Art in the open air

Despite a troubled period which placed many exhibitions under threat, a wind of optimism is now blowing with the arrival of spring, with exhibitions and artistic tours taking place in the open air. Art takes over public spaces, nature enters museums; the boundaries between interior and exterior are dissipating, changing the relationship between art and the audience, and rethinking the place of living things in creation. A quick overview, from the desert of the Coachella Valley to the waterways of Shanghai, passing by Basel!

Following the success of its previous edition, with monumental installations by John Gerrard and Superflexin 2019, the legendary meeting Desert X curated by Richard Mille is once again settling in the Coachella Valley in the United States. The program addresses the notion of the desert as both a concept, a space, a place of memory and commitment, and invites artists who integrate social and environmental dimensions into their work. Among them are Ghada Amer, Judy Chicago, Serge Attukwei Clottey and Edouardo Sarabia.

In Cologne in Germany, KölnSkulptur‘s new exhibition in Cologne’s open-air contemporary sculpture park is titled ÜberNatur – Natural Takeover. Inaugurated in August 2020 for a period of two years, it brings together works on the theme of nature and ecology. Among the artists exhibiting are Katja Novitskova, Peter Fischli / David Weiss, Dan Graham, Lois Weinberger, and Per Kirkeby. The objective: to look “differently”, thus echoing the “new vision of normal” imposed by this global pandemic.

Credits: Yayoi Kusama, Dancing Pumpkin, ©Annie Wermiel/NY Post / Katja Novitskova, Approximation, ©Simon Vogel, Köln

The Beyeler Foundation in Switzerland gets wild and advocates eco-centrism, welcoming the installation Life by the famous Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson from April to July. The exhibition highlights the principle of coexistence between living things, and it encourages nature to reclaim its rights. The limits between interior and exterior are abolished, and plant and animal life can thus develop. Plants, animals, humans and microorganisms come together in this experimental exhibition of a sensitive nature, where the visitor is naturally invited to activate the senses and consequently influences the development of the exhibition, making it a powerful experience.

Since April 10, the New York Botanical Garden has been paying tribute to the venerated 92-year-old visual artist Yayoi Kusama and her fascination with the natural world – Cosmic Nature. It features monumental works by the artist; some are directly inspired by the architecture of the garden and its greenhouses, settled amongst the plants at this celebrated institution of conservation and educator in botany. Is this a valedictory lap, the artist having grown up in the fields, or should we see it as part of a loop in the ever-renewing cycle of life?

The Shanghai Biennale does not only take place at the Power Station of Art from April 17 to July 25, 2021 but also in public spaces, notably with its Hydroamer course, which explores Shanghai’s aquatic past. Hydroamer offers the possibility for visitors and locals to rediscover waterways that have been hidden or diverted, as well as to penetrate the hydrological texture of time and space, but above all to create an emotional connection with the city thanks to the water element. This investigative route also integrates the Yangzi Jiang River fed by the Three Gorges Dam, the main theme of the installation, the main theme of Michael Wang‘s installation (read his interview in Impact Art News #27), from the Zheng Mahler collective, Diane Severin Nguyen and Kyriaki Goni.

While we might eagerly await the reopening of cultural spaces, outdoor art tours and exhibitions – beyond the confines of gallery walls – offer unique opportunities to experience art in a different way, and to experience oneself as a species, as a walker, or as a part of nature itself… and not just simply as a spectator.

This program announces the summer season and testifies to the ingenuity of artists to create in situ, in harmony with the living landscape and the rich history of the places themselves. 

Pauline Lisowski and Céline Chiasera


In this article :

Desert X 2021, Coachella Valley,  from 12 march 2021 to 16 may 2021
ÜberNatur Natural Takeover, KölnSkulptur, from 1st august 2020 to 31 july 2022
Life, Olafur Eliasson, Fondation Beyeler, 18 avril 2021 – 11 juillet 2021
Cosmic Nature, Yayoi Kusama, 10 avril – 31 octobre 2021
13th Gwangju Biennale « Bodies and water », Shanghai, 17 avril 25 juillet 2021

Other exhibitions :

Môtiers 2021Art en plein air, Môtiers, Switzerland,  from 20 june to 20 september 2021
P(ART)cours, Biennale d’art contemporain, Auderghem, Woluwe-Saint-Pierre et Woluwe-Saint-Lambert, Belgium, from 25 april to 27 june 2021
Horizons, massif du Sancy, from 12 june to 19 september 2021
Like a force of Nature, Superflex, Miami

April 2021

Credits: Life, Olafur Eliasson, ©ATS / Serge Attukwei Clottey, The Wishing Well, ©Lance Gerber


Find the Impact Art News n°29 – April 2021

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