October 1, 2021

Our top ten exhibitions to see in 2021

1. Nero (28th May 2021 – October 24th, 2021) – British Museum London 

For centuries, Nero has been dubbed the worst Roman emperor in ancient history, however, it looks like the British Museum could be here to restore his reputation in this ground-breaking exhibition. This excellent show provides a nuanced exploration of cancel culture in the ancient world, debunking certain narratives and historical inaccuracies that have used the emperor as a scapegoat for the empire’s many problems.

2. French Impressionism from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (25th June 2021 – 3rd October 2021) – National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne 

In partnership with Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts, the National Gallery of Victoria is displaying more than 100 impressionist works by artists such as Claude Monet, Auguste Renoir, Edgar Degas, and Camille Pissarro. A highlight of the exhibition includes the display of sixteen canvases by Monet depicting scenes from the Mediterranean and Normandy coastlines as well as the artist’s garden in Giverny.

3. Thinking of You, I Mean Me, I Mean You (19th September 2021 – January 24th, 2022) – Art Institute of Chicago 

Dedicated to American artist Barbara Kruger, this solo show will first exhibit at the Art Institute of Chicago before moving to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, before finally finishing at MOMA in 2023. Celebrating the work of one of America’s most important contemporary artists, this show will mark the biggest and most comprehensive public display of Kruger’s work yet.

4. Cézanne Drawing (6th June 2021 – 25th September 2021) – MOMA, NYC

In this hugely popular show, MOMA has brought together over 200 works in pencil and watercolour from the life and career of Paul Cézanne. This rare collection of work includes portraits, landscapes, and still lives, giving a unique insight into Cézanne’s artistic process and creative vision. For Cézanne, paper was not simply a medium, but rather a means of experimenting with depth, colour, and line, compelling these drawings and watercolours as some of the artist's most experimental work.

5. Botticelli: Artist and Designer (10th Sep 2021 – 24th Jan 2022) – Jacquemart-André Museum, Paris

This November, the Jaquemart-André Museum will host one of the most anticipated exhibitions of the year, Botticelli: Artist and Designer. The exhibition will display works from the Vatican, the Uffizi, the Rijksmuseum, and London’s National Gallery in an investigation of Botticelli’s workshop strategy, technique, and artistic training. Through a chronological approach, the exhibition is expected to shed a light on the development of Botticelli's career and illustrate his wider artistic influence amongst the members of his workshop.

6. Transfigurations: African Masks of the 19th and 20th Centuries (26th June 2021 – 12th December 2021) – The Hermitage, St Petersburg 

This unique and very relevant exhibition has curated a diverse display of around 40 masks and objects from the African continent. This exhibition will investigate the societal roles of masks from their ideological symbolism to their traditional uses in funerary rituals, courtly processions, theatre, and other societal contexts. The exhibition poignantly captures the mask’s ability to transfigure the human form, earning this exhibition a place on the must-see list of 2021 shows

7. Genkyo Yokoo Tadanori (July 17th, 2021 – October 17th, 2021) – Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo 

This highly anticipated retrospective of Tadanori Yokoo will showcase a comprehensive series of Yokoo’s work spanning over six decades. Born in 1936, Yokoo rose to fame in the ’60s for his unique pop art aesthetic which borrowed from traditional Japanese Ukiyo-e prints. The show is set to be the largest ever comprehensive exhibition of Yokoo’s work, displaying over 500 items including painting and various early graphic works. 

8. Slavery (18th May 2021 – 29th August 2021) – Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam 

Opened by King Willem-Alexander on the 18th of May, this ground-breaking exhibition at the Rijksmuseum is the first of its kind to explore the Dutch slave trade. The show will include objects, portraits, and pieces from the seventeenth century through to the abolition of Suriman, the main Dutch slave colony in 1863. The exhibition presents ten true stories of various slaves and slave-keepers, exploring the oppressive system of the Dutch slave trade and the lived experience of the slaves themselves.

9. Yayoi Kusama, A Retrospective (November 2021) – Tel Aviv, Israel

In a collaboration with Gropius Bau, Berlin, and Studio Kusama, Tokyo, the Tell Aviv Museum of Art will feature 200 works of art by Kusama in what is expected to be one of the biggest exhibitions of the year. Yayoi Kusama: A Retrospective, currently on show at Gropius Bau, Berlin until 15th August, will allow visitors a comprehensive view of over seven decades of the artist’s work. Amongst these exhibits, the exhibition is set to will include a newly completed and highly anticipated Infinity Mirror Room.

10. Young Korean Artists (28 May 2021 – 22 September 2021) – National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Seoul 

Dedicated to the discovery and cultivation of Korea’s emerging artists, this year will mark the 40th anniversary of the MMCA’s Young Korean Artist Program. This year’s exhibition will showcase the work of 15 artists across a diverse range of mediums, including installation, media, sculpture, painting, ceramics, films, photography, and dance.

Written by
Miles Knapp
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