celebrating the 20th century
LONDON THE YEAR 1900: ART AT THE CROSSROADS ROYAL ACADEMY OF ARTS (JAN. 16-APRIL 3). A reassessment of the birth of modern art, this millennial show looks at the cultural currents that swirled around the year 1900, hoping to find what gave birth to the 20th century's various styles and "isms." Juxtaposing works by fledgling avant-gardists such as Picasso and Mondrian with canvases by French academic painter Bouguereau, Pre-Raphaelite Burne-Jones, and the stars of the 1900 World's Fair, this exhibition remaps history. At New York's Guggenheim May 19-Sept. 13. —Kim Levin
London ART NOUVEAU 1890-1914 Victoria and Albert Museum (April 6-July 30). Perhaps the most comprehensive exhibition ever on Art Nouveau, this show presents an array of seductive artworks and decorative objects — and suggests wildly diverse sources for the development of the sinuous fin-de-siècle style. PHOTOGRAPHS BY SNOWDON: A RETROSPECTIVE National Portrait Gallery (Feb. 25-June 4). Featuring glam portraits of stage greats, irreverent fashion photographs, and documentary pictures for the London Times, this show takes a close look at the best of Lord Snowdon. RUSKIN, TURNER, AND THE PRE-RAPHAELITES Tate Britain (March 9-May 28). Much as Clement Greenberg championed a generation of American artists, the Victorian critic John Ruskin shaped the aesthetic of the late 19th century. This exhibition marks the 100th anniversary of his death, gathering his own artwork and more than 250 paintings by Turner, Rossetti, and others whom Ruskin either praised or condemned. (Closer to home, in New Haven, "Ruskin: Past, Present, Future," at the Yale Center for British Art, surveys the influential critic's manuscripts, drawings, and watercolors, through February 27.)
Paris THE OTHER SIDE OF EUROPE Jeu de Paume (Feb. 8-June 21). Divided into four parts, this exhibition looks at memory, ideology, and the culture of secrecy in the countries that were once "behind the Iron Curtain."
New York WALKER EVANS Metropolitan Museum of Art (Feb. 1-May 14). In the first comprehensive retrospective of Evans's photographs, 175 images are on display, including his indelible portraits of coal miners, cotton pickers, and subway riders. And there's a footnote: "Walker Evans and African Art, 1935" (Feb. 1-Sept. 3) comprises 50 vintage prints of tribal sculpture from a series produced during MOMA's groundbreaking 1935 show of African art. THE WORLDS OF NAM JUNE PAIK Guggenheim Museum (Feb. 11-April 26). Four decades of the Korean-born video pioneer's electronic sculpture, installations, and television projects. A site-specific installation fills the museum's rotunda. MOMA 2000: MAKING CHOICES Museum of Modern Art (March 16-Sept. 12). The second cycle of the museum's millennial trilogy focuses on the years between 1920 and 1960, reconsidering utopian visions, the art of social protest, and the backlash against Modernism. ONE HUNDRED FAMOUS VIEWS OF EDO Brooklyn Museum of Art (Feb. 18-April 23). Utagawa Hiroshige's ukiyo-e prints inspired Monet, van Gogh, Whistler, and Degas. A complete set of woodcuts, rarely on view, depicts daily life in 19th-century Edo (now Tokyo) across four seasons.
Philadelphia THE SPLENDOR OF ROME: ART CAPITAL OF THE 18TH CENTURY Philadelphia Museum of Art (Feb. 16-May 28). With 320 works by more than 160 artists, this exhibition surveys the eternal city's artistic wealth and vitality.
Washington, D.C. TREASURES FROM THE TOPKAPI, ISTANBUL Corcoran Gallery of Art (March 1-June 15). More than 200 precious objects from the Ottoman Empire, all of which once graced the sultan's palace. Among them are bejeweled ceremonial objects, elaborately inlaid desks, illuminated manuscripts, and statuettes made of pearls.
Columbus, Ohio ILLUSIONS OF EDEN: VISIONS OF THE AMERICAN HEARTLAND Columbus Museum of Art (Feb. 18-April 30). With more than 100 paintings and photographs from the 1920's to the 40's and four contemporary environmental projects (including one by Maya Lin), this exhibition homes in on the utopian, isolationist, rural face of the Midwest.
Detroit VAN GOGH: FACE TO FACE Detroit Institute of Arts (March 12-June 4). Everything from early drawings to the frenzied yet lucid portraits van Gogh painted in Arles, in which he hoped to capture "something of the eternal."
Minneapolis LET'S ENTERTAIN Walker Art Center (Feb. 12-April 30). Works by more than 50 artists — from Andy Warhol's Warhol TV to Cindy Sherman's Untitled (Film Stills)— put a whole new spin on popular culture.
San Francisco SOL LEWITT: A RETROSPECTIVE San Francisco Museum of modern art (Feb. 19-May 21). A pioneer Conceptualist known for providing haiku-like instructions for others to execute his systematic art. Here are 200 works spanning four decades, from LeWitt's photographs to his skeletal cubes and colorful geometric murals.
Santa Ana, Calif. THE SECRET WORLD OF THE FORBIDDEN CITY Bowers Museum of Cultural Art (Feb. 6-Sept. 3). Some 300 precious Qing dynasty objects from the royal palace (now the national museum in Beijing), and the bicycle of the last emperor, Pu-Yi. —K.L.
Traveling Exhibitions THE ART OF BLOOMSBURY at the Yale Center For British Art, New Haven, May 20-Sept. 3. PHOTOGRAPHS BY CARLETON WATKINS at the National Gallery, Washington, D.C., Feb. 20-May 7. Nineteenth-century satirist HONORÉ DAUMIER at the Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C., Feb. 19-May 14. NORMAN ROCKWELL at the Chicago Historical Society, Feb. 26-May 21. SCYTHIAN TREASURES FROM UKRAINE at the Walters art gallery, Baltimore, March 7-May 28. The Stroganoff family's collection at the Portland art museum, Portland, Oreg., Feb. 19-May 31. PHARAOHS OF THE SUN at the Los angeles county museum of art, March 19-June 4. EGYPTIAN ART IN THE AGE OF THE PYRAMIDS at the Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto, Feb. 13-May 22. Eighteenth-century painter CHARDIN at the Royal Academy of Arts, London, March 11-May 29. THE ART OF THE MOTORCYCLE at the Guggenheim Bilbao, Spain, through April 23.
New YorkPLATÉE New York City Opera, April 11-22; 212/870-5570.With sets by Adrianne Lobel, costumes by former fashion designer Isaac Mizrahi, and choreography by wild man Mark Morris, this incarnation of Jean-Philippe Rameau's French Baroque opera about a swamp-dwelling nymph with romantic designs on Jupiter assumes lively new dimensions. No courtiers in powdered wigs here. French tenor Jean-Paul Fouchecourt reprises the title role in the production, which was first seen at the 1997 Edinburgh Festival. DER RING DES NIBELUNGEN Metropolitan Opera, March 25-April 22 (cycle 1), April 24-29 (cycle 2), May 1-6 (cycle 3); 212/362-6000. Wagnerians have several chances to see this 16-hour tale of feats and follies both human and divine in Otto Schenk's masterly staging of the Ring Cycle. THE ETERNAL ROAD Brooklyn Academy of Music, Feb. 28-March 5; 718/636-4100. Kurt Weill's monumental oratorio is the centerpiece of BAM's five-part celebration of the iconoclastic composer. The first modern German-language production of this work to be mounted in the United States, it is performed by a cast of several hundred. DANCE Paul Taylor Dance Company, City Center, Feb. 29-March 12; 212/581-1212. The company celebrates its 45th anniversary with two New York premieres — Cascade, set to music by J. S. Bach, and Arabesque, with music by Debussy — and classics from a four-decade-long repertoire.
Houston COLD SASSY TREE Houston Grand Opera, April 14-30; 713/227-2787. Carlisle Floyd's opera, based on the best-selling book, is this composer's third work to draw on an American novel. Australian filmmaker Bruce Beresford (Driving Miss Daisy) directs Dean Peterson as the aging widower whose marriage to the young Patricia Racette sets tongues wagging in a Southern town. CLEOPATRA Houston Ballet, March 9-19; 713/227-2787. Choreographer Ben Stevenson fashions a new, full-length ballet based on the amorous tribulations of the legendary Egyptian queen and her Roman suitors, Julius Caesar and Mark Antony.
Paris WAR AND PEACE National Opéra de Paris, Bastille, Feb. 18-March 11; 33-1/43-43-96-96. Prokofiev's adaptation of Tolstoy's epic tale gets the opulent staging it deserves, with a cast of more than 50, not including the choruses. The new production is directed by American Francesca Zambello, known for her unorthodox takes on the classics.
Munich FAUST Bayerische Staatsoper, Feb. 28-March 17; 49-89/2185-1920. Seductive tenor Marcelo Alvarez assumes the title role in Gounod's operatic treatment of Goethe's masterpiece. Australian Simone Young, who made her debut at the Met in 1996, conducts.
London THE GREEK PASSION Royal Opera, April 25-May 8; 44-207/403-4000. A group of refugees takes shelter in a Greek village, and the results are tragic. This rarely produced 1959 opera by Czech composer Bohuslav Martinu is certainly bleak, but also surprisingly transcendent. British director David Poutney brings to life one of Martinu's most searing scores.
South Australia WRITING TO VERMEER Telstra Adelaide Festival, March 2-7; 61-8/8216-4444. The Australian premiere of the latest opera by Dutch composer Louis Andriessen and filmmaker Peter Greenaway focuses on Vermeer's masterly depictions of women home alone. —Mario R. Mercado
Led by the director of New York's Whitney Museum, Maxwell Anderson, a team of six curators from across the country assembled the museum's first 21st-century biennial (March 23-June 4). This version of America's most watched — and most maligned — show dedicated to the state of contemporary art will present the work of everyone from seventies activist Dennis Adams to nineties portraitist Lisa Yuskavage. Perhaps, as the museum hopes, it really will be a meeting of minds. —K.L.
Beaubourg Is Back
One of the 20th century's most radical buildings, the Pompidou Center in Paris reopened last month after a two-year, $90 million renovation. When the museum was unveiled in 1977, some hailed it as a breathtaking architectural achievement; others likened its façade of exposed steel trusses, painted pipes, and glass tubing to an oil refinery. But after two decades of wear and tear, everyone agreed that this futuristic cultural pantheon, which houses France's top collection of modern art as well as research facilities, had become a decrepit hulk. Now on view at the refurbished Pompidou is a retrospective dedicated to architect Renzo Piano, who, together with Richard Rogers, designed the building. —Michael Z. Wise
As part of the transformation of London's Somerset House into an art emporium, the two-story vaults that once held the country's birth and death certificates have been reconfigured as a series of galleries. They will house some of the 800 objects amassed by British-born Arthur Gilbert, including such rare items as gold snuffboxes that belonged to Frederick the Great. Gilbert, who made his fortune in California real estate, acquired these treasures from Britain's historic houses when the Crown couldn't afford to do so. Now they return home. Opens May 25; The Strand; 44-207/240-5782. —M.R.M.
New York WHO'S ON TOP Playwrights Horizons, through march 26; 212/279-4200. James Lapine's latest comedy begins when a man and a woman meet at a Manhattan party. As they share a joint and divulge their lives to each other, they contemplate the travails of art and marriage.
Chicago VALPARAISO Steppenwolf Theatre, Feb. 3-March 26; 312/335-1650. In novelist Don DeLillo's fourth play, a businessman heads to Valparaiso, Indiana. Along the way he encounters a chorus and a TV talk-show-host-cum-oracle, who force him to account for his past.
Los Angeles RICHARD FEYNMAN Mark Taper Forum, March 26-May 14; 213/628-2772. Alan Alda plays the eccentric Nobel Prize-winning physicist (who solved the mystery of the Challenger disaster) in this new work by Peter Parnell.
San Francisco THE INVENTION OF LOVE American Conservatory Theater, through Feb. 13; 415/749-2228. London's Evening Standard called Tom Stoppard's portrait of English poet A. E. Housman the best play of 1997. James Cromwell (The Green Mile) stars in the American premiere.
Seattle KING HEDLEY II Seattle Repertory Theatre, March 6-April 8; 206/443-2222. Threats of gang violence permeate the third play in August Wilson's series about the lives of African-Americans over several decades.
Two very different films from Asia open this month: one is a panoramic view of China's imperial past; the other, a tender vision of Tibet's exiled religious community living in the mountains of Bhutan.
A 2,000-year-old society springs to life in The Emperor and the Assassin, director Chen Kaige's epic drama about the reign of China's first emperor, Ying Zheng (246-210 b.c.), whose ferocious military skills and relentless campaigns of terror united seven warring kingdoms under a central government. Ying Zheng thought big: his monumental building projects included the beginnings of the Great Wall and the imperial tombs near Xian, where he was buried not far from an army of thousands of terra-cotta soldiers.
Chen, whose credits include Farewell My Concubine, knows a bit about larger-than-life personalities. His Ying Zheng is a childlike creature, driven mad by a lust for absolute power. Only Lady Zhao, his childhood love — played by the ever-luminous Gong Li — crosses him and survives. (Replicas of the royal palaces where their love bloomed and faltered are now part of a theme park in Dongyang, a city in Zhejiang province.)
Another sort of journey leads to Chokling Monastery, in the foothills of the Himalayas in remote Bhutan. Where others might see a busy religious institution, the Bhutanese director Khyentse Norbu — who is also a high lama in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition — saw the raw material for his first feature, The Cup. The monks play themselves in this simple yet subtly affecting story about a cheeky young novice who practically moves heaven in order to watch the greatest game on earth, the last match of the World Cup.
Low-budget filmmaking in Bhutan posed certain challenges. "The nearest place for cheap camera rentals is in Australia," Khyentse Norbu says. "You have to fly the equipment in and drive seven days over mountains." But being a high lama can work to a filmmaker's advantage. "I just said I had to do this," he admits, "and all the monks did as I wished." —Leslie Camhi