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Mystic Drawings and Designing for Extinction: 2019 Highlights from the UK Art World and Beyond

UK-based critic Alice Rawsthorn, curator Helen Nisbet and museum director Martin Clark on what they’re looking forward to in the year ahead

The thoughts of design critic Alice Rawsthorn, author of Design as an Attitude (2018), curator Helen Nisbet, artistic director of Art Night, and Martin Clark, director of Camden Arts Centre, London.

Magdalene Odundo, Untitled, 1988. Courtesy: © Magdalene Odundo, private collection and Anthony Slayter-Ralph; photograph: Bonhams

Magdalene Odundo, Untitled, 1988. Courtesy: © Magdalene Odundo, private collection and Anthony Slayter-Ralph; photograph: Bonhams

Alice Rawsthorn

Alice Rawsthorn is the author of Design as an Attitude (2018) and Hello World: Where Design Meets Life (2013). She lives in London, UK.

One of the greatest ceramicists of our time, Magdalene Odundo will exhibit 50 of her pots together with ancient objects that inspired them in ‘Magdalene Odundo: The Journey of Things’ at The Hepworth Wakefield in Yorkshire (16 February–2 June) and then at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts in Norwich (3 August–15 December). Born in Kenya and educated in India and Britain, Odundo uses her work to interrogate her cultural identity, as well as ceramic traditions.

How design can help to repair the damage caused by industrialization is the theme of ‘Broken Nature: Design Takes on Human Survival’ (1 March–1 September) at La Triennale di Milano. Curated by MoMA’s design supremo, Paola Antonelli, ‘Broken Nature’ promises to be a thrilling and polemical show featuring specially commissioned works by Neri Oxman and Studio Formafantasma. La Triennale and its new president, Stefano Boeri, will then end the year with a retrospective of the work of the veteran Italian designer and design activist, Enzo Mari, curated by Hans Ulrich Obrist.

The centenary of the opening of the Bauhaus will be celebrated by countless exhibitions, symposia and books in 2019. Top of my reading list is a biography of the school’s founder, Walter Gropius: Visionary Founder of the Bauhaus, written by the cultural historian, Fiona MacCarthy and scheduled for publication in March. MacCarthy’s books on Eric Gill and William Morris are essential design reading, what will she make of Gropius?

Andy Holden, How the Artist Was Led to the Study of Nature, 2017, details of the sculptural installation of porcelain eggs in Andy Holden & Peter Holden, ‘Natural Selection’, 2017, installation view, former Newington Library, London. An Artangel commission. Photograph: Marcus J. Leith

Andy Holden, How the Artist Was Led to the Study of Nature, 2017, details of the sculptural installation of porcelain eggs in Andy Holden & Peter Holden, ‘Natural Selection’, 2017, installation view, former Newington Library, London. An Artangel commission. Photograph: Marcus J. Leith

Helen Nisbet

Helen Nisbet is artistic director of Art Night.

In January Natural Selectionthe 2017 Art Angel commission Andy Holden made with his dad Peter is travelling to Shetland and will be re-staged at my old school – the (no longer in use) Anderson High in Lerwick. No doubt the most exciting thing to happen there since Phillip Hope pulled down my Adidas Poppers in the cafeteria in full view of my entire year.

Jasleen Kaur's book Be Like Teflon, edited by the curatorial duo Panel and co-published by Dent de Leone and Glasgow Women’s Library launches in April. In May, I, alongside everyone else, am anticipating the 58th Venice Biennale, and I'm particularly excited that one of my favourite artists – Charlotte Prodger – is representing Scotland, curated by Linsey Young and a team of brilliant people. I'm also looking forward to seeing how the programme Structures That Cooperate curated by my successor at Cubitt, Louise Shelley continues to unfold over the year.

Of course I must also mention Art Night which takes place this year on 22 June in Walthamstow and King’s Cross. I'm biased, but the programme is shaping up very nicely!

Charlotte Prodger, Bridgit, 2016, film still. Courtesy: the artist and Tate

Charlotte Prodger, Bridgit, 2016, film still. Courtesy: the artist and Tate

Martin Clark

Martin Clark is director of Camden Arts Centre, London.

This spring, the Serpentine are presenting an exhibition of drawings by the great Swiss artist and healer Emma Kunz (1892-1963). The exhibition (opening 23 March 2019) has been conceived in dialogue with Cypriot artist Christodoulos Panayiotou (who, incidentally, will be following this project with a solo show of his own work at Camden Arts Centre in the autumn). Kunz constructed her extraordinary geometric abstractions using a pendulum technique she called radiesthesia, mapping diagrams of energy fields which assisted in her diagnoses of patients, as well as her search for answers to various spiritual and philosophical enquiries. It looks set to be a revelation. 

In May, I’m really looking forward to Charlotte Prodger’s new film, currently in production for Scotland + Venice. It follows on from her extraordinary single channel films Stoneymollan Trail (2015) and BRIDGIT (2016), as well as her recent Turner Prize triumph. She’s on something of a roll at the moment and I can’t wait to see her representing Scotland in Venice. 

In the autumn, back in London, Mark Leckey gets a very timely (and much anticipated) show at Tate Britain, opening 24 September 2019. If it’s anything like his incredible exhibition at MoMA PS1 in 2016 or the amazing trilogy of shows in Wiels, Haus der Kunst and Museo Madre a few years back, then it should more than live up to expectations. It’s high time he got this kind of platform in London and pairing him alongside a William Blake show opening at the same time is nothing short of inspired!

Main image: Emma Kunz, Work No. 003. Courtesy: Serpentine Galleries; photograph: © Emma Kunz Zentrum

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