Spring Culture Preview 2019: Colossal Art from Qatar to Hudson Yards

(Bloomberg Businessweek) -- A year and a half after the Louvre Abu Dhabi opened, the Gulf is getting another Jean Nouvel landmark—the National Museum of Qatar. Spread across more than 36 acres, the museum, which officially opens in Doha on March 28, contains 560,000 square feet of galleries, conservation space, theaters, educational facilities, and restaurants. “As you walk through the different volumes, you never know what’s coming next,” Nouvel said in a statement. “The idea was to create contrasts, spring surprises.”

One of those surprises will be the museum’s collection, which until now has been a tightly guarded secret. The Al-Thanis, the country’s ruling family, are some of the most prolific collectors in the world. Various branches of the clan own, among other works, The Card Players by Paul Cézanne, the 30-carat Shah Jahan Emerald, and a $142 million triptych by Francis Bacon. But more than 80 percent of the 94,000 square feet of gallery space will be devoted to the museum’s permanent collection, which focuses on “the environmental, cultural, and political ­history of Qatar.”

In total, there are 11 interlinked galleries on a ­1.5-­kilometer-long “visitors circuit,” a tour through the museum that’s supposed to take about two hours. At the end, museumgoers will arrive at the restored Royal Palace, an early 20th century mass of crenelated sandstone that’s dwarfed by the new building.

The project’s real star, at least for now, is Nouvel’s architecture. Designed to resemble a desert rose, a type of crystal formation that occurs in arid regions, it’s a riotous, tumbling collection of round planes that looks even better in reality than it did in renderings (a rare feat). In front of the museum, just past a highway, visitors can see the ­sparkling Doha Bay.

The museum is only one star in a constellation of cultural wonders coming this year. For more enticements from around the globe, read on through our spring preview.

Spring Culture Preview 2019: Colossal Art from Qatar to Hudson Yards


“Sorolla: Spanish Master of Light.” National Gallery, London
Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida isn’t exactly a Spanish secret, but he’s relatively unknown to the general public. That will change once this exhibition of 60 works opens, the first London retrospective of the artist since 1908. Viewers will experience Sorolla’s brilliant painterly glow: Sunlight breaks through sailcloth, waves sparkle, and flowers jump off the canvas. About a third of the works in the exhibition come from rarely seen private ­collections. March 18–July 7

“The World Between Empires.” Metropolitan Museum, New York
From 100 B.C. to 250 A.D., the cities of Petra, Palmyra, and Hatra were meeting points between the Roman Empire and Parthian Iran. In a locus of commerce and culture, they had an extraordinary output of art and architecture. Now, 2,000 years later, the Met will stage an exhibition of 190 objects from the era. March 18–June 23

“Ernesto Neto: Sopro [Blow].” Pinacoteca, São Paulo
Neto is one of Brazil’s most famous ­living artists, primarily because of his advocacy for indigenous Brazilians living in the ­rainforest. As the new government threatens protections for these people and their lands, Neto’s sprawling show sustains an unsettling urgency. March 30–July 15

“Tetsuya Ishida: Self-Portrait of Other.” Reina Sofía Museum, Madrid
Japanese artists have been at the forefront in depicting alienation in contemporary society, and Ishida, who died at 31 in 2005, could be the movement’s poster boy. Although his career lasted just 10 years, he created a large body of artworks—70 of which will be on display. April 11–Sept. 6

“Prehistory.” Centre Pompidou, Paris
“Prehistory,” the primitive time when human objectivity wasn’t quite formed, is a modern concept. Yet the idea, simplistic as it might seem now, was vitally important to many of the 20th century’s most prominent artists. The Pompidou is wading into these muddy waters with a show devoted to the topic. May 8–Sept. 16

Spring Culture Preview 2019: Colossal Art from Qatar to Hudson Yards


Music Wagner’s Ring Cycle. Metropolitan Opera, New York
The infamous Robert Lepage production returns, but this time we’re told that the $16 million production’s 45-ton machine that serves as the set for all four operas will ­actually work. Even if it doesn’t, it will be a guaranteed spectacle. March 9–May 11

Handel’s Semele. On tour
John Eliot Gardiner’s 1983 recording of Handel’s sensuous opera has been a lasting favorite since it was released. This spring he’s taking it on tour again, performing with the Monteverdi Choir and English Baroque soloists at locations in Barcelona, London, Milan, Paris, and Rome. April 8–May 8

Verdi’s Otello. Baden-Baden, Germany
The Berlin Philharmonic, arguably the best orchestra in the world, sets up shop for the resort town’s Easter festival. Conducted by Zubin Mehta, they’ll premiere a production of Verdi’s Otello, with star soprano Sonya Yoncheva as Desdemona. April 13–22

Anna Netrebko. Berlin
Anyone who’s heard Netrebko recently knows that she’s at the top of her game and likely the best soprano performing right now. She’s doing a recital with the conductor Daniel Barenboim at Berlin’s Staatsoper. Tickets are still available but are going fast. April 19–20

Barbara Hannigan. Ojai Music Festival, Ojai, Calif. 
The Ojai Music Festival is an annual cel­ebration of new and ­modern music, set in the lovely vacation town of Ojai, Calif., about two hours north of Los Angeles. Headed by Thomas Morris, the festival invites a different person to be music director each year. For 2019 that role will be filled by Barbara Hannigan, who first came on the scene as a dynamic soprano and has also become known as an inventive conductor. At this year’s festival, she’ll both ­conduct—­notably a semistaged production of Stravinsky’s neoclassical opera The Rake’s Progress—and perform in pieces by Schoenberg, Gérard Grisey, and John Zorn. June 6–9

Spring Culture Preview 2019: Colossal Art from Qatar to Hudson Yards


Butoh Theater. Kyoto, Japan
The first dedicated space for Butoh, the avant-garde Japanese dance theater that’s as much performance art as it’s actual dance, begins its spring season with a trio of recent works. There are two performances a night, three times a week, with space for just nine attendees at each. Through April 30

Break-Through! Stuttgart Ballet
The Stuttgart Ballet and the German National Theatre Weimar have commissioned world-famous choreographers Nanine Linning, Katarzyna Kozielska, and Edward Clug to create works to celebrate the centennial of the abolishing of the German monarchy and the founding of the Bauhaus school. March 28–July 9

Woolf Works. La Scala, Milan
The choreographer Wayne McGregor’s ballet triptych, inspired by Virginia Woolf, comes to La Scala for the first time. Alessandra Ferri and Federico Bonelli, two charismatic guest artists at the Ballet Company of Teatro alla Scala, will star in an almost universally lauded production. April 7–20

Night of 100 Solos
To mark the 100th birthday of the late American ­choreographer Merce Cunningham, the Barbican in London, BAM in New York, UCLA’s Center for the Art of Performance, and the Merce Cunningham Trust have banded together to create a concurrent, multi­city performance of his modern dance. Twenty-five dancers, along with an ensemble of musicians, will perform in each city for 75 minutes. A different dancer from Cunningham’s eponymous company will oversee each ­performance, and almost half of his former dancers will be involved. It’s the largest-­ever performance of one of the 20th ­century’s most important ­choreographers. April 16

Alexie Ratmansky. American Ballet Theatre, New York
The MacArthur genius Alexei Ratmansky has been artist-in-residence at ABT for 10 years and has created 15 works for the company. This season the organization will premiere another. Even better, it will roll out an all-Ratmansky program for four performances, including his delightful first work for the company, On the Dnieper. May 21–23

Spring Culture Preview 2019: Colossal Art from Qatar to Hudson Yards


Bernard-Henri LEvy’s Looking for Europe. On tour
Bernard-Henri Lévy, the French public intellectual, writer, filmmaker, and commentator, can now add a fifth profession to his résumé: In Looking for Europe, a paean to European unity that opened in New York last November, Lévy acts. In 22 European cities, he’ll perform a monologue that he’ll update before every performance. Guest appearances “might be made” by fellow celebrities. March–May 21

Betrayal. The Harold Pinter Theatre, London
As the final production in director Jamie Lloyd’s Pinter at the Pinter season, Tom Hiddleston stars in Betrayal, Pinter’s drama about a trio of lovers who, in their own ways, deceive themselves and one another. March 5–June 1

Die Ratten. Burgtheater, Vienna
Andrea Breth, the veteran Viennese director, chose a fairly bleak final production before leaving the Burgtheater. Written in 1911 by Gerhart Hauptmann, the tragedy follows the tale of a pregnant, unmarried domestic servant and the middle-class woman who tries to help her before social pressures tear the best-laid intentions apart. Maybe don’t bring the kids. March 27–the end of June

Norma Jeane Baker of Troy. The Shed, New York
A partly spoken, partly sung world premiere starring Ben Whishaw and the opera singer Renée Fleming, the production, staged by the director Katie Mitchell, is Anne Carson’s exploration of the lives of Marilyn Monroe and Helen of Troy. April 6–May 19

Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune. Broadhurst Theater, New York
The story of a short-order cook and a waitress’s date/one-night stand/relationship by Terrence McNally premiered in 1987 and has had several star-studded revivals since. This time around, Audra McDonald and Michael Shannon, both theater veterans, will bring their golden touches. May 4–Aug. 25

Spring Culture Preview 2019: Colossal Art from Qatar to Hudson Yards


Ruin and Redemption in Architecture
As architectural restoration moves from the paradigm of historic preservation and into the context of environmental sustainability (simply put, ripping down buildings is wasteful), publishing is catching up. The most recent example is Dan Barasch’s lovely paean to preservation masquerading as a coffee-table book. March 29

Young New York
Ethan James Green has bridged the gap between editorial photography and fine art more adroitly than anyone in recent ­memory. In his first monograph, black-and-white portraits of friends and acquaintances once again blend biography, style, and art. April 1

Bauhaus Goes West
The Bauhaus turns 100 this year, and museums around the world are celebrating the school that introduced the world to furniture, architecture, and art we now label ­midcentury. Bauhaus’s influence is in part a result of the teachers’ forced exile once the Nazis came to power. Walter Gropius, the school’s founder, made his way through England and ended up teaching at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design. Marcel Breuer, another ­architect/designer/teacher, followed Gropius to Harvard, then opened a practice in New York. The artists László Moholy Nagy and Josef Albers ended up at the Illinois Institute of Technology and Yale, respectively. This book, written by Alan Powers, tracks their unlikely journeys around the globe to preach the gospel of modernism. April 23

Camp: Notes on Fashion
The Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum in New York keeps churning out blockbusters. Next in line for the art and fashion coronation is the show “Camp: Notes on Fashion.” As good as it might be, its ­catalog, created by the Met and distributed by Yale University Press, should be even better. There’s new work by Johnny Dufort, a fashion photographer of the moment, and essays by academics and curators. June 4

Bertoia: The Metal Worker
At this point, Harry Bertoia (1915-1978) is best known for the latticed metal Diamond chairs he designed for Knoll, but a book by the art historian Beverly Twitchell argues that he should be equally credited as a sculptor and jewelry designer. March 29

Spring Culture Preview 2019: Colossal Art from Qatar to Hudson Yards

A Most Ambitious Amphitheater

Almost seven years and half a billion dollars in the making, the Shed, a mixed-use cultural complex, is finally set to open at the beginning of April. The 200,000-square-foot building, set on the edge of Hudson Yards on the far West Side of Manhattan, has an ambitious slate of programming for its inaugural season. The key draw for the institution will be new work commissioned expressly for its space, which features a unique telescoping roof. The opening production, Soundtrack of America, is a celebration of the impact of African American music on contemporary culture, conceived and directed by Steve McQueen. The season will also include a new work by Björk, a play by Anne Carson, and an exhibition and series of live performances conceived by painter Gerhard Richter and the composers Arvo Pärt and Steve Reich. Tickets to many of the opening performances are already sold out, evidence that for many, the Shed was worth the wait.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: James Gaddy at jgaddy@bloomberg.net, Chris Rovzar

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