What to See in Europe this August

From Yael Bartana's expansive solo exhibition at the Jewish Museum Berlin to a group exhibition that depicts the oddities of aquatic life, here are our must see shows in the Schengen

BY frieze in EU Reviews , Exhibition Reviews | 04 AUG 21

'The Imaginary Sea', 2021, exhibition view, Villa Carmignac, Pourquerolles. Courtesy: Fondation Carmignac, Pourquerolles; photography: Marc Domage

The Imaginary Sea

Villa Carmignac, Porquerolles Island, France

20 May – 17 October 2021

The octopus is sleeping. Or, at least, he’s resting his eyes. Around them, his bulbous head sac swells and deflates in a continuous pumping motion. ‘L’oeil ouvert, très humain,’ reads an intertitle: ‘The open eye is very human.’ In the initial sequence of Jean Painlevé’s La Pieuvre (The Octopus, 1928), a fisherman turns an octopus’s head inside out and tries, indecorously, to yank out its entrails: the eyes are evidently not human enough to spare him a beastly fate. The strangeness and beauty of the creatures that live beneath the sea – a world distant from yet deeply enmeshed with and threatened by our own – is explored in works by 33 artists in ‘The Imaginary Sea’, guest curated by Chris Sharp at Villa Carmignac. Situated on a hill on the edge of the natural park that occupies most of the small, beach-scattered island of Pourquerolles in western Provence, Villa Carmignac looks out over an expanse of blue. – Amy Sherlock

Lewis Hammond, Drowner, 2020, installation view, Casa Masaccio, San Giovanni. Courtesy the artist, Casa Masaccio, San Giovanni and Arcadia Missa, London. 

Lewis Hammond

Casa Masaccio, San Giovanni, Italy

27 March – 8 August 2021

Entering ‘While We Were Sleeping’ – Lewis Hammond’s solo exhibition at Casa Masaccio, San Giovanni Valdarno – feels like a transgression. It’s first necessary to bypass a heavy wooden door before continuing down an unlit corridor, guided only by a woman’s languid recitation of ‘Death by Water’, the fourth part of T. S. Eliot’s epic poem, ‘The Waste Land’ (1922). We are soon faced by Drowner (2020), a smaller work by the artist’s usual standards, whose desperate subject, as the title makes clear, is sinking below the surface of murky waters. The positioning of this work implies the viewer’s descent, or rather ascent (the rest of the exhibition is installed over the first and second floors of Casa Masaccio), into Hammond’s perditious, painted realm. – Olamiju Fajemisin

'All Wet: Marilyn Minter', 2021, exhibition view, Montpellier Contemporain, France. Courtesy: the artist and Montpellier Contemporain, France

Marilyn Minter

MO.CO. Montpellier Contemporain, France

26 June – 5 September 2021

It struck me that, from the beginning of art history, almost all paintings of women grooming have been made by men. I wanted to know whether it would change the meaning if, as a woman, I painted other women bathing. From Jean-Honoré Fragonard to Pierre Bonnard, France has a rich history of paintings of bathers so, when I was invited to do this exhibition in Montpellier, I knew straight away that I wanted to show these works. – Marilyn Minter in conversation with Chloe Stead

Yael Bartana, Malka Germania, 2021, film still. Commissioned by the Jewish Museum Berlin

Yael Bartana

Jewish Museum, Berlin, Germany

4 June – 10 October 2021

In early 2020, as the first COVID-19 lockdowns were announced, social-media channels were filled with stories about nature’s resurgence: dolphins in the Venetian lagoon, wild boar swarming Haifa and Barcelona, elephants ambling through a remote Chinese village. With humans locked in, the world appeared to be healing itself. That many of these stories turned out to be fake didn’t seem to matter. Call it millennial millenarianism, but who doesn’t hope – faced with rising oceans, pandemics and wars – for salvation or something close to it? All of which makes ‘Redemption Now’, Yael Bartana’s expansive solo exhibition at the Jewish Museum Berlin, feel timelier than ever. Spanning over two decades of the Israeli-born, Berlin-and-Amsterdam-based artist’s career, many of the more than 50 works on display grapple with political narratives of collective redemption. – Boaz Levin

Contemporary Art and Culture