Exhibitions showcasing art from around the globe

While art often crosses borders, from the national to the cultural, certain bodies of work carry strong connotations of place. Here are seven exhibitions across the bloc that spotlight countries and cultures outside the EU
“Olga Costa: Dialogues with Mexican Modernism” at Museum der bildenden Künste Leipzig | Photo: Alexander Schmidt/Punctum, 2022

By Emma Harper

Emma Harper is an assistant editor at The Parliament Magazine

27 Jan 2023

Embroidered Gardens: Ottoman Textiles from the Borg Collection

Pergamonmuseum, Berlin, Germany

embroidered gardens ottoman embroideries
Napkin embroidered with pomegranate and hyacinth motifs (detail), Turkey, 18th century © Claus Uhlendorf

The Ottomans had a rich textile tradition, as any visitor to Istanbul will tell you​. H​andwoven silk kaftans fit for a sultan radiate luxury at Topkapı Palace, and every tour guide at Dolmabahçe Palace is sure to point out the 124 square metre Hereke carpet. But the intricate Ottoman embroideries currently ​on ​exhibit at Berlin’s Pergamonmuseum are lesser known, most likely because they were treasures of the domestic sphere. Forming part of a young woman’s dowry, these finely wrought fabrics were often embroidered with silk threads and sometimes even silver or gold thread. Their motifs did not have to hew to courtly style, resulting in more eclectic and intimate​ forms​. Until 16 April 2023

Gauri Gill

Gauri Gill
Jannat, Barmer, from 'Notes from the
Desert' series, 1999 © Gauri Gill

Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebæk, Denmark

For more than two decades, the New Delhi-based photographer Gauri Gill (1970) has trained her lens on the outsiders of modern India, exploring the strategies people employ to swim and stay afloat in a sea of precarity. Her quiet images – ​including​ intimate portraits of women from the marginalised communities in Rajasthan ​and​ improvised scenes of daily life with the subjects wearing papier-mâché masks made by local artists – capture moments of humour and resistance, as well as uncanny beauty, and reflect the artist’s collaborative process. 26 January-10 April 2023

Moussem Cities Tehran

Bozar, Brussels, Belgium

golrokh nafisi moussem cities Tehran
Continuous City © Golrokh Nafisi

As protests smoulder in Iran despite a brutal crackdown, the challenges facing artists in ​the ​country – particularly their lack of artistic freedom and mobility – have never been as apparent. Despite this immense pressure, Tehran is ​a ​dynamic centre for contemporary art. Moussem Nomadic Arts Centre, an organisation with roots in Antwerp’s Moroccan community, is partnering with Bozar (as well as Kaaitheater, KVS, Cinema Aventure and Comment peut-on être persan?) to showcase the art coming out of the Iranian capital with Moussem Cities Tehran, a three-day extravaganza of films, concerts and installations​.​ ​F​or the latter, visual artist Golrokh Nafisi reflects on the idea of the cultural metropolis in different continents with her hand-embroidered curtains, in-situ murals, textiles and more. 2-4 February 2023

Olga Costa: Dialogues with Mexican Modernism

Museum der bildenden Künste Leipzig, Leipzig, Germany

olga costa la vendedora de frutas
La vendedora de frutas, 1951, Acervo Museo de Arte Moderno. INBAL/Secretaria de Cultura, © VG Bild-Kunst Bonn, 2022 / SOMAAP

An important figure in Mexican modernism, Olga Costa (1913-1993) is having a homecoming of sorts: before her Ukrainian Jewish parents moved the family to Mexico in 1925, they lived for a time in Leipzig, where Costa was born. The city is now ​hosting ​the first major institutional exhibition of her work in Europe. ​Costa​’s confident paintings reflect a deep commitment to her adopted country’s culture, landscape, nature and people – La vendedora de frutas (1951), for instance, shows off the staggering variety of Mexican produce, while objects of indigenous culture are often staged in her still lifes. Until 26 March 2023

ZENGA ⁠–⁠ Japanese Zen Paintings from the Kaeru-An Collection

zenga japanese zen paintings
ZENGA, National Gallery Prague, 2022

National Gallery Prague – Salm Palace, Prague, Czech Republic

Such a comprehensive exhibition of Japanese Zen art is a rarity in Europe. And to think, this is only a selection of the black-and-white ink paintings and calligraphy that the Dutch collector and sound artist Felix Hess donated to the National Gallery Prague in 2019. What makes these works so arresting is their simplicity: the sparse yet effective use of ink brushstrokes demonstrates the beauty in imperfection and asymmetry. Until 12 March 2023

Afghanistan, Shadows and Legends

Musée national des arts asiatiques – Guimet, Paris, France

afghan season
Plate with triton and makaras, Afghanistan © MNAAG, Paris, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Thierry Ollivier

Part of the larger Afghan Season programme, organised to celebrate the centenary of the Délégation archéologique française en Afghanistan, this exhibition highlights the importance of Afghanistan’s built heritage while also digging into issues related to the conservation, restoration and preservation of archaeological sites and works. Running concurrently is a presentation of the country’s contemporary textile tradition. Until 6 February 2023

Sabiha Çimen – Hafiz

Kunsthal Rotterdam, Rotterdam, Netherlands

sabiha cimen hafiz
Students riding a train at a fun fair over the weekend.
Istanbul, Turkey, 2018 © Sabiha Çimen/Magnum Photos 

The Turkish photographer Sabiha Çimen (1986) has turned heads with her portraits of girls studying at Quran schools in Turkey​. A​t last year’s Paris Photo Fair​ she​​ ​received the First Photobook Award for her debut book,​ titled​ Hafiz​ (“one who remembers”) after the​ term used by Muslims for a person who​ memorises the Quran by heart. ​A​ former Quran school student, Çimen records the daily lives and hidden emotions of these girls as they make friends, push boundaries and try to shape their identities – the universal acts of adolescence. Until 7 May 2023

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