Groupthink: The Best Group Exhibitions From Beirut to Beijing

01/16/2015 12:02 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017
As we mark the start of the 2015 season, we’ve collected some of the most outstanding group exhibitions currently on view around the world, from Beirut to Beijing. The curatorial forces behind these exhibitions move from meditations on particular mediums, such as painting or photography, to works by artists united by geography or movement, to collections of works that correspond to specific films, working methods, or even notions of time and space.
Compositions
Compositions, installation view, 2014. Courtesy of Metropolitan Art Society, Beirut.
In Compositions, Paris-based dealer Linda Balice of Balice Hertling brings together a heterogeneous grouping of photographs, paintings, sculptures, and mixed-media works from artists based in Beirut and Paris, both young and established. Black-and-white photographs by Olivier Zahm play against Karen Chekerdjian’s sleek and minimal installations, while the geometric velvet compositions of Isabelle Cornaro abut the rough-hewn materiality of Eloise Hawser’s compacted sculptures. Throughout, the artworks complement and contrast with the marble floors and elegant archways of MAS Beirut’s distinctive Ottoman and Florentine architecture. The exhibition opened December 20, 2014, and is expected to run for two or three months.
The Shell (Landscapes, Portraits & Shapes)
, a show by Eric Troncy
Richard Phillips, Ingrid II, 2013. Courtesy of the Artist and Almine Rech Gallery.
Curated by Eric Troncy, The Shell (Landscapes, Portraits & Shapes) takes as its point of departure a 1981 quote by Peter Schjeldahl: “Modern art history has ceased to represent a road traveled, and has come to seem an encircling panorama.” The show enjoys the reckless contextlessness of contemporary image engines like Tumblr or Google through the specificity of the medium of painting. Troncy convenes an impressive collection of canvases from the likes of Alex Katz, Julian Schnabel, Sturtevant, Betty Tompkins, David Hockney, Joe Bradley, Bridget Riley, David Ostrowski, Richard Phillips, Karen Kilimnik—the list goes on—with each painting representing, in his words, “a moment in this panorama, a memory from the road.” The exhibition runs from January 10 to February 14, 2015.
Ma-re Mount
Carl Andre, Liz Deschenes, R. H. Quaytman, Ma-re Mount, installation view, Galerie Buchholz, Köln 2014. Courtesy of Galerie Buchholz, Berlin/Cologne.
In lieu of a straightforward solo show at Galerie Buchholz, artist Liz Deschenes instead decided to contextualize her works with those of other artists. One gallery shows Deschenes’s work in juxtaposition with new work by Florian Pumhösl, and the second gallery space draws parallels between Deschenes and three other artists—Carl Andre, Richard Prince, and R.H. Quaytman—who all happen to share roots in the region of Merrymount, Massachusetts. This innovative yet seemingly arbitrary curatorial approach results in a show of surprising historical, formal, and aesthetic linkages. Each artist is represented by a single work, while a collection of historical artifacts from the area provides further context. A text by fellow Massachusetts native Ed Halter, written specially for the show, expounds on the fascinating history of the area. This is a compact show, but one that runs deep from November 12, 2014 to January 31, 2015.

The Memphis Group

The Memphis Group, installation view, Koenig & Clinton, New York. Courtesy of Koenig & Clinton, New York, Photo: Jeffrey Sturges, New York.
Architect, designer and founder of the Memphis Group, Ettore Sottsass once described Memphis design as “like a very strong drug. You cannot take too much. I don't think anyone should put only Memphis around: It's like eating only cake." The implications of Memphis overload can be directly witnessed at Koenig & Clinton where a show of the iconic international design group that caused a stir in the eclectic 1980s is currently on view. The show assembles an impressive array of furniture and decorative objects, displayed on a dizzying backdrop of black and white stripes. It is raucous, colorful, and ebullient, overflowing with optimism and exuberance. You can catch the show from December 18, 2014 to January 31, 2015.
Zabriskie Point
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Zabriskie Point, installation view. Courtesy of Jack Hanley Gallery, New York.​
Antonioni’s 1970 film Zabriskie Point, with its simmering subtexts of protest, race relations, and the gap between idealism and reality, has a particular poignancy in our contemporary moment. Jack Hanley Gallery in New York uses the film as a departure point for its eponymous group exhibition, featuring works by Sarah Braman, Ryan Foerster, Jessica Jackson Hutchins, Ann Greene Kelly, David Benjamin Sherry, Letha Wilson, and B. Wurtz. The stark desert landscape of Death Valley and its dramatic eroding hills find visual complement here in the folds of fabric of Hutchins’ sculptures and the cut-up photographs of desert dunes by Letha Wilson; Antonioni’s gratuitous explosions are evoked by Wurtz’s installations; and Foerster’s photographs echo fleeting encounters with a lover in the desert. The exhibition runs until February 8, 2015.
REFRACTION. THE IMAGE OF SENSE
REFRACTION. THE IMAGE OF SENSE, installation view. Courtesy of the artists and Blain|Southern, Photo: Peter Mallet, 2014.​
Timur Si-Qin, Premier Machinic Funerary X: KNMWT 15000, 2014. Courtesy of the artist and Société, Photo: Peter Mallet, 2014.​​
Now that the 21st century has reached its adolescence, more and more exhibitions grapple with questions regarding its distinctively digital character. REFRACTION. THE IMAGE OF SENSE, at London’s Blain|Southern, points to the different ways art mediates the experience of the “networked society.” Curated by Peter J. Amdam, the entry point to the exhibition is Bill Viola’s premonitory 1973 work Information, around which is arranged the work of eight other artists, all born in the 1980s (but for Elias Hansen, born in 1979). The exhibition ranges from the obvious—Timur Si-Qin’s post-internet plexi constructions and Michael Manning’s digital screensaver painting—to the more obscure—Magali Reus’s box-like sculpture diptych and Ida Ekblad’s graffiti-inspired paintings—and illustrates the ways we now move effortlessly between the material and the digital. The exhibition is open from December 10, 2014 to January 31, 2015.
Gallery Wendi Norris, San Francisco
The Return to Reason
Stephen Gill, Talking to Ants, 2009 – 2012. Courtesy of Gallery Wendi Norris.
Taking its title from Man Ray’s 1923 film Le retour à la raison, this group show at Gallery Wendi Norris in San Francisco, curated by Allie Haeusslein of Pier 24 Photography, features five contemporary photographers who employ photographic tools in expressive, experimental and multivalent ways. The artists—Stephen Gill, Yamini Nayar, Chloe Sells, Lorenzo Vitturi, and Hannah Whitaker—exploit the expectations we hold of the flat photographic plane through various interventions that play with perspective and orientation. From the insertion of objects within the camera that distort or obscure the image captured on film, to the re-photographing of extant dissembled photographs and other materials to produce disorienting vignettes, these works complicate, fragment, and thereby reveal the many lenses through which we view the contemporary photograph. The exhibition opens on January 15, and runs until February 28, 2015.
Tif Sigfrids, Los Angeles
Speed Space
Speed Space, installation view, 2015. Courtesy of Tif Sigfrids, Los Angeles.
Kelly Akashi, Downtime Machine, 2015. Courtesy of Tif Sigfrids, Los Angeles.
The press release for Speed Space, curated by Alexandra Gaty, neither distills nor illuminates the concept or curatorial conceit of the exhibition, rather it simply compiles a list of hyperlinks to various articles on technology and science, from cosmological discoveries to the latest in genetics research—as though the body of the text had suddenly gone missing, and you were left to infer the meaning of an essay through the footnotes alone. The works in the exhibition all speak, in some manner, to the impossibly broad topic of “space and time,”—visual indices of this could be folds (John Houck), transparency (Alex Hubbard), pendulums (Marina Pinsky), light (Yunhee Min), fire (Kelly Akashi) and other devices. This exciting and rather perilous (watch those exposed flames!) exhibition runs January 10 to February 21, 2015.
Unlived by What is Seen
Beijing Voice, Unlived by What is Seen, installation view. Courtesy of the artists and Pace Gallery.​
More than a year in the planning, with three curators, 34 participating artists, and spanning three exhibition spaces, Unlived by What is Seen is a major event in Chinese contemporary art and one without any actual, discrete works of art on display. The curators, artists Sun Yuan, Peng Yu and independent curator Cui Cancan, focus instead on the stories, the practices, the relationships between artists—in short, the way art infiltrates “into various social sectors and aspects of life.” They maintain that this is a reflection of a recent trend in contemporary Chinese art in which artists are increasingly eschewing the creation of physical objects or images in favor of actions that intertwine with everyday life. All three exhibitions opened on December 13, 2014, and will remain on view until March 15, 2015.