 Gelatin silver print 48 x 60 inches 122 x 152 cm Courtesy the artist and Park View / Paul Soto, Los Angeles Photo credit: Marten Elder
Mark McKnight, Tear, 2021, gelatin silver print 1.2 × 1.5 m. Courtesy: the artist and Park View / Paul Soto, Los Angeles; photography: Marten Elder

'Mark McKnight: Hunger for the Absolute'

Park View / Paul Soto, Los Angeles, USA

The work tells the story of a sexual encounter between two men in a remote landscape, where the grass is tall and bare. We follow the photographer’s gaze through the scene as he spies on the couple, almost flush with the grass, then looks up at the sky, perhaps feigning distraction. Finally, he approaches the bodies closely with the active gaze of a participant – watching the most erotic act transpire. — Gracie Hadland

Jiab Prachakul, Stand-by, 2020
Jiab Prachakul, Stand-by, 2020, acrylic on canvas, 1.4 × 1.4 m. Courtesy: the artist and Friends Indeed Gallery, San Francisco


'Jiab Prachakul: 14 Years'

Friends Indeed Gallery, San Francisco, USA

In a recent Zoom conversation, the self-taught artist [Jiab Prachakul], who worked in the film industry before turning to painting, spoke to me about her relationship to her sitters: ‘These characters are all part of my life and the connections I have to them ultimately make me the subject of the works.’ Since winning the BP Portrait Award from London’s National Portrait Gallery in 2020, Prachakul’s paintings have gained much attention for their representations of Asian identity – often less visible in contemporary art. Yet, while this focus is central to the artist’s project, her desire to connect with and explore her own painterly subjectivity is equally insistent. — Natasha Boas


christian marclay crocodile cradle
Christian Marclay, I Will Not Fail, 2020, included in Simon Moretti's Crocodile Cradle, 2021. Courtesy: the artist and White Cube, London

Simon Moretti

PEER, London, UK

We are yet to fully know how the events of the past year will congeal in aesthetic form. Ideated by Simon Moretti, Crocodile Cradle (2021), a collaborative project at PEER, presents texts by 51 artists – including Tacita Dean, Lubaina Himid, Joan Jonas, Christian Marclay and Cerith Wyn Evans – across three socially-distanced platforms: a filmed performance, accessed online; a text collage in the gallery window; and a book, to be published this summer. With the flexibility of the curatorial presentation lending itself to the current moment, it seems likely we will be seeing more of these multimodal shows, accessible via online platforms and QR codes, in person and in print – exhibitions turned outside. – Bryony White

Main image: Carla Accardi, In the Shadows on the Walls, 2005, vinyl on canvas, 16. × 2.2 m. Courtesy: Galleria Santo Ficara SRL, Florence

Contemporary Art and Culture