BY frieze in Exhibition Reviews | 21 JUL 23

The Best Exhibitions to See in Europe This August

From Alexander Tovborg’s spiritual yearning to collective mythologies as told by Miralda

BY frieze in Exhibition Reviews | 21 JUL 23

Alexander Tovborg

Kunsthal Charlottenborg, Copenhagen, Denmark

10 June – 6 August

Alexander Tovborg, ‘The Church’, 2023, exhibition view. Courtesy: the artist; photograph: David Stjernholm

A central nave flanked by a series of aisles and transepts, the layout of the Kunsthal Charlottenborg bears a close resemblance to that of a cathedral. It’s fitting, then, that Alexander Tovborg has reimagined it as a place of worship in ‘The Church’, his largest solo exhibition to date, and his most searching exploration yet of spiritual yearning – and personal gnosis – in our increasingly secular age. Long blocked-up with plasterboard, the institution’s ten vaulted windows have been exposed by the Danish artist, who’s overlaid their panes with collaged images of flowers and fruits cut from sheets of translucent, jewel-toned acetate, which recall the simplified forms and reverent joy in nature’s fecundity that characterize Henri Matisse’s stained-glass windows in the Chapelle du Rosaire in Vence. As the Earth makes its daily journey around the sun, these images are projected onto the floor like visions sent from heaven, their shapes shifting by the hour, until night falls and they finally fade out. —Tom Morton

Michael Rakowitz

Barbara Wien, Berlin, Germany

28 April – 12 August

Michael Rakowitz, I’m good at love, I’m good at hate, it’s in between I freeze (detail), 2009/2023, documents, books, photographs and memorabilia including a typewriter purportedly owned by Leonard Cohen, and a facsimile of the letter written by the artist, dimensions variable. Courtesy: the artist and Galerie Barbara Wien, Berlin

Be it a god, an idol or an ideology, we all worship something, seeking out frameworks of meaning to help us identify our values and find our place in the world. The subject of Michael Rakowitz’s reverence is none other than singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen, who is the focus of his exhibition at Barbara Wien, ‘I’m good at love, I’m good at hate, it’s in between I freeze’. The titular installation comprises a 32-minute video alongside vitrines filled with records, newspaper clippings, books, photographs, an olive branch from Cohen’s house on Hydra, bedrock from his childhood home and an Olivetti Lettera 22 typewriter, which Rakowitz bought to write a letter to Cohen. Don’t be deceived if this sounds like fandom: the work delves into Cohen’s relationship, as a prominent Canadian Jew, to the Israeli–Palestinian conflict and Rakowitz’s attempt to understand whether we can separate an artist from their music, and what it means to let go of the belief in something or someone without losing ourselves. —Louisa Elderton


Albertina, Vienna, Austria

23 June – 1 October

VALIE EXPORT, Aus der Mappe der Hundigkeit, 1968, gelatin silver print. Courtesy: © the artist and Gallery Thaddaeus Ropac, London · Paris · Salzburg · Seoul; photograph: Joseph Tandl

Clad in a fur coat and heeled leather loafers, VALIE EXPORT might be the epitome of the Austrian postwar bourgeoisie – shaped by Catholicism and conservatism – were it not for the young man, artist Peter Weibel, that she leads on a leash like a dog. Documented in a series of black and white photographs, the performance Aus der Mappe der Hundigkeit (From the Portfolio of Dogness, 1968) is – along with Tapp und Tastkino (Grope and Touch Cinema, 1968) and Aktionshose: Genitalpanik (Action Pants: Genital Panic, 1969) – one of EXPORT’s most famous pieces. All three are included in ‘VALIE EXPORT: A Retrospective’ at Albertina, Vienna, which focuses on her work from the 1960s to the 1990s. Curated by Walter Moser, the show asserts the photographic as EXPORT’s modus operandi across all media, including performance, drawing and large-scale installation. —Kathrin Heinrich

Bohemia: History of an Idea 1950–2000

Kunsthalle Praha, Prague, Czech Republic

23 March – 16 October

Bill Owens, Altamont, 1969, photograph. Courtesy: © Bill Owens

Bohemia, the original enfant terrible, is now an object of nostalgia. That, at least, is how curator Russell Ferguson tells the story in ‘Bohemia: History of an Idea 1950–2000’. The fact that this show is being staged in Prague is no coincidence: the term bohemian comes from the Latin name for the area now known as the Czech Republic, where the wandering, music-playing Roma – whose lifestyle anticipated that of the bohemians – originated. Since 1851, the year in which French novelist Henri Murger published Scenes of Bohemian Life, later popularized by Giacomo Puccini in his opera La bohème (1896), the romantic image of a penniless, free-living artist has exerted its fascination. —Noemi Smolik


Bombas Gens Centre d’Art, Valencia, Spain

27 April – 26 November

Miralda, La Sabateta de la Liberty (Liberty’s Little Shoe), performance documentation. Courtesy: © the artist and Bombas Gens Centre d’Art, Valencia; Photo: Tania Castro

Miralda moved to New York in the 1970s, then to Miami in the early 1990s, before recently returning to his native Catalonia, and the axis of the Honeymoon Project's ironic conceit is the monumental society wedding as an equivocal celebration of cultural exchange between the so-called old and new worlds. Over the years, Miralda’s metaphor was writ large through dozens of make-believe nuptial rites and dedications of colossal bridal regalia that coincided with the 1986 centennial of the Statue of Liberty and the 1992 quincentennial of Columbus’s arrival in the Americas. At Bombas Gens, an island of display cases filled with invitations, publications, posters and shoe-making sketches is complemented by a three-tier timeline along one wall. Detailing the project from 1974 precursors to date, the chronology gives a picture of the hundreds of collaborators involved, from artisans, chefs, designers and sponsors to members of the public. Max Andrews

Main image: Michael Rakowitz, I’m good at love, I’m good at hate, it’s in between I freeze, 2017/2023, film still. Courtesy: the artist and Galerie Barbara Wien, Berlin

Contemporary Art and Culture