If there was any doubt that Richard Serra was one of our greatest living artists, just watch how the biggest powerhouses in contemporary art are twisting themselves into Torqued Ellipses to get their hands on his work. This month David Zwirner Gallery is devoting the entirety of its gorgeous new 20th-Street supergallery to the artist's vitally important early work, the lead, vulcanized rubber, and steel pieces that he made from 1966 to 1971 and which helped inaugurate the age of Post-Minimalist process art. (A still from a highlight of that era, Hand Catching Lead (1968), is available on Artspace.) Gagosian Gallery, evidently jealous that one of the stars of its stable is showing with its arch-rival, is responding with a show in Beverly Hills of Serra's recent oilstick drawings, which were shown to magnificent effect in his 2010 Met survey. Add to these shows the fact that Venice Biennale curator Massimiliano Gioni has included the artist in his upcoming "Encyclopedic Palace" exhibition and you can see what amounts to a major Richard Serra moment.
It's easiest to say that Karen Kilimnik is a painter—it's what she's best known for by far, through canvases that blithely mix celebrity icons (Paris Hilton, most famously) with the tradition of classic European painting—but that only scratches the surface of her talents. This month, a show of her new work is opening at Zürich's Eva Presenhuber Gallery (April 6–May 18) and the survey "Dance Rehearsal," unpacking her long engagement with theatricality (both in her paintings and in her spectacular installations, which some may remember from her 2012 Brant Foundation show), will be on view at the MCA Denver through June, confirming that this is Kilimnik's moment to be recognized for the all-arounder that she is. Likewise, her recent solo booth at the ADAA's Art Show has pegged her as a bona fide market star.
Aesthetic fireworks can be expected this month when Urs Fischer invades the land of John Baldessari, opening a sweeping show of his work from over the last decade at Los Angeles's MOCA for his first career museum retrospective (April 21-August 19). While the Swiss artist is only 40, this is a very big deal: considered one of the most innovative artists working today, Fischer has carved out a sui-generis place in the art world with Surrealism-inflected works that merge bleeding-edge technology with deep psychological unease. (Looking at his art, as with Bruce Nauman's work, something in the viewer instinctively recoils—in the most intriguing way.) One thing to forward to: Fischer has a track record of demolishing or otherwise mutating his exhibition spaces with his perverse flights of fancy, and for this show he has enlisted a "multitude" of volunteers to help him realize a large-scale clay installation, and "no previous knowledge of working with clay is necessary."
Claes Oldenburg is already beloved for his floppy fans and other surrealistic takes on everyday objects, but in recent years a steady drumbeat of shows has been framing him as more than just a family-friendly sculptor, and instead as a titan of American avant-garde art. This welcome reappraisal continues apace this month with the opening of a quartet of mini shows at MoMA (April 14–August 5) spotlighting different major series from the '60s and '70s—including his famous installation The Store (1961–64)—to be followed at the Walker Art Museum this September with "Claes Oldenburg: The Sixties," a battleship of a survey organized by Vienna's MUMOK museum (and coming complete with catalogue essays by famed art intellectuals like Benjamin Buchloh). Also, those walking down Madison Avenue on the way to MoMA will be in for a bonus treat: the limited-time display of Typewriter Eraser, an Oldenburg sculpture that sold for $2.2 million at auction in 2009 and is now up for private sale at Christie's.
Think Takashi Murakami is famous now? Just wait until he goes Hollywood. This month the artist is holding the premiere of his much-anticipated film Jellyfish Eyes at LACMA (April 8), throwing back the curtain on a feature-length monster movie that will bring his various characters (including the eponymous critter, available on Artspace) to life through the magic of no-expense-spared CGI animation. The result is a jaw-dropping visual extravaganza—and political parable, complete with nuclear conspiracies, young love, and city-crushing action—that maintains the kind of fidelity to Murakami's art that could only be possible with the artist himself behind the camera. Meanwhile, the artist is also opening a show at L.A.'s Blum & Poe—his first in the city in five years—presenting new work relating to the notion of an arhat, or a person who has achieved a state of enlightenment.
Eve Sussman has been acclaimed for her lavishly produced video tableaux, and this month her crowning achievement, the breathtaking 2004 piece Rape of the Sabine Women, will form the centerpiece of a new show at Miami's Bass Museum of Art (April 12–August 11). The exhibition will also call attention to the other strong work she has done with her production company, the Rufus Corporation, like 89 Seconds at Alcázar (a paean to Velázquez's Las Meninas that, despite being shown at the 2004 Whitney Biennial, is still lesser-known), as well as displaying plentiful documents relating to the making of Sabine Women.
DIEGO RODRÍGUEZ DE SILVA Y VELÁZQUEZ
Considering that Velázquez is widely seen as the greatest painter ever to lay oil on canvas, and considering that he only made about 110 paintings in his lifetime, the fact that a new portrait is visiting the Metropolitan Museum of Art this month (April 16-July 14) is bound to cause a stir. Never before lent to an American institution, the Spanish master's 1638 portrait of Duke Francesco I d'Este—a famously sensual masterpiece, with the duke's louche smile accentuated by the upcurl of his black mustache—the painting will be paying a visit to the Met's six other Velázquezes (a tremendous trove in their own right) only because its home at Modena's Galleria Estense was ravaged by the Emilia Romagna earthquakes of May 2012.
Like his late contemporaries Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat, Kenny Scharf has been a key figure in the translation of street-art culture from the walls and train yards of New York City to the fine-art galleries of Chelsea, applying the graffiti burner's tools of trade (spray paint, acrylic, scrawled words) to canvases. This month Scharf will be unveiling two prominent new efforts that will take his impishly playful, cartoonish style in different directions: a solo show at Paul Kasmin Gallery (April 4–May 4) debuting a new series of squiggly monochromes that tackle one of the more austere schools of painting, and a Munch-esque blue sculpture of a screaming cartoon head at the Standard Hotel by the High Line. (Also, Scharf fans with a sweet tooth for his doughnut paintings should make sure to attend his show's opening, where it's rumored that Doughnut Plant will be doling out goodies based on the confectionary canvases.)
One of the greatest Italian photographers of the last century, Luigi Ghirri is today known to connoisseurs for his perfectly uncanny images drawn from everyday life—capturing, for instance, the moment a paddle ball hit on the beach hovers in mid-flight on the horizon light, becoming indistinguishable from a distant setting sun—but his influence in his medium is far greater, owing to his single-minded devotion to supporting color photography in his home country. All but unknown at his death in 1992, Ghirri has been undergoing a renaissance in recent years, including a Matthew Marks show curated by Thomas Demand and a joint showing in the last Venice Biennale with Gabriel Kuri, but signs suggest he's now primed for a true apotheosis: he's on the cover of the new Artforum, his largest retrospective to date is opening at Rome's MAXXI Museum this month, and, touchingly, the Italian color photographers he promoted during his life will be the focus of this summers Italian pavilion at the Biennale.
Visitors to Amsterdam in years past will undoubtedly recall venturing into the musty, somber 19th-century castle of a museum that is the Rijksmuseum to see Rembrandt's Night Watch and other treasures of the Dutch golden age. Now, starting April 13, art pilgrims will find the institution vastly changed as the result of a 10-year, $500 million renovation project—one that both modernized the museum, including the creation of a 24,000-square-foot, Turbine Hall-sized public space (a current must-have for art capitals), and brought it back to its original grandeur by stripping away ill-considered additions and ornaments incurred over the years.