What to See in the EU this January

From Ghislaine Leung's solo exhibition at Ordet, Milan, to David Medalla's posthumous showing at Bonner Kunstverein, these are the shows not to miss 

BY frieze in EU Reviews , Exhibition Reviews | 21 JAN 22

Ghislaine Leung
Ordet, Milan, Italy
10 December 2021 – 5 February 2022

In ‘SCORES’, London-based artist Ghislaine Leung’s solo exhibition at Ordet, power, isolation and networks are made visible, in both a literal and metaphorical sense. The works exhibited rely on the circulation and consumption of energy to function; they also manifest the entangled relations of co-dependency with the art system and marketplace that allow an independent space, such as Ordet, to exist. The title refers to the set of instructions provided by the artist on the collocation of different ready-made objects inside the space, as well as to the orchestration of the potential movements of visitors inside it. Barbara Casavecchia

Ghislaine Leung, ‘SCORES’, exhibition view, Ordet, 2021. Courtesy: the artist and Ordet, Milan; photograph: Nicola Gnesi

Huang Po-Chih
Mumok, Vienna, Austria
November 2021 – 27 February 2022

The second Sino-Japanese War (1937–45) produced a strange hero – an Indian elephant named Lin Wang, who fought with the Chinese Expeditionary Force against the Japanese. This beast of burden was later taken to Taipei by then-President Chiang Kai-Shek, where it became, for a time, the most famous animal in Taiwan. In the 1960s, the Taiwanese government again used the image of an elephant as a propaganda symbol for the hard work needed to transform the country from an agrarian society into an industrial one. Drawing on his own family’s experience of this eventful time, Taiwanese artist Huang Po-Chih’s current exhibition at Mumok also uses the metaphor of this mammal to unpack historical constructs of national identity in the context of contemporary global capitalism. – Francesca Gavin

Huang Po-Chih, Blue Elephant, 2018, photograph, 1.4 × 1.6 cm. Courtesy: © Huang Po-Chih

Philippe Thomas
Jan Mot, Brussels, Belgium
15 December 2021 – 05 February 2022

As with all of Philippe Thomas’s work, the exhibition currently on view at Jan Mot is attributed to one of the French artist’s many alter-egos – Edouard Merino. The three large-scale photographic tableaux and the smaller triptych that make up this concise presentation are a part of Thomas’s ‘Insights’ series (all works 1989), which includes six additional photographs (not on view here) attributed to Jay Chiat, another alias. These still lifes provide quasi-forensic ‘insights’ into Thomas’s 1987 installation at New York’s Cable Gallery, where he launched ‘readymades belong to everyone®’ – the agency he operated under until he died of AIDS-related complications in 1995. – Emile Rubino

Edouard Merino, Insight, 1989, cibachrome print mounted on aluminum, title card, photograph: 120 × 180 cm, title card: 4,5 × 11 cm. Courtesy: Jan Mot, Brussels

‘Domestic Drama’
Halle für Kunst Steiermark, Graz, Austria
14 December 2021 – 20 February 2022

Given its theatrical title, there is surprisingly little conflict in ‘Domestic Drama’. Rather than focus on interpersonal relationships, this large-scale thematic group show, currently on view at Halle für Kunst Steiermark, explores how, to quote the exhibition literature, we interact with objects as ‘representatives of [the] wishes and desires that shape our identities’. While the idea that we buy consumer products based on want rather than necessity has been around since the early 1960s – curator Cathrin Mayer cites psychologist Ernest Dichter’s Strategy of Desire (1960) as an influence – the COVID-19 pandemic and related lockdowns have arguably only deepened our relationships to our belongings, making ‘Domestic Drama’ a highly contemporary undertaking despite its multi-generational focus. – Chloe Stead

Antony Gormley, Home, 1984, lead, terracotta, gypsum, fibreglass, 62 × 164 × 216 cm. Courtesy: the artist and Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig, Vienna

David Medalla
Bonner Kunstverein, Germany
18 September 2021– 30 January 2022

At the entrance to ‘Parables of Friendship’ – Bonner Kunstverein’s two-part survey of the late Filipino artist David Medalla – visitors are confronted by a long partition wall and a wooden staircase, which invites the visitors to climb up, then almost immediately descend to the other side, without a clear purpose. The wall is inset with a small aperture, on the ledge of which sits a little model boat: its sails depict two figures hugging; shells hang from its jib (Title Unknown, 2017). Offering a glimpse of the exhibition ahead, this window acts as an invitation to explore the first European retrospective of this exceptional artist, who sadly passed away last year. Ben Livne Weitzman

David Medalla, ‘Parables of Friendship’, 2021, exhibition view, Bonner Kunstverein. Courtesy: Bonner Kunstverein; photograph: Mareike Tocha

Main image: Ghislaine Leung, Shrooms, 2016, detail. Courtesy: the artist, Maxwell Graham/Essex Street, New York, and Ordet, Milan; photograph: Nicola Gnesi

Contemporary Art and Culture