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  • Theaster Gates, Amalgam, coming to Tate Liverpool in 2020

2020 highlights: the year’s unmissable exhibitions

Curators, critics and makers pick the most promising shows on the horizon

Gillian Lowndes. Image: York Art Gallery / Centre of Ceramic Art

Andrew Bonacina 
Chief curator, The Hepworth Wakefield 

Magdalena Abakanowicz at Tate Modern (17 June – 13 September) will be a significant reassessment of the work of this great Polish sculptor. Particularly exciting will be the rare opportunity to see a large grouping of her Abakans: the large-scale textile sculptures for which she became internationally renowned. Through these works – at once monumental in scale and intimate in their reflection of bodily forms – Abakanowicz pioneered a radical new language for fibre in the 1960s that continues to influence contemporary textile work.

Equally groundbreaking are the ceramic sculptures by Gillian Lowndes which will be brought together in At the Edge, a survey at the Centre of Ceramic Arts (CoCA) at York Art Gallery (until May). Like Abakanowicz, Lowndes pushed her materials to their limits. I love the grittiness of her collaged sculptures with their unlikely marriage of fired clays and found objects.

Simone ten Hompel 

I’m looking forward to The Maker’s Eye (28 March – 20 June; see page 89) at the Crafts Council’s new gallery. Inviting makers to curate a show is refreshing: seeing work from our perspective is interesting as I believe we look at objects differently.

I always enjoy Munich’s International Trade Fair for the Skilled Trades (11-15 March) and Munich Jewellery Week (9-15 March). It’s like the Edinburgh Festival, but for jewellery. I don’t know why more people aren’t aware of it – it’s both focused and vast. It’s a good time to see a lot of new work from emerging talent alongside more established makers. One of the highlights is the open-call show Schmuck. Handwerkskammer (an organisation that oversees and supports all tradespeople) presents Talente – a platform for up-and-coming craftspeople. Meister der Moderne at Munich’s Internationale Handwerksmesse (11-15 March) has also caught my attention. It’s not only jewellery – it features ceramics, wood, metal and more. Whatever they select, it is always interesting.

Kimono. Image: courtesy of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Peter Ting 
Co-founder, Ting-Ying Gallery 

Having spent most of my life looking at objects that move between east and west, kimonos have always been on my radar. I love that the V&A’s show Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk (29 February – 21 June) will include everything from 17th century kimonos to a kimono-inspired suit from Thom Browne’s 2016 spring/ summer collection.

I’m also looking forward to Values of Design: China in the Making at Design Society, Shenzhen, China (until 20 December). This amazing building by Fumihiko Maki sits between mountains, Shenzhen city and the sea, symbolising Design Society’s role as an important cultural interface between China and the world, and its ambition to explore new frontiers for design. The title of this show is important as China has now fully entered a stage at which it is creating design, and has left the ‘workshop of the world’ title well behind. Shenzhen is the city of the future, yet this exhibition showcases how designers and artists look at Chinese traditional crafts to create new ideas and thinking.

Simon Olding 
Director, Crafts Study Centre 

2020 marks the centenary of the founding of The Leach Pottery in St Ives and a good deal of my time will be spent thinking and writing about Bernard Leach. Two exhibitions re-examine the pottery’s legacy.

Century of Connections at The Leach Pottery (21 March – 7 November) explores global connectivity – not just through the east/west axis that was travelled by its visionary founders Shōji Hamada and Bernard Leach, but also through the strength of the wider Leach diaspora. When borders are being set up, pots reveal a world of making that is transnational and visa-free. A reflective and compassionate curatorial approach is also evident in Started it in England: Hamada and Leach, in Two Ways at Japan’s wonderful Mashiko Museum of Ceramic Art (28 June – 8 November).

In addition, I’ll be heading to the outstanding Ruthin Craft Centre in Wales to see Mastery: Women in Silver (17 October 2020 – 10 January 2021) – the first exhibition to celebrate Britain’s women silversmiths.

Charlotte Hodes. Image: courtesy the artist

Gregory Parsons 
Independent curator and designer 

The first exhibition on my list is Fabric: Touch and Identity at Compton Verney in Warwickshire (14 March – 14 June). This features among other things the wonderfully exciting and creative work of Reiko Sudo and Nuno Textiles from Japan. It is a rare opportunity to experience their work in the UK, which makes it a must for textile aficionados and others keen to learn from these masters of design and construction. The show explores fashion and textiles and how they ‘conceal, reveal and seduce through the lenses of art, design, fashion, film and dance’.

Another exhibition to look out for is Remember Me: Charlotte Hodes Papercuts and Ceramics at The National Centre for Craft & Design, Sleaford (11 January – 22 March). I worked with Charlotte to install this show when it was hosted by Ruthin Craft Centre in 2019. It is a tour-de-force of paper and ceramic manipulation, with enchanting imagery that captures the imagination through storytelling.

Sarah Griffin 
Independent curator 

Two solo shows in public collections that I am anticipating with great excitement are Sheila Hicks at The Hepworth Wakefield (24 June – 7 October) and Theaster Gates at Tate Liverpool (until 3 May). It is so encouraging to see The Hepworth steadily working its way through some of the great practitioners of our time. Gates’ mobilising of material and creativity to a socially engaged end is necessary and invigorating. I hope the close proximity of Tate to Liverpool’s Granby Workshop will also shed more light on their brilliant work.

Emma Hart will be exhibiting new work at The Sunday Painter in south London early this spring, following her Fruitmarket Gallery show in 2018 and Whitechapel installation in 2016. I cannot wait to see how her imagination manifests in clay this time. Corvi-Mora gallery in Lambeth will be showing the work of Shawanda Corbett (19 March – 25 April), an American artist based in the UK, who movingly marries live performance, image-making and ceramics.

Simòn Ballen Botero. Image: courtesy Design Parade Hyères

Riya Patel 
Curator, The Aram Gallery 

Every year, the winners of the Design Parade Hyères – an international competition for young designers, held at the modernist Villa Noailles – get to do a residency in ceramic research at Sèvres and work with glass at Cirva in Marseilles. The outcomes are exhibited in a solo exhibition in early summer the following year. There’s always a diverse selection, making it a great place to spot new talent – in the stunning south of France. This year the Parade takes place from 27-30 June, but the exhibitions at Villa Noailles stay open to the public until late September.

Elsewhere in Europe, Vienna plays host to one of the best-curated design weeks in the calendar (25 September – 4 October), and a highlight for me is always Passionswege. This is a project that matches young designers with some of the city’s centuries-old artisanal workshops, where they work to re-invigorate traditional techniques. Each learns from the other, often with surprising results.

Malaika Byng
Editor, Crafts 

The Michelangelo Foundation made a splash with the inaugural edition of Homo Faber in Venice in 2018, commandeering the island of San Giorgio Maggiore with 16 exhibitions, including a survey of 100 years of the vase, and a display on the craftsmanship behind bespoke vehicles. It returns again (10 September – 11 October) with a line-up of big-hitting curators, including American theatre director Bob Wilson and Japanese designer Naoto Fukasawa. During the last edition, our critic felt it failed to engage with broader socio-economic issues. I’m fascinated to see if these curators will show what craft has to say about today’s burning issues.

A highlight at Birmingham’s Ikon Gallery is an exhibition by aboriginal glass artist Yhonnie Scarce from Woomera, South Australia (9 April – 31 May), whose work explores the political nature of materials and will respond to the crystallisation of desert sand by British nuclear testing on her homeland between 1956-63. A hard-hitting show with a fragile material.

This article originally appeared in Crafts issue 282, Jan/Feb 2020

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