"I paint forms as I think them, not as I see them,” Picasso once said, and this month we’re going to be seeing a lot of the Modern master’s thinking on view in New York with a slew of shows dedicated to his revolutionary career. Chief among these is the megawatt debut of Leonard Lauder’s Cubism collection at the Met, with his historic gift of art—33 pieces by Picasso, 17 by his co-conspirator Braque, 14 by Léger, and 14 by Juan Gris (all valued at over $1 billion)—telling the story of the still-mysterious aesthetic breakthrough that modernized the tradition of painting. Flanking this milestone show, two of the city’s biggest galleries, Pace and Gagosian, are going head-to-head with a pair of scholarly exhibitions examining different aspects of Picasso’s oeuvre, with the former probing the late works he made under the spell of his 46-year-younger last wife, Jacqueline, and the latter surveying the Picasso relationship with the camera. The Gagosian show, the fifth in its indispensable series curated by the magisterial Picasso biographer John Richardson, will in particular serve as a useful adjunct to the Met exhibition, given Cubism’s rejection of the world as seen through the camera’s lens in favor of internal, philosophical truths.
Perhaps you’ve heard of Camille Henrot? The winner of the Silver Lion for best young artist at the 2013 Venice Biennale and the inaugural 2014 Nam June Paik award—and shortlistee for the 2014 Hugo Boss Prize—the French-born Henrot is an Internet-age alchemist, fusing science (botany, anthropology, biology) with myth and misinformation to create artistic gold. On the heels of her acclaimed New Museum show earlier this year (and in advance of her New York gallery debut at Metro Pictures next fall), the artist has turned her hand to curation this month, co-organizing “Puddle, Pothole, Portal,” the debut show at the newly expanded SculptureCenter that she and Ruba Katrib contrived to investigate the strange, ambivalent nature of humor. The joke’s on anyone who misses this excellent and timely show.
MoMA, October 4–January 18
Things are getting a bit hairy at MoMA these days. Literally: objects on the museum’s second floor (a generous slab of cheese, for instance) are sprouting dark body hair. There are also disembodied legs protruding from the walls, fixture-less sinks that oddly seem to smile at you, a headless Christ spouting water from his nipples, a gallery transmuted into a mirrored autumn forrest, and other hints that you have entered the land of the suburban surreal—the mesmeric realm occupied by Robert Gober, the artist now receiving a career retrospective at the Modern. Every object in the show, no matter how banal on first glance, rewards extended looking, as testaments to craft and extraordinary attention to the details that separate the real from the unreal.
A mid-career Brazilian artist, Valeska Soares has a far larger profile south of the equator than she does in the United States, even though her delicate yet psychologically freighted sculptures and installations—most famously her trompe l’oeil carved marble pillows, worthy of Canova—have been displayed around the world. (She’s a mainstay of biennials from Venice to São Paulo to Sharjah to San Juan.) Her new show at Eleven Rivington is an excellent opportunity to see her work in New York, where she also has a solo presentation at the Jewish Museum upcoming, before she decamps to Basel’s Museum Tinguely for “Belle Haleine—The Scent of Art,” an exhibition inspired by the iconic perfume bottle created by Rrose Sélavy (né Duchamp).
MoMA, October 12–February 8
So, along with the Gober retrospective, MoMA is also opening a modest little display, oh nothing special, by a French artist named Henri Matisse. It’s, like, a bunch of decoupage pieces from the last years of his career, when he was suffering from deteriorating mobility and eyesight and took up scissoring painted paper into compositions because he could no longer paint. So what if these include some of his most beloved works, like Icarus, his Blue Nudes, and the Jazz suite, along with entire room-sized displays recreated from his studio in Nice? It’s not like this exhibition was the most popular show in Tate Modern’s history when it was displayed there earlier this year, drawing over half a million people and requiring the museum to stay open for 36 hours straight over its last weekend to satisfy demand. Oh wait, it was?
The Turner Prize-winning artist Chris Ofili has been a bit chary, let’s say, of showing in New York City ever since a certain Mayor Rudolf Giuliani threatened to defund the Brooklyn Museum for showing his absolutely gorgeous The Holy Virgin Mary—a 1996 painting of a black Madonna with a bared breast made from dried elephant dung, surrounding by putti made from female genitalia cut from porn magazines—as part of the 1999 stateside leg of Saatchi Gallery’s “Sensation” show. Well, now the retired mayor (who is currently busy defending the makers of “Call of Duty” from a lawsuit by former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega) will have a chance for self-improvement by touring the first comprehensive retrospective of the brilliant artist’s work in New York, showing how the onetime choir boy’s use of elephant dung arose from its respectful employment as a fertility symbol in certain African traditions, and putting it in the greater context of his lyrical, spiritual, and wholly unique body of work.
SARA GREENBERGER RAFFERTY
Rachel Uffner Gallery, October 26–December 21
Humor, Hollywood, and the outward image are recurrent preoccupations for Sara Greenberger Rafferty, who over the past decade—since her breakout 2006 show at MoMA PS1, organized by Alanna Heiss—has created photo-based works that explore the slapsticky comedic history of the silver screen, often in disturbing ways. This year has been a big one for the artist, who was included in both the Whitney and Hammer biennials (as if anything could top her inclusion in last year’s “Jew York” survey), and her first show of new work in three years at Rachel Uffner Gallery is sure to be an event, taking on the possibility of the gallery’s new two-story space for the first time.
Philadelphia Museum of Art, October 21–January 4
One of the masters of American photography, Paul Strand was an early member of the circle of the great artist, dealer, and all around Modernist Alfred Stieglitz, working alongside figures like Georgia O’Keeffe and Arthur Dove in the early part of the 20th century to create an utterly American artistic idiom—one that, through Strand’s lens, manifested as a high/low mashup of stately, sober composition and the readymade subject matter of the streets. Toward the end of his life, when he had turned his camera to the private garden he tended in Orgeval, France, Strand donated a comprehensive collection of his photography to the Aperture Foundation as a gift to future generations, and in 2012 the organization sold the holdings of nearly 4,000 prints, intact, to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Now, for the first time, the entire body of work will be put on view in a landmark exhibition, “Paul Strand: Master of Modern Photography.”
Time plays funny tricks on people. Who would have guessed that Tracey Emin, the wild child who scandalized YBA-era London with the frank eroticism of her visual sex diaries (and her rock-star public behavior), would morph into a beloved Royal Academician, bearer of the Olympic torch during the 2012 London games, and espouser of Tory politics? Now, 15 years after her masterpiece of oversharing, My Bed, was shortlisted for the Turner Prize, Emin is debuting her first show of new work in London in five years, presenting a wide range of art—from bronzes to embroideries to neons to her extraordinary drawings—while continuing to mine her romantic core. “The work is about rites of passage, of time and age,” the artist has said of the show, “and the simple realization that we are always alone.”
CERITH WYN EVANS
Frieze Projects, October 15-18
A born collaborator (and not in the Chamberlain way), the Welsh artist Cerith Wyn Evans has created films with Tilda Swinton and the late Derek Jarman, videos with Genesis P-Orridge and the Smiths, and dance performances with the choreographer Michael Clark. His more personal body of work is similarly convivial, consisting of lovely looking if somewhat abstruse site-specific text installations pulling quotes from such cultivated thinkers as Brion Gysin, Judith Butler, and the ever-piquant Marquis De Sade. This month, for his contribution to Frieze London’s Projects section, Wyn Evans is pulling together an unusually diverse (even for him) group of co-conspirators, including the animals of the London Zoo (where the piece is sited), the avant-garde musician Susan Stenger, and, from beyond the grave, the Italian artist Gino de Dominicis, whose gallery-filling 1970 installation Zodiaco—consisting of living representations of the Zodiac’s signs—was a touchstone for the project.