The Best Exhibitions in Europe This Summer

From Christopher Kulendran Thomas's meditation on art history to an overdue Tom of Finland homecoming

BY frieze in Critic's Guides , Exhibition Reviews | 16 JUN 23

Tarik Kiswanson

Bonniers Konsthall, Stockholm

26 April – 18 June

Belonging Bonniers Konsthall
Tarik Kiswanson, ‘Becoming’, 2023, exhibition view. Courtesy: the artist and Sfeir-Semler Gallery, Hamburg and Beirut 

Split into five loosely connected sections across the institution’s spacious galleries, ‘Becoming’ explores themes of memory, heritage and belonging from the artist’s perspective as a second-generation immigrant. In the first room, Kiswanson has built a raised platform partly obscured by a wall. Through an opening on the left-hand side, the viewer can look up to see three metal filing cabinets tucked away in the right-hand corner of the space (Cabinet, 2019). Despite the ubiquity of these everyday objects, their odd placing suggests that something is not quite right, a feeling that only intensifies after noticing an ovoid sculpture – painted the same shade of white as the gallery walls – which seems to float in the dark, shaft-like space between the platform and the floor (Cradle, 2022). –Cathrin Mayer

Tacita Dean

Bourse de Commerce, Paris

until 18 September

Tacita Dean, Sakura, 2022
Tacita Dean, Sakura (Taki I), 2022, coloured pencil on Fuji Velvet paper mounted on paper, 3.5 × 5 m. Courtesy: the artist, Pinault Collection, Paris, Frith Street Gallery, London, Marian Goodman Gallery, New York, Paris and Los Angeles 

‘Geography Biography’ is a sophisticated collage of Dean’s life in film, in which time collapses and unexpected juxtapositions abound: Niagara Falls, its waters frozen in sheer white stalactites, serves as the backdrop to footage of French mime artist Marcel Marceau (the only non-original film here), while Dean herself, aged 26 in Liberty and Marmite (1991), appears inside a delicate collotype postcard of an amber iris from 1906. Audiences must shimmy around a circular bench surrounding the projection mount to follow the kaleidoscopic pictures like the arms of an elaborate clock. Indeed, time, it seems, is the artist’s most persistent material. –Sean Burns

Pablo Echeverri

Between Bridges, Berlin

27 June – 29 July

Juan Pablo Echeverri
Juan Pablo Echeverri,‘miss fotojapón’, 1998–2022, inkjet prints mounted on MDF box frame, 1 × 1 m. Courtesy: the estate of Juan Pablo Echeverri

futuroSEXtraños is part of Echeverri’s major exhibition at Berlin’s Between Bridges, ‘Identidad Perdida’ (Lost Identity), one half of a two-part quasi-survey that continues at James Fuentes in New York. From conceptual photography to sculpture to film, the works at Between Bridges span nearly 25 years. Organized by ‘some of the people who miss him’, according to the exhibition’s press release, the show is a great tribute to this Bogotá-born artist’s range, and a trenchant memorial to his too-short life. (Echeverri died of malaria in 2022 aged 43.) –Andrew Durbin

Tom of Finland

Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, Helsinki

28 April – 29 October

Tom of Finland
Tom of Finland, Untitled, 1963, pencil on paper. Courtesy: The Tom of Finland Foundation, Los Angeles

[Touko] Laaksonen’s triumphant homecoming – he spent much of his life abroad in America – is as fraught as it is overdue. Alongside death metal, Angry Birds, the Moomins and Marimekko, he is one of the country’s greatest cultural exports, having long since transcended the limits of a commercial illustrator – never mind a gay pornographer – to be celebrated as a national treasure.  Comprised of hundreds of works across a suite of galleries, ‘Tom of Finland: Bold Journey’ is the most complete legitimation of the artist’s work to date; the ultimate recognition of an outsider’s acceptance into the mainstream. It’s a remarkable accomplishment for a man who, born in 1920, was criminalized twice over (as a homosexual and an erotic artist) for much of his life; an achievement that was underscored at the show’s opening when Durk Dehner, the artist’s business partner and long-time President of the Tom of Finland Foundation, was awarded the Order of the Lion by outgoing Prime Minister Sanna Marin.  –Harry Tafoya

Christopher Kulendran Thomas

Kunsthalle Zürich

10 June – 10 September

Kunsthalle Zurich
Christopher Kulendran Thomas, dataset#2-run#4-network_010252-seed_1738.png, 2022, acrylic on stretched canvas, 2.3 × 1.7 m. Courtesy: the artist and KW Institute for Contemporary Art; photo: Linus Müllerschön

Reviewing Christopher Kulendran Thomas’s 2022 exhibition at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London, for The New York Times, writer Travis Diel asked: ‘Can art change the world? Has Guernica ever stopped a bomb?’ The answer may be an emphatic no, but it hasn’t stopped the British-Tamil artist from using the failed struggle for independence for the Tamil homeland in present-day Sri Lanka as a means of imagining other outcomes and other potential histories. Hosted across both floors of Kunsthalle Zurich, ‘Christopher Kulendran Thomas: FOR REAL’ features paintings, sculptures and film installations that speak to how history is mediated through artistic sensibility. The emancipating potential of new technologies is a thread throughout the exhibition: the artist created the paintings using algorithms fed with imagery of colonial art, which was brought to Sri Lanka by the British. –Krzysztof Kościuczuk

Main image: Christopher Kulendran Thomas, The Finesse, 2022, in collaboration with Annika Kuhlmann, film still. Courtesy: the artist and KW Institute for Contemporary Art

Thumbnail: Aṇaṅkuperuntinaivarkal Inkaaleneraam, Thanimai, 2022. Courtesy: the artist and KW Institute for Contemporary Art; Photo: Frank Sperling

Contemporary Art and Culture