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10 Mind-Bending Exhibitions You Need To Attend in 2015

10 Mind-Bending Exhibitions You Need To Attend in 2015

Picture of Julie Daunt
Updated: 6 January 2017
2015 is a record year for exhibitions that push the boundaries of art and visitor experience, with participation and interaction key aspects to these shows. Solo and group exhibitions, intriguing installations and curious technologies are attracting numerous visitors worldwide. From hyper-realistic sculptures in London, to interactive installations in Dublin, to cutting-edge media works in New York, here is a list of the top ten exhibitions you need to attend before this year is out.

Hayward Gallery Southbank Centre, London | Carsten Holler’s Decision

10 June – 6 September

Taking place in the Hayward Gallery in the Southbank Centre in London, Decision is the largest show Carsten Holler has had in the UK to date. Overflowing from the gallery space, the exhibition aims to confront viewers and probe ideas of perception and decision making. Training as a scientist, Holler specified in agricultural entomology before he changed direction to become an artist. His resulting works push the boundaries of art and science. Highly experimental, his installations invite visitor’s to interact and to participate with the works. Visitor experience is at the forefront of this exhibition, altering how we perceive exhibitions and art. Decision features mirrors, doubles and intriguing objects that will have viewers curious and captivated. Nothing is quite as it seems.

Southbank Centre, Hayward Gallery, Belvedere Road, London, United Kingdom. +44 20 7960 4200

Science Gallery, Dublin | Secret: Nothing to See Here

7 August to 1 November

We all have our secrets, and at the Science Gallery in Dublin, their latest exhibition Secret investigates the themes of privacy and surveillance. The exhibition features a number of works by a variety of artists. One such installation, 0,16, transforms visitor’s shadows into pixels on a screen, blurring the boundary between reality and technology. Another work, Unit 8200, looks inside the mind of current and former members of the Israeli Central Collection Unit of the Intelligence Corps. Intimate interviews and MRI scans of their brain activity are presented, this installation reveals how those involved in secrecy process information, and what happens when information is blocked. Meanwhile, password security is analysed by Forgot your Password, a work which recalls the summer 2012 incident where LinkedIn was hacked by Russian cyber criminals. Millions of passwords were decrypted and posted online. Eight volumes are included in the exhibition and contain 4.7 million clear text user passwords, and visitors are invited to find theirs.

Science Gallery Dublin, Naughton Insitute, Trinity College Dublin, Pearse Street, Dublin, Ireland. +353 1 896 4091

Bitforms Gallery, New York | Memory Burn

10 July – 16 August

Presented by Bitforms Gallery in New York, Memory Burn takes its inspiration from Adolfo Bioy Casares’ 1940 novel, The Invention of Morel. In this novel, the protagonist is stranded on a desert island. He becomes obsessed with a tourist named Faustine, but discovers she and other tourists are mere three-dimensional projections produced by a machine. The novel progresses with the protagonist merging with the machine’s memory, which leads to certain death. The exhibition explores the ideas of death and mortality in relation to digital media and modern technology. The title refers to unforgettable memories burned into our minds as well as the process of archiving digital material. The exhibition features a wide variety of media, each documenting aspects of life. Must see works include Body Paint – 46inch/Male/White by the Japanese duo Exonemo, which features a painted LCD screen that places a recording of a performer in matching bodypaint, and Rafael Lozano-Hemmer’s Level of Confidence which remembers the mass kidnapping of 43 students from the Ayotzinapa normalista school in Mexico. There is also a virtual space that has been created in conjunction with the exhibition which further probes the theme of memory.

Bitforms Gallery, 131 Allen Street, New York, USA. +1 212 366 6939

Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebæk | Yayoi Kusama

17 September – 21 January

An icon within the contemporary art world, Yayoi Kusama has been creating innovative and complex artworks for over six decades. Emerging onto the art scene in New York in the 1960s, Kusama has carved herself a unique path and style which has made her a household name worldwide. This Kusama exhibition at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Humlebæk see a return of Kusama’s striking works to Denmark following the success of her 2008 installation Gleaming Lights of the Soul at the museum. This retrospective tells the full story of the artist and how her fantastical world is created, but also places an emphasis on her interest in fashion and design, making it the first retrospective to do so. Early watercolour and pastel works sit alongside sculpture and paint works from the 1960s. Along on display are a number of new creations by the artist which include installations and paintings, all of which were especially produced for this exhibition, making it a must see.

Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Gl Strandvej 13, 3050 Humlebæk, Denmark. +45 49 19 07 19

Walker Art Center, Minneapolis | Hippie Modernism: The Struggle for Utopia

24 October – 28 February

The counterculture of the 1960s and 1970s had a lasting effect, and the developments of the movement are investigated in the latest exhibition at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. Entitled Hippie Modernism, Art, architecture and design are all explored, revealing artists’ search for utopia and their criticisms of modern society. The exhibition is loosely based on Timothy Leary’s famous mantra of “Turn on, tune in, drop out” and charts how counterculture evolved. The repercussions from advancements in pharmacology, new forms of spirituality and innovations in technology are revealed through the artworks and design creations from the period. This exhibition features a diverse range of media, from experimental furniture pieces, to immersive media spaces, to alternative publishing and ground-breaking films. This eclectic mix of art and artefacts casts a new light on one of the most vibrant and progressive periods in modern history, and how elements still resonate today.

Walker Art Center, 1750 Hennepin Avenue, Minneapolis, MN, USA. +1 612 375 7600

Palace of Versailles, Versailles | Anish Kapoor

9 June – 1 November

An unusual and absorbing exhibition can be found in the gardens of the Palace of Versailles. Walking through the beautifully landscaped gardens, visitors will be confronted by various sculptures by the British sculptor Anish Kapoor. For him, a sculpture or work of art does not come into being until it is experienced by its viewer. In Versailles, Kapoor aims to revive the history of the gardens, revealing its hidden secrets. What’s more, for the first time, the Jeu de Paume will also become an exhibition space, with Kapoor the first contemporary artist to be asked to exhibit their work there. This sporadic placement of innovative sculptural works dissects the controlled landscape of Versailles, creating a dichotomy between history and the modern day.

Palace of Versailles, Place d’Armes, Versailles, France. +33 1 30 83 78 00

Musée du Quai Branly, Paris | Tattooists, Tattooed

6 May – 18 October

Analysing the history of tattoos is the newest exhibition at the Musée du Quai Branly in Paris. Tattooists, Tattooed reveals how the role of tattoos in society developed in different parts of the world, specifically Japan, North America and Europe. The exhibition looks at how tattoos had religious, mystical and ritualistic purposes in ancient cultures, and how they became circus attractions and a mark of criminality in more modern societies. It also focuses on how tattoos developed as an art form. Visitors follow a path through history, from the Chalcolithic period to Roman times to the present day, observing photographs, tattoo artefacts and films. There are also 32 works created specifically for this exhibition, with drawings produced and blank canvases tattooed by world famous artists. Tattoo lovers should not miss this show.

Quai Branly Museum, 37 Quai Branly, Paris, France. +33 1 56 61 70 00

Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh | The Amazing World of M.C. Escher

27 June – 27 September


His works are immediately recognisable, yet the name M.C. Escher is not widely known outside of The Netherlands today. Hailing from the Dutch town of Baarn, Escher created impressive works of graphic art that reveal intricate details and mind-bending illusions. Originally studying to become an architect, his teacher advised him to switch to graphic art. As a result, his works are imbued with a precision and intricacy that reflects his initial architectural teachings. Escher was never part of an art group. He worked away quietly, producing hundreds of prints and drawings, 100 of which are included in this exhibition, The Amazing World of M.C. Escher at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh. The works on display come from the Geemeentemuseum in The Hague and explore his dedication and artistic talent. His works constantly transform before the viewer’s eyes, with his two-dimensional drawings becoming three-dimensional worlds.

Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, 75 Belford Road, Edinburgh, Scotland. +44 131 624 6200

Serpentine Sackler Gallery, London | Duane Hanson

2 June – 13 September

One of the most prolific hyper-realist sculptors in modern times, Duane Hanson’s career spanned forty years. Key works from his impressive oeuvre are on display at the Serpentine Sackler Gallery in London. This exhibition is the first major show of the late American’s work in London since 1997. Confronting visitors with stunning realism and intricate detail, Hanson’s sculptures depict working-class Americans and marginalised members of society. The banal and the everyday are transformed into sympathetic yet empowered works of art. His works portray controversial themes and harsh truths about society. Highlights of the show include Housepainter and Queenie II, and visitors will be captivated and mesmerised by Hanson’s impressive artistic skill.

Serpentine Sackler Gallery, West Carriage Drive, London, United Kingdom. +44 20 7402 6075

Kunsthalle Würth, Schwäbisch Hall | Art Kinetics Light

18 May – 10 January

Perception and delusion are key themes to the exhibition Art Kinetics Light at the Kunsthalle Würth in Schwäbisch Hall. Displaying works from the Würth collection, this exhibition focuses on the art movements of Kinetic and Optical Art which immerged during the 1950s and 1960s. This exhibition features the works of some of the most iconic artists from these movements, such as Josef Albers, Yaacov Agam, Carlos Cruz-Diez and Jesús Rafael Soto. These are complimented by the works of British artist Patrick Hughes, who pushed the boundaries of illusion and perspective. The developments of these art movements and the ideas of optical and kinetic forms of art are explored and celebrated in this impressive show.

Kunsthalle Würth, Lange Strasse 35, Schwäbisch Hall, Germany. +49 791 946720