From Yoko Ono to Martine Syms: Ten artworld luminaries share their 2019 highlights

The Sharjah Biennial, the Beijing Art Summit, and major astrological shake-ups are firmly on their radar

2019 is set to make the (art)world buzz. Famous museums are expanding, revered biennials happening, and groundbreaking artists will be getting the institutional recognition they deserve. Beyond the obvious candidates, a plethora of exciting initiatives is in the works this year, whether in Bogotá, Seoul or on Netflix. In this feature, ten artworld protagonists share what they most look forward to.

Martine Syms

Artist, Los Angeles

1. Mars into Aries
My best friend and resident astrologer told me: ‘Mars goes into Aries on New Year’s Eve and it’s going to be a goddamn gift for us all.’ Hear, hear!

2. Netflix Russian Doll comedy web television series, from February 2019
Staring the brilliant Natasha Lyonne as Nadia. I have been her fan girl since I was ten years old. Have you watched But I’m A Cheerleader (1999) recently? HOT.

3. Martine Rose Spring–Summer & Fall–Winter collection
What else am I going to wear? Based in London, having begun as a men’s shirting brand, Martine calls herself ‘probably the best designer in the world,’ and she is right.


Yoko Ono

Visual artist and composer, New York City

1. A new sunrise

2. Laughter

3. Togetherness


Milovan Farronato

Director and Curator, Fiorucci Art Trust, London; Curator, Italian Pavilion, 2019 Venice Biennale, Venice

1. Mandy El-Sayegh, Chisenhale Gallery, London, April 12–June 9, 2019
A major new commission and first solo exhibition in a British institution by artist Mandy El-Sayegh. His prolific large-scale paintings and installations move between linguistic, material, and corporeal registers, creating double meanings that signal a breakdown in, or disturbance of, everyday systems and orders.

2. Samdani Art Foundation Residences, Srihatta, Bangladesh, October 2019
Rising from the red alluvial soil of Sylhet, in northeastern Bangladesh, Srihatta is the future home of the Samdani Art Foundation. Immersed in a lush green tea district, the aspiration of this multifaceted site is to cultivate a new community of art lovers in Bangladesh and the surrounding region. The architecture, connected to the legacy of modernist tradition in the country, embraces the natural phenomena that surround it. Over the past three years artists have been invited to develop long-term projects for the site; nevertheless, October 2019 will see the beginning of the first residencies.

3. Art Night 2019, London, June 22–23, 2019
Again in London, I am looking forward to the fourth edition of Art Night, which will light up the night between June 22 and June 23, right after the Summer Solstice. It will be a night of ephemeral interactions and performances amidst the buildings and the stands of one of Europe’s longest street markets, located in Walthamstow (East London), with an outpost in King’s Cross.


Kate Fowle

Chief Curator, Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, Moscow; Director at large, Independent Curators International, New York City

1. Rashid Johnson, Native Son, 2019
Most anticipated for me is Rashid Johnson’s directorial debut, which will have its world premiere on day one of Sundance on January 24, 2019. A genius and timely take on Richard Wright’s seminal novel, the film is written by Suzan-Lori Parks, with the lead character—Bigger—played by Ashton Sanders of Moonlight fame.

2. Sam Green and Kronos Quartet, A Thousand Thoughts, Spring 2019
I want to catch Sam Green’s latest live documentary A Thousand Thoughts when it comes to New York as part of its world tour. Kronos Quartet will perform music by George Crumb and Aleksandra Vrebalov (among others), interspersed with film footage and Green’s inimitable narrative, to create a meditation on late 20th– and early 21st–century music.

3. Sharjah Biennial 14, Sharjah, March 7–June 10, 2019; 5th Ural Industrial Biennial of Contemporary Art, Ekaterinburg, September 12–December 1, 2019; 6th Lubumbashi Biennale, Lubumbashi, October 24–November 24, 2019
I’m looking forward to seeing the exhibitions put forth by three thought-provoking curators for three of the most dynamic biennials on the circuit these days: Zoe Butt’s ‘Journey Beyond the Arrow’ in Sharjah; Xiaoyu Weng’s debut in Russia, with a show on immortality at the Ural Optical and Mechanical Plant in Ekaterinburg; and Sandrine Colard in Congo with ‘Future Genealogies. Tales From the Equatorial Line’.

Vincent Honoré

Program and Exhibitions Director, MoCo–Montpellier Contemporain, Montpellier; Curator, Kosovan Pavilion, 2019 Venice Biennale, Venice

1. Brexit, to occur on March 29, 2019
Tired of talking about it, tired of hearing about it. Tired and sad. Do it.

2. The south
Always looking forward to the south: in 2019 with the Biennales in Istanbul and Venice. More importantly I am attentive to a regenerated energy coming from the South of France, from Marseille to Sète. The new contemporary center in Montpellier, MoCo, led by Nicolas Bourriaud, is promising, linking education (the fine art school) to production, residences, and exhibitions. Opening in June 2019.

3. Them
I am looking forward to anything that my tribe of favorite artists and curators will be doing, as well as looking forward to discovering more, to reading more, to listening more, to learning more.


Doryun Chong

Chief Curator, M+, Hong Kong

1. National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Seoul
2018 was a historic turning point in the relations between North and South Korea, as well as between the two Koreas and the world superpowers with particularly vested interests in managing this last vestige of the Cold War, i.e. the United States of America, Russia, China, and Japan. The head-spinning series of events culminating in the no-one-saw-that-one-coming handshake between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un in Singapore were followed by a budding bromance between Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-In. Much is still to be worked out in 2019, however, before this will be a true détente. If the current leftist government in South Korea has steered the national politics in a more enlightened direction, it still has a lot to prove in terms of whether its cultural policies can be both political progressive and internationally informed. The National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (MMCA), which deepened and expanded its programs beyond nationalist boundaries under the helm of its first foreign director, Bartomeu Marí, in the last three years, is looking for a Korean successor at the time of this writing. Whether it continues on the upswing of internationalism or retrenches into parochial localism, MMCA has an opportunity as well as a responsibility to think beyond itself, as now arguably the largest and most ambitious public institution of its kind in Asia.

2. The opening of a newly expanded Museum of Modern Art, New York City
Everything started in controversy, when the American Folk Art Museum, squeezed between the behemoth on the 53rd Street and a new plot of land promised to a new Jean Nouvel-designed skyscraper, was purchased and then torn down. For this latest expansion of MoMA, the New York-based architectural firm Diller, Scofidio + Renfro has not only designed galleries inside the new building, but also rethought and reorganized the existing public spaces. Will the expansion be just spatial, or will it also be ideological? How will all mediums and disciplines be mixed and shown together, in a departure from the institution’s decades-long practice? And how will it usher the thus-far mostly Western history of modern and contemporary art into the era of global post-contemporary—Is there such a thing? If so, should MoMA be the one responsible for the task? All this will be watched closely and, without doubt, will not satisfy all. MoMA is used to being the lightning rod, and in the end we should be grateful, as we all benefit from the ongoing debate.

3. Expanding the Canon, Tate Modern, London
Speaking of Western history of modern and contemporary art, there is no such thing as a single narrative, and Tate Modern seems committed to making that point, again and again. Following on from the Anni Albers retrospective in 2018, it has an impressive program for 2019, highlighting Dorothea Tanning, Natalia Goncharova, and Dora Maar in a row. Time to renew your membership and plan repeat visits to London.


Christine Eyene

Artistic Director, International Biennial of Casablanca, Casablanca

1. Lubaina Himid, New Museum, New York City
The 2017 Turner Prize winner Lubaina Himid will make her US museum debut with this solo show at the New Museum. Himid is a living legend. She has been so instrumental in paving the way for Black women artists in the United Kingdom from the 1980s onward. She continues to support the younger generation of artists and curators. Her recent survey exhibitions and the writings on her work have revealed the amazing richness and depth of her practice through the years. It will be interesting to see how her work resonates within the American context, especially in these very peculiar times.

2. Sharjah Biennial 14: ‘Leaving the Echo Chamber’, March 7–June 10, 2019
Sharjah Biennial 14 is curated by Zoe Butt, Omar Kholeif, and Claire Tancons, whose practice is so sharp and engaging in conversations that I find it particularly interesting, especially in the cultural spheres of the Middle East, Africa, Asia, and the Pacific. They have a great selection of artists, notably Lubaina Himid!

3. International Biennial of Casablanca new project space, Spring 2019
In Spring 2019, the International Biennial of Casablanca is launching an incubator program with a new experimental project space. The aim will be first to engage with the local and Moroccan art scene across diverse art practices from the visual arts to sound, text, performance, and screenings. It will also be a place for workshops dedicated to local artists, art writers, young art professionals, and community groups. The program will then progressively invite the participation of international artists in the build-up to the biennial’s 2020 edition.


María Mercedes González

General Director, Medellín Museum of Modern Art, Medellín

1. 45th National Salon of Artists, downtown Bogotá, September 17–November 17, 2019
Established in 1940, the public art event with the longest tradition in the country will be held in Bogotá under the artistic direction of Alejandro Martín along with curators La Usurpadora, TransHistor(ia), Luisa Ungar, Ana Mar.a Montenegro, Manuel Kalmanovitz, and Adriana Pineda. The National Salon of Artists is a must-see for those interested in trends in Colombian contemporary art.

2. Reopening Santa Fe Gallery and New Cinematheque, Bogotá. Spring 2019
Two emblematic cultural institutions of Bogotá open new venues in 2019. The Santa Fe Gallery—a public space for local emerging artists—unveils 1,000 m. and a renovated programming in the heart of La Candelaria, the colonial neighborhood in downtown Bogotá. The New Cinematheque, on the other hand, is being relocated to a new building with 8,500 m., which includes four movie theaters, an exhibition gallery, and multiple rooms for research and experimentation.

3. Art in Colombia in the 21st century, Medellín Museum of Modern Art, March 27–June 24, 2019
MAMM will carry out the first survey of Colombian art in the 21st century with the counsel of curators José Roca, Jaime Cerón, María Isabel Rueda, Alejandra Sarria, and Carolina Chacón. Each curator selected six essential works to understand the art of this century, the diversity of which reveals a lively art scene and a country in constant transformation.


Alice Rawsthorn

Author, Design as an Attitude, JRP|Ringier, London

1. ‘Broken Nature: Design Takes on Human Survival’, XXII Triennale di Milano, March 1–September 1, 2019
Many of the most compelling design exhibitions of recent years have been curated by Paola Antonelli at The Museum of Modern Art, New York City. This year MoMA is lending Antonelli to La Triennale di Milano for what promises to be an epic project and one of the feistiest design polemics of 2019. ‘Broken Nature: Design Takes on Human Survival’ aims to explore how design can help repair the damage caused by the human race to society and the environment since the Industrial Revolution.

2. ‘Magdalene Odundo: The Journey of Things’, The Hepworth Wakefield, Wakefield, February 16–June 2, 2019
The Kenyan-born potter Magdalene Odundo will reveal why she is one of the greatest ceramicists of our time by exhibiting 50 examples of her spectacular yet intensely subtle pots alongside dozen of other objects that have inspired her—from ancient Greek and Egyptian vessels, to an Elizabethan ruff—in an exhibition designed by the Iranian-born architect Farshid Moussavi at The Hepworth Wakefield. The show is organized in collaboration with the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts in Norwich.

3. Fiona MacCarthy, Walter Gropius: Visionary Founder of the Bauhaus, published by Faber & Faber, March 2019
As 2019 marks the centenary of the foundation of the Bauhaus, dozens of new books, exhibitions, and symposia will be devoted to the 20th century’s most famous art and design school. One of my favorites is the long-awaited biography of the school’s deeply strategic, yet enigmatic founder, the German architect Walter Gropius, written by the brilliant cultural historian Fiona MacCarthy. Like her previous books on Eric Gill and William Morris, it promises to be both revealing and intriguing.


Mari Spirito

Executive Director and Curator, Protocinema, Istanbul and New York City

1. The release of Osman Kawala
I am looking forward to the potential release of Osman Kavala, much-loved Turkish philanthropist and arts patron who was detained by the current Justice and Development Party (AKP) in October 2017, under ‘threadbare’ false allegations. It marked a significant shift in the political conditions here—perhaps his release could happen just before or after the March 2019 elections for the Istanbul mayor and local district municipalities.

2. Beijing Art Summit, Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing, 798 Art Zone, March 22–24, 2019
Curated by artist and curator Colin Chinnery and myself, this international platform for dialogue from multiple perspectives on issues in contemporary art in China and around the world comes at an increasingly important time in global history. The Chinese art market is mirroring China’s new stance on the geopolitical stage. Equally important is that Chinese collectors have started taking seats as Boards of Trustees of major Western art institutions. Influence, which used to flow one way, is now fluid in both directions, East/West and West/East, and will have major effect on what comes next.

3. New premises of Arter Space for Art, Istanbul, September 2019
Arter Space for Art/Vehbi Ko. Foundation (VKF) will open its greatly anticipated new building in the Dolapdere district of Istanbul, timed to coincide with the IKSV (Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts) 16th Istanbul Biennial, curated by Nicolas Bourriaud. Arter’s new building is designed by Grimshaw Architects and will present not only parts of its 10-year-old collection, but also newly commissioned works by artists from Turkey and the surrounding region, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with our comrades, at a time when this is more significant than ever.

4. Home Works 8, Beirut, Fall 2019
Functioning as Beirut’s ‘biennial’, Home Works is organized by Ashkal Alwan, the Lebanese Association for Plastic Arts, which just celebrated its 25th anniversary. Ashkal Alwan is a school wrapped in an art organization that presents exhibitions, newly commissioned works, lectures, screenings, publications, and performances by artists primarily from the surrounding region. Through these programs, and thanks to each edition of the Home Works forum initiated in 2002, Christine Tohmé, Founding Director of Ashkal Alwan, has launched five generations of contemporary artists and is still going strong.


This feature is an extract from Art Basel | Year 49, which will be published this Spring. It will include an exclusive commission by artist Paul Chan; interviews with leading artists such as Judy Chicago, Rasheed Araeen, Lynn Hershman Leeson, and Michael Rakowitz; and a portfolio shedding light on the numerous public art projects realized during Art Basel. For more information on Art Basel publications, please click here.