Guide to the Best Contemporary Art Shows in Europe this Summer

10 May 2018

by ArtRabbit

If you’re lucky enough to be doing a bit of vacationing in Europe this summer, or even if you’re just in town for work and have some time in between meetings, we wanted to share with you our favourites from across the continent.

It’s hard to believe the past few months have gone by so quickly, and that only last week we were complaining about the weather. Well actually, being based in London, bemoaning the weather happens all year round. In between those spots of grey, we get our fair share of sunshine that inspires us to leave the safety of our bedrooms and soak in as much art as we possibly can. But when that inevitable lukewarm dreariness of bad weather hits, we take it as a sign to skip town and find amazing art elsewhere. In doing so, our list of exhibitions to see continues to grow.

If you’re lucky enough to be doing a bit of vacationing in Europe this summer, or even if you’re just in town for work and have some time in between meetings, we wanted to share with you our favourites from across the continent. Here are some of our top picks for European Art Cities that will help balance your well-deserved rest (or chaotic schedule) with some outstanding contemporary culture.

Amsterdam, Netherlands

A Beautiful Moment at Huis Marseille Museum for Photography

The photographic exhibition at Huis Marseille searches for traces of similarity in works by a group of photographers all originating from Japan. It oscillates around the idea of wabi-sabi: two key concepts from classic Japanese aesthetics. Wabi has been described as ‘serene attention to simple things’ and sabi as ‘beauty acquired through the patina of time’ which manifest themselves through the profound sensitivity to the various manifestations of nature, and in an acute attentiveness to the beauty of superficially unremarkable details of the photographs.

>> Explore more shows in Amsterdam

Athens, Greece

George Drivas: Laboratory of Dilemmas at National Museum of Contemporary Art, Athens (EMST)

George Drivas' imposing video installation Laboratory of Dilemmas represented Greece at the 57th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia. If you missed it in 2017, enjoy it now at EMST. The material is very contemporary, addressing current global sociopolitical issues, and dealing with the anguish, puzzlement, and confusion of individuals and social groups when called upon to address moral dilemmas. Loosely based on Aeschylus' play Iketides (Suppliant Women), the peripatetic audiovisual experience poses a dilemma between saving the Foreigner and maintaining the safety of the Native. The story is presented piecemeal through multiple video and sound sources inside a labyrinth. While walking through the labyrinth the play’s dilemma unfolds through the excerpts of an unfinished documentary about a scientific experiment.

>> Explore more shows in Athens

Copenhagen, Denmark

Hieroglyphs – Symbolist Drawings 1890-1910 at National Gallery of Denmark | SMK - Statens Museum for Kunst

The Danes know all about introspection if esteemed Danish philosopher Kierkegaard is of any indication. This exhibition shows drawings from the late nineteenth century when a group of Danish artists became fed up with naturalism and its ideals of depicting reality in an objective, neutral manner. Their response was to turn to humanity’s inner life instead, to emotions and thoughts. Known as Symbolism, this mode of expression gives rise to pictures that are both decorative, mystical and enigmatic – often described as ‘soul pictures’ in Danish art.

>> Explore more shows in Copenhagen

Dublin, Ireland

Hannah Fitz: Knock Knock at Temple Bar Gallery + Studios

Always an oasis of culture in chaotic touristy downtown, Temple Bar Gallery + Studios in Dublin features a consistent itinerary of both internationally renowned and locally sourced artists. This season sees the first solo show by Irish artist Hannah Fitz, whose sculptures are reductive illustrations of everyday objects, stilled and deadened with a self-conscious agency. Their limited material qualities cause them to fall back in on themselves like a stumbled punchline, “knock-knock” followed by an accidental awkwardness.

>> Explore more shows in Dublin

Lisbon, Portugal

Photo-Scripts by João Miguel Barros at Museu Coleção Berardo

In his solo show, João Miguel Barros presents fourteen photographic short-stories. Independent from one another, with more or less consistent narratives, the images function almost like a book. Photo-Scripts is essentially a start of an ambitious project intended to give visibility to some of the multiple invisibilities and insignificances that constantly rush before our eyes.

Eco-Visionaries: Art and Architecture after the Anthropocene at MAAT - Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology

Eco-Visionaries launches the debate on a vast array of questions associated to the Anthropocene – the recent designation for a geological period defined by the impact of human action. With contributions from over thirty-five artists and architects, the show in Lisbon is the first and most wide-ranging of the four exhibitions that will appear simultaneously in Portugal, Spain, Switzerland and Sweden.

>> Explore more shows in Lisbon

Stockholm, Sweden

Precarious terrains and entangled situations at Konsthall C

The exhibition at Konsthall C puts the spotlight on international attempts to stop the ecocide - the destruction of large areas of the natural environment. While some of the artists explore and translate states of pollution, others are inspired by inheritance from indigenous habitats or the global civil society's autonomous survivor in Black Atlantis.

>> Explore more shows in Stockholm

Paris, France

Urs Lüthi: Just Another Dance at Centre Culturel Suisse

Since the late 1960’s, Urs Lüthi has been developing his practice based on self-portrait exploring multiple aspects of human nature. Experimenting with different media and techniques, the artist treats his own body as a subject and as “a mirror of the universe” addressing the idea of the self-being a reflection of its surroundings.

In tune with the world at Fondation Louis Vuitton

This summer, Foundation Louis Vuitton presents a selection of previously unseen works from its vast collection shown alongside new bodies of works. Divided into two sections, the show explores the current and recurring issues concerning man’s position within the universe and his relationship with other living things.

>> Explore more shows in Paris

Rome, Italy

Road to Justice at MAXXI - Museo nazionale delle arti del XXI secolo

On the occasion of a second Italy-Africa Conference, MAXXI presents an experimental project that integrates works from the museum collection with works commissioned for this particular occasion. Road to Justice investigates the aftermath of years of subsequent colonialism, destruction of native cultures and exploitation of territories. The artists discuss the imbalance between historical and contemporary realities of the continent and the trauma as it remains lived by millions of African citizens.

>> Explore more shows in Rome

Vienna, Austria

Other Mechanisms at Secession

Famous for his widely read essay Take Care among other accolades, curator Anthony Huberman will take up all three exhibition areas at Secession with a group show that reflect on the way machines are not only physical objects but have become infrastructural, a part of the technological present that is more difficult to shut down or turn off.

>> Explore more shows in Vienna

About the writers

Sandy Di Yu is a London-based writer, art theorist and artist. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter, or visit her website.

Nina Cieminska is a London-based art theorist and researcher. Follow her on Instagram or Twitter.

Vivi Kallinikou is a London-based art practitioner, producer and ArtRabbit's managing editor. Find her on Twitter or Instagram.