Book your tickets to Paris, Belgrade, São Paulo, Lagos and London: Our critic’s Grand Tour this fall offers Leonardo, Brancusi, Kara Walker and Marina Abramovic, among the global highlights.
PARIS The world’s most popular museum is officially too popular: The Musée du Louvre, facing unprecedented summer crowds on several days in August, had to close its doors to thousands of Mona Lisa lovers. Yet if you think the lines are long now at the old Parisian palace, already on course to break last year’s record attendance of 10 million visitors, prepare for Oct. 24. That day, the Louvre opens “Leonardo da Vinci” — a decade-in-the-making, booking-required blockbuster, and the most significant exhibition in this 500th-anniversary year of everyone’s favorite Tuscan-Milanese-French polymath and conspiracy wellspring.
The focus is on painting, and the Louvre’s own Leonardos — John the Baptist with his corkscrew curls; the smoky “Virgin of the Rocks” — will join friends from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the British Museum and the collections of Queen Elizabeth II and Pope Francis. (The Mona Lisa itself won’t budge; she stays in the sky-lit Salle des États.) A diplomatic dispute with Italy has pushed the fate of several major loans to the wire. Another absence seems assured: “Salvator Mundi,” the so-called Leonardo that hasn’t been seen since it sold at Christie’s for $450 million.
If you’re joining the crowds for Leonardo, give yourself several days to take in the city’s saturated fall season. At the Grand Palais, a big-time retrospective of El Greco spotlights the Greek-Spaniard’s torqued, cracked visions of divinity, four centuries old but startlingly modern. (It’s open Oct. 16-Feb. 10; the curator is Guillaume Kientz, of the Kimbell Art Museum, who hit the bull’s-eye with his Velázquez show here in 2015.) The Pompidou Center probes Francis Bacon’s passion for literature (Sept. 11-Jan. 20), while the Musée d’Orsay examines Degas’s passion for opera (Sept. 24-Jan. 19). At the Fondation Louis Vuitton, a star turn for the designer Charlotte Perriand will include full-scale reconstructions of her interiors (Oct. 2-Feb. 24).
LONDON From Oct. 2 through April 5, Kara Walker will fill the central hall of Tate Modern with her urgent grotesques of American violence. I suggest, though, you wait at least two weeks before going, because on Oct. 17, the Tate opens an imperative exhibition of more than 200 works by Nam June Paik — the Korean-American inventor of video art who, half a century before our always-online era, found a place for humanity in the swim of ubiquitous media. London also has some formidable painting this fall: Albert Oehlen’s bad-meaning-good abstractions (at the Serpentine Galleries, Oct. 2-Jan. 12); Gauguin’s portraits (at the National Gallery, Oct. 7-Jan. 26); and Lucian Freud’s astringent self-scrutinies (at the Royal Academy of Arts, from Oct. 27-Jan. 26).
BRUSSELS The show of the fall here is a retrospective of Constantin Brancusi, the largest in 25 years (from Oct. 2 at the Center for Fine Arts, known as Bozar, which is offering a season of Romanian art and performance). At Wiels, a massive brewery converted into one of Europe’s canniest art spaces, you’ll find the oversized everyday objects of Gabriel Kuri, the Mexican artist who, like so many others, has made the European capital his hometown (Sept. 6-Jan. 5).
ITALY Metaphysical mysteries will be on offer in Milan, where the Palazzo Reale is devoting the fall to the campy classicism of Giorgio de Chirico (from Sept. 25). Things get sexier further south in Florence, where the Uffizi Gallery’s “Pietro Aretino and the Art of the Renaissance” (Nov. 27-March 1) promises a full view of 16th-century Italy’s ultimate hustler. Aretino — poet, pornographer, professional extortionist and best friend to Titian — favored an art of no illusions. You could say the same about Neo Rauch, the contemporary painter whose ornery scenes of post-Communist Germany will fill the Pitti Palace (Oct. 16-Jan. 12).
BELGRADE AND PRAGUE Farther east, Marina Abramovic makes a momentous return to her hometown Belgrade, now the capital of Serbia, where a retrospective of her punishing performance art opens on Sept. 21 at the Museum of Contemporary Art (through Jan. 20). And the National Gallery in Prague celebrates the 30th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia with “Havel for President! The Year 1989 in Photographs” (Nov. 15-Feb. 16).
LATIN AMERICA Two Latin American museums turn to artists who make substantial sculpture out of the lightest materials. At the Museo Jumex in Mexico City, you’ll find James Turrell’s early projections, documentation of his nearly complete Roden Crater, and ethereal colored installations (Nov. 22-March 29). At the São Paulo Museum of Art is a retrospective of the modernist sculptor Gego (née Gertrud Goldschmidt), who fled Nazi Germany for Venezuela and used thin steel rods to make spindly, fragile, deeply poetic drawings in space (Dec. 13-March 1).
Vienna will also host a can’t-miss show of the works of Albrecht Dürer (Sept. 20-Jan. 6), whose precise drawings of rabbits and rhinoceroses will suffuse the Albertina Museum. In Munich, the Alte Pinakothek is assembling more than 100 paintings by Anthony van Dyck, the Flemish smoothy who defined European portraiture in the 17th century (from Oct. 25-Feb. 2).
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