Best Exhibitions of 2021

Despite the chaos, in 2021 there were some great exhibitions and projects that must be celebrated.

Here’s a look at the Top Exhibitions of the Year.

Maurizio Cattelan, Blind, 2021. Installation view, Pirelli HangarBicocca, Milan, 2021. Produced by Marian Goodman Gallery and Pirelli HangarBicocca, Milan. Courtesy the artist, Marian Goodman Gallery and Pirelli HangarBicocca, Milan. Photo by Agostino Osio.

For his solo exhibition “Breath Ghosts Blind” (open until February 20, 2022) Maurizio Cattelan has conceived a site-specific project for the spaces of Pirelli HangarBicocca that gives the audience an insight into collective and personal through a symbolic representation of life.

Michelangelo Buonarroti, Cupid, ca. 1490. Part of the exhibition, on loan from The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

The exhibition, organised in collaboration with the Louvre Museum, brought to light the main themes and ideas developed in Italy during the second half of the Quattrocento with unique pieces from the City collection as Michelangelo’s last pieta.

  • BANK “Conceptual Art in the UK, 1998–1999” at Ordet
Installation view of BANK’s exhibition at Ordet. Image courtesy of Ordet, Milano.

An exhibition of more than 140 original works—the largest presentation to date—from the Fax-Bak Service by the London art group BANK. In 1998 and 1999, the members of BANK—Simon Bedwell, John Russell, and Milly Thompson—returned by fax hundreds of press releases to their respective senders. For the most part, the originators were art galleries in London and New York, and the returned missives were crudely covered with handwritten notes—thorough, relentless edits, queries, and comments, all absolutely unsolicited. More than two decades later, this serial effort in demystification ringed just as fun, rude, and truthful.

Saul Steinberg with his hand in New York in 1978. © Estate of Evelyn Hofer. Photo Evelyn Hofer.

The exhibition (open until March 13, 2022) is curated by Italo Lupi and Marco Belpoliti with Francesca Pellicciari, and celebrates the city of Milan, where Steinberg lived and to which he dedicated many of his works. The display includes a series of pencil, ink and watercolour drawings, paper masks, objects, and sculptures, as well as documents and photographs, selected with the assistance of the Saul Steinberg Foundation.

  • Simon Fujiwara “Who the Bær” at Fondazione Prada
Simon Fujiwara “Who the Baer”, Fondazione Prada. Photo by Andrea Rossetti.

A site-specific project conceived for the ground floor of the Podium in the Milan premises of Fondazione Prada, where Simon Fujiwara introduced audiences to the world of Who the Bær, an original cartoon character that inhabits a universe created by the artist.

Giorgio Strehler. © Teatro alla Scala.

For the hundredth anniversary of Giorgio Strehler’s birth, the Museo Teatrale Alla Scala celebrates the legendary theatre director and actor with a double exhibition: a physical one, set up in the rooms of the Livia Simoni Library and curated by Vittoria Crespi Morbio, dedicated to the scenic spaces that Strehler conceived with his set designers, in particular Gianni Ratto, Luciano Damiani and Ezio Frigerio, and a virtual one, curated by Franco Pulcini, who has written down an account of Strehler’s experiences at La Scala, including many quotations from the Italian opera director.

  • “Red Light Gold Light” Atelier dell’Errore at MASSIMODECARLO

Atelier dell’Errore BIG’s most recent show. Atelier dell’Errore is a visual arts laboratory designed by the artist Luca Santiago Mora for Child Neuropsychiatry. It began its activity in 2002 at the service of the Reggio Emilia Local Health Authority. In 2013 a new Atelier dell’Errore laboratory opened in Bergamo at the Natural Science Museum in collaboration with the hospital’s Child Neuropsychiatry. In 2015, the AdE BIG project was experimented with the children who have come of age, immediately hosted as a work in progress within the Maramotti Collection in Reggio Emilia. In 2018, the AdE BIG artistic collective was established as a social enterprise to professionally devote itself to the visual arts.

  • The Edge Effect
Rachele Maistrello. Gao Yue #1 (1998-1999?), c-print, 50 x 70 cm, 2019.

A group show, curated by Chiara Bardelli Nonino and Jordan Anderson, that explored a new (and more accurate) idea of what it means to be Italian. In the world of ecology, an ecotone is a transitional area where two different ecosystems meet, mix and merge. The effect of this mix is an increase in biodiversity, as well as the density and uniqueness of organisms, and the mutual influence between the two ecosystems is called the “edge effect”.

  • Walter Pfeiffer “Polaroids 1972–2021 (Part II)” at Galerie Gregor Staiger
Walter Pfeiffer, Untitled, 2009/2021.

The second part of “Polaroids 1972 – 2021” in Milan, by Swiss artist Walter Pfeiffer. Devised as an exhibition across the gallery’s two spaces, the first exhibition opened in Zurich earlier this year. The exhibitions focused on Pfeiffer’s polaroid works from 1972 to present day, which have only rarely been displayed, most notably at Centre Culturel Suisse, Paris in 2004 and within the context of his sketchbooks for his major solo presentation at Fotomuseum Winterthur in 2008.

  • Nicola Lo Calzo “Binidittu” at Podbielski Contemporary
Courtesy of Podbielski Contemporary.

A new project by artist Nicola Lo Calzo which, through the history and cultural heritage of St Benedict the Moor, examines the relationship between the history of colonialism and contemporary cultural identity. This work focuses on the main stages of the biography of St Benedict, known as Binidittu. From his release from slavery to his death.