8 Must-See Exhibitions This Week, From Toronto to São Paulo and Beyond

A reconstruction of Verner Panton’s sci-fi dreamscape, the bewitching debris of Sarah Sze, revisiting Vaginal Davis’s still-timely portrait of white supremacist culture, and more.

Darren Bader, no title, not dated. © Darren Bader. Image courtesy the artist and Andrew Kreps Gallery, New York.

Darren Bader: fruits, vegetables; fruit and vegetable salad

When: Jan. 15–Feb. 17

Where: Whitney Museum of American Art, New York

What: “No ideas but in things,” the poet Williams Carlos Williams wrote, which is an ethos that this Darren Bader piece—one of the key artworks of the past decade—embodies with irreverent elegance. A sumptuous array of fruits and vegetables sit on pedestals, assembled according to guidelines written by the artist that allow for a measure of choice and chance. Every couple days (consult the Whitney website for exact times), it’s all chopped up and served as salad for curious, and brave, gallery visitors. What does it mean? Who knows! It’s an absurdist potlatch, a nonsensical riddle, and a rare opportunity to experience sculpture as something that is alive, ever-changing, and intimately part of the world. What more can you ask for from an artwork? Don’t miss it. —Andrew Russeth


The Porcelain Room: Chinese Export Porcelain

When: Jan. 30–Sep. 28

Where: Fondazione Prada, Milan

What: More than 1,700 individual Chinese export porcelains, dating from the 16th to the 19th centuries, gather inside Tom Potsma’s breathtaking immersive displays to illuminate the historical context, scope, and impact of this historical craft. Divided into three sections, the show highlights the largest number of early Ming dynasty porcelains with European iconography ever brought together, 18th-century tablewares and everyday objects festooned with regional wildlife, and the tradition of magnificent porcelain rooms that appeared in European palaces and aristocratic houses. —Ryan Waddoups


Vaginal Davis: The White to be Angry

When: Feb. 1–Apr. 26

What: The Art Institute of Chicago, Illinois

What: A revered African-American and intersex pioneer, the artist Vaginal Davis started appearing in the Los Angeles queer and punk club scene in the late 1970s, playing in bands whose work directly challenged that disproportionately white, male scene. These shows informed her zines and video work, which ultimately earned her a place as an influential figure in the history of queer music, performance, and art. Davis’s best-known work, a video titled The White to Be Angry (1999), is an ambiguous, darkly funny exploration of white supremacist culture in the United States. On view in this exhibition, it consists of a mash-up of songs and appropriated television footage that paint a surreal, still-timely portrait of America. —Tiffany Jow


Egg Collective: Surface Break

When: Feb. 4–April 17

Where: Egg Collective, New York

What: The latest installment in the furniture showroom’s ongoing exhibition series, “Surface Break” spotlights the work of Dan Boardman, Amanda Martinez, and Cody Tumblin, all of whom question the nature of “surface” in their work. The very existence of a surface implies that something is obscured, offering the possibility of discovery—if one is willing to look. Just below the surface, in these works, are subtle, sly references to culture, form, limitation, disguise, and memory. —Ryan Waddoups


Adriano Costa, “Tudo Vai Bem,” 2018. Courtesy the artist and Mendes Wood DM.


When: Feb. 6–Mar. 21

Where: Mendes Wood DM, São Paulo

What: Though this exhibition takes its name from Brazilian singer Chico Buarque’s storied 1971 song, which tells the tale of a construction worker who dies on the job, the gallery emphasizes in an accompanying text that it does not intend to dwell on that troubled era of the country’s history. Instead, the show’s focus is the precarious present, as addressed by an absolutely stacked roster of more than 30 artists of various generations who lean toward the incisively political. Pope L., Lawrence Weiner, Jac Leirner, Theaster Gates, and Adriana Varejão are five of them. The goal, the gallery says, is to “open up space for a wider discussion about today’s arid, institutionalized political landscape and trigger a reflection on the lyricism of art that can make us reflect on our dreams of a better world.” Hard to argue with that aim. —Andrew Russeth


Sarah Sze, “Images in Debris,” 2018. Courtesy the artist, Victoria Miro Gallery, London and Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York/Los Angeles.

Sarah Sze: Images in Debris

When: Feb. 6–May 10

Where: Museum of Contemporary Art, Toronto

What: Sarah Sze’s installations handily shrug off rigid categories and labels, with digital photos, bewitching videos, wire constructions, tables and chairs, and all manner of objects sharing space. This show presents one of Sze’s most ambitious recent efforts—2018’s Images in Debris—as part of a new MOCA series that showcases work held by Toronto collectors. (Here’s hoping they one day donate it to an institution in the city.) Block off some time and bring a friend: You could spend a lifetime teasing out the swirling, interlaced narratives that her art regularly proffers. —Andrew Russeth


Measure Your Existence

When: Feb. 7–Aug. 10

Where: The Rubin Museum, New York 

What: The invisible nature of life’s most compelling elements—beauty, fate, loss, memory—is the subject of this exhibition, which focuses on the importance of living in and reflecting on the present. Organized by Christine Starkman, the group show will feature work by artists including Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Shilpa Gupta, Tehching Hsieh, Meiro Koizumi, and Taryn Simon. Don’t miss Lee Mingwei’s The Letter Writing Project (1998), which invites visitors to enter a serene wooden booth and compose a note to a forgotten friend or reflect on forgiveness. —Tiffany Jow


Home Stories: 100 Years, 20 Visionary Interiors

When: Feb. 8–Aug. 23

Where: Vitra Design Museum, Weil am Rhein, Germany

What: Today, interior design sustains a giant global economy of furniture, textiles, decoration, and accessories, as well as a media machine across magazines, television, and Instagram. And yet, the domestic interior continues to lack serious discourse. “Home Stories” aims to galvanize interest in the contemporary private interior’s evolution through a journey backward in time, highlighting the social, political, geographical, and technical shifts that shape a contemporary home’s look and feel. Along with examining timeless interiors by Adolf Loos, Finn Juhl, and Lina Bo Bardi, the Vitra Fire Station will host a walk-in reconstruction of Visiona 2, the sci-fi–inspired red-and-blue living landscape by Verner Panton. —Ryan Waddoups

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