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Picasso | © Pere coba/Flickr
Picasso | © Pere coba/Flickr
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The Best Global Exhibitions Of 2015

Picture of Hazel Rowland
Updated: 21 April 2016
With hubs based all across the world, The Culture Trip is in a unique position to offer you the most comprehensive and authoritative round-up of the best exhibitions of 2015. It’s unlikely that you managed to catch them all, but at least you can now know what you’ve been missing out on!

Picasso Mania, Paris

Spanish artist Pablo Picasso pulled apart the foundations of art as the world knew it, only to reassemble them over a career spanning a phenomenally prolific 50,000 pieces. This exhibition, which is being hosted at Galeries nationales du Grand Palais until February 2016, rides the waves of inspiration Picasso sent through the art world over the decades, juxtaposing derivative works by contemporary artists (Hockney, Johns, Lichtenstein, Warhol, Kippenberger) with the masterpieces that inspired them.

+Humans, Barcelona

Currently still on display until April 2016 at the CCCB gallery, +Humans looks at the human species. The exhibition focuses on the limits of our bodies and discusses the ethical and social boundaries in our search for perfection. It also raises many questions about what it is to be human in today’s world and discusses multiple aspects of the increasing role of technology in our lives.

Claude Monet: Waterlilies | © Public domain/Wikicommons
Claude Monet: Waterlilies | © Public domain/Wikicommons

Looking East: How Japan Inspired Monet, Van Gogh, and Other Western Artists, San Francisco

Hosted by San Francisco’s Asian Art Museum, this exhibition on view until February 2016 explores the many movements and artists affected by Japanese art, including the great impressionist and post-impressionist painters Vincent van Gogh, Mary Cassatt, Edgar Degas, Paul Gauguin, and Claude Monet. Juxtaposing masterpieces of Western art and design with rare works by prominent Japanese artists, the exhibition reveals the interplay of new styles and themes inspired by Japan.

Unpacking The Studio: Celebrating the Jehangir Sabavala Bequest, Mumbai

Held at Mumbai’s prolific museum Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (CSMVS), this was an exhibition of never-seen-before works that were bequeathed to the museum by the Jehangir Sabavala’s wife, Shireen. A contemporary of M.F. Husain, Tyeb Mehta, and V.S. Gaitonde, Jehangir Sabavala was not known as India’s best modern artist, but was a true outlier with his unique sense of art.

IMG_8659 Kehinde Wiley | © libby rosof/Flickr
IMG_8659 Kehinde Wiley | © libby rosof/Flickr

Kehinde Wiley: A New Republic, The Brooklyn Museum

Exploring timeless themes of race and cultural representation, Kehinde Wiley: A New Republic was one of New York City‘s most talked-about exhibitions in 2015. Wiley’s iconic, large-scale oil paintings portray everyday African American men and women in contemporary dress, presented in deliberate juxtaposition to the aesthetic of ‘traditional European portraiture’. Through the creation of this stark visual – and subsequently cultural – contrast, Wiley draws attention to the African American narrative, and empowers his otherwise ordinary subjects by placing them, front and center, in a historically exclusive setting.

Sebastião Salgado’s Genesis, Berlin

Salgado is a photographer renowned for his powerful social commentary through documenting the lives of indigenous communities. This year’s exhibition at C/O Berlin saw Salgado turn his lens towards the natural world. Valleys, mountains, and tundras were all captured in beautiful black-and-white images, as both a paean to the wonders of our planet and a warning of just how much we are on course to lose. Genesis presented a stark reminder of the trajectory we as a species are on.

Amy Winehouse | © Fionn Kidney/Flickr
Amy Winehouse | © Fionn Kidney/Flickr

Amy Winehouse: A Family Portrait, San Francisco

This exhibition at the Contemporary Jewish Museum gave an inside look at the late musician, and was especially relevant with the simultaneous release of the Amy documentary this year. The exhibit and its related public programs garnered considerable interest from the community in San Francisco.

7000 Museums: A Project For The Republic Of India, Mumbai

The Bhau Daji Lad Museum hosted a continuation of the Museum’s curatorial series Engaging Traditions, which invited artists to respond to the museum’s collection, history, and archives through a collection of public tours and workshops. The exhibition referenced defining moments of art history as well as the semantics of museums and museum displays.

beaute congo
‘La femme surchargée’, Pierre Bodo, Beauté Congo (installation view) | © Stephanie Carwin

Beauté Congo, Paris

The first-ever retrospective of Congolese art, this exhibition presented by The Foundation Cartier – now extended until mid-January 2016 – has brought over 350 works by 41 artists to the international stage. Exploring Congolese art from 1926 to 2015, Beauté Congo introduces powerful contemporary African painting to a Western audience stuck on tribal notions of African art. Moreover, this exhibition has offered an unprecedented look into the artistic expression of a country torn apart by war and suffering – the works exhibited show the vibrant, colorful, sensual, and sometimes humorous sides of life in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

1 day, 1 Photo, 31 photographers, 365 days, Catalonia 2014, Barcelona

This exhibition in the creative center of Arts Santa Mònica displayed 365 photographs by 31 photographers capturing life in Catalonia during the year of 2014. With one image for each day of the year, the curators at Arts Santa Mònica rotated the photographers and exposed viewer to bold images of everyday life.

Ai Weiwei in his studio in Beijing, taken in April 2015 | © Harry Pearce/Pentagram, 2015
Ai Weiwei in his studio in Beijing, taken in April 2015 | © Harry Pearce/Pentagram, 2015

Ai Weiwei, London

One of the most anticipated exhibitions of 2015, the infamous Chinese artist Ai Weiwei took over the Royal Academy in London this autumn. The exhibition brought together older works as well as unique pieces created specifically for the gallery to create a fully immersive experience. The spectator was confronted with challenging issues such as censorship and freedom of speech but, in true Ai Weiwei style, in a humorous and ironic way.

ARTWORK_Irene Wibawa_D14-15_2014-A_photo artist w
Irene Wibawa / Courtesy of A Place of Her Own

A Place of Her Own, San Francisco

Women visual artists responded to the question, ‘If you had a place of your own, what would it be?’ in an exhibition rooted in healing and transformation. This visual art exhibition featured more than 30 artworks and large-scale installations that excavate the vibrant dreams and hopes of women. A Place of Her Own amplified the voices of 20 women artists with diverse cultural perspectives ranging in age from 24 to 89 years old. Exhibited artworks — marked by a saturation of color, imaginative use of materials and visual storytelling — highlight the personal, yet universal, journey to seek out and claim a place without external rules or expectations. Accompanying events and interactive installations invited the audience to join the journey.

David Bowie | © AVRO/Wikicommons
David Bowie | © AVRO/Wikicommons

David Bowie Is, Paris

Hosted by the Paris Philharmonic, this striking exhibition took us on a journey through the unparalleled life and multiple identities of David Bowie. With more than 300 objects from the legendary rockstar’s life and career, David Bowie Is allowed 200,000 Parisian visitors to see the world through the eyes of Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane, the Thin White Duke, and the many other characters created by this exceptionally creative musical force.

Rethinking The Regional, Mumbai

This exhibition at the National Gallery of Modern Art, Mumbai featured the works of artists from different regions of Maharashtra. It covered a wide spectrum of the art scene from the 1940s and 1950s up through the present time, bringing a new focus on artists from all over Maharashtra and giving them their due. The exhibition covered art schools, art pedagogies, patronage, connoisseurship, and regional art literature.

Salvador Dali and Man Ray | © Public domain/Wikicommons
Salvador Dali and Man Ray | © Public domain/Wikicommons

Disney and Dali: Architects of the Imagination, San Francisco

Ted Nicolaou curated this immersive, educational, and enriching experience at the Walt Disney Museum that tells the story of the unlikely alliance between Salvador Dalí and American entertainment innovator Walt Disney. Presented through an interactive multimedia experience of original paintings, story sketches, conceptual artwork, objects, correspondence, archival film, photographs, and audio — many of which highlight work from Disney studio artists Mary Blair, Eyvind Earle, John Hench, Kay Nielsen, and more — this comprehensive exhibition showcases two vastly different icons who were drawn to each other through their unique personalities, their mutual admiration, and their collaboration on the animated short Destino.

The Photographers 2015 Exhibition, London

Split between two galleries, Osborne Samuel and Beetles + Huxley, the Photographers 2015 Exhibition provided all photographers and photography lovers the best Christmas present, showcasing the most important and iconic photographs throughout the last century. With photographs ranging from Kate Moss’ portfolio to landscape photographers, fashion to artistic photographers, there was something to inspire every person who viewed this exhibition.

Art Nouveau & Art Déco, Brussels

Characterized as an artistic movement more affiliated with Paris, Art Nouveau and Déco also has its roots in Brussels, Belgium. During the month of October 2015, tourists and locals were able to get a glimpse inside some of the finest examples of Art Nouveau in the city. Usually closed to the public, this was a rare opportunity to discover and learn more about the history behind these architectural gems.

Between Life and Death: Robert Motherwell’s Elegies in Bay Area, San Francisco

Mounted in celebration of the centennial of the artist’s birth, this one-room exhibition presents thirteen works by the pioneering Abstract Expressionist Robert Motherwell (1915–1991) from his seminal series Elegies to the Spanish Republic. On view until March 2016, the exhibition at San Francisco’s de Young Museum features At Five in the Afternoon (1950), one of the earliest works in the series, as well as prints from the artist’s books in the Achenbach collections. Additional works from the series are drawn from other local private and public collections.

Le Jour ni l’Heure by Jean-Michel Basquiat | © Renaud Camus/Flickr
Le Jour ni l’Heure by Jean-Michel Basquiat | © Renaud Camus/Flickr

Jean-Michel Basquiat: Now’s The Time, Toronto

While Toronto had a brilliant year in terms of art exhibitions, it was the Art Gallery of Ontario’s blockbuster show, Jean-Michel Basquiat: Now’s the Time, that came out on top. Jean-Michel Basquiat took the art world by storm in the early 1980s and he became internationally renowned for his powerful artworks, addressing issues of racism, identity and social tensions before his art career was cut short by his death at age 27. Since their creation, his works – which express ideas through symbols, images and text – have sparked dialogue and empowerment, which the AGO further facilitated through performances by local youth in the gallery space. With over 150,000 attendees, Now’s the Time was one of the AGO’s 14 best attended exhibitions.

Xenopolis, Berlin

Featuring a number of artists from across the globe, Xenopolis made a study of capital cities imagined as places that defy ownership: people from across the world gravitate towards capitals, bringing with them their own histories and traditions. With startling installations like collections of cacti in clear plastic wagons, Xenopolis presented a mixed-media study of globalization, identity, and cultural expression. The exhibition was curated by Simon Njami and presented works by Theo Eshetu, Jan-Peter Sonntag, Anri Sala, Loris Cecchini, Laurence Bonvin, and Mwangi Hutter.