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Art in Barcelona: must-see exhibitions

Art exhibitions you won't want to miss in Barcelona's museums and galleries

© Jordi Calveras

Calling all lovers of painting, photography, sculpture, and art in general: this is your Time Out selection of the best exhibitions on in Barcelona's museums and galleries.

David Bowie Is

This first international retrospective dedicated to David Bowie is produced by London's Victoria & Albert Museum and brings together some 300 objects from the artist's personal collection; it's a celebration of five decades of the iconic and innovative musician's career, and, indeed, of contemporary culture. Among other pieces, the exhibition displays special items such as Ziggy Stardust's outfits, album covers by Guy Peellaert and Edward Bell, video performances such as 'The Man Who Fell to Earth', music videos, and some stage designs from Bowie's tours, in addition to other personal items, from set lists to journal notes that reveal his evolution as a creator.

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Museu del Disseny de Barcelona , El Parc i la Llacuna del Poblenou Until Sunday August 20 2017

The Way Things Do

In 1987, the Swiss artists Peter Fischli and David Weiss presented their film 'Der Lauf der Dinge', known internationally as 'The Way Things Go'. The film shows the chain reaction of a long sequence of objects and substances that activate and connect with each other, as if they were predetermined by a continuous cause-and-effect relationship. The sequence, that appears to be arbitrary and chaotic, is actually meticulously choreographed. The 1980s were also the decade when Daniel Jacoby & Yu Araki, Serafín Álvarez and Cécile B. Evans were born; to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Swiss duo's film, these artists have used the piece as a basis for new creations. 'The Way Things Do' offers a perspective from which the artists explore the notion of the object as an independent, complex, inexhaustible reality. Their works reveal the background behind a traditional Japanese sport that is now only practised on a single track in the world; they examine the relationships that fans develop with consumer objects from the realms of fiction, and they build a narrative in which humans, data, machines and artificial intelligence work together.

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Fundació Joan Miró , Sants - Montjuïc Until Sunday October 1 2017

Fenomen Fotollibre

The Foto Colectania Foundation and the Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona (CCCB) are collaborating on the exhibition 'Photobook Phenomenon', which you can see in both spaces over the same dates. At the CCCB, where they're showing five of the seven parts that make up the show, it's on until late August. The exhibition places value on the photobook's place in contemporary visual cultural as well as looks at a reinterpretation of the history of the photograph via the paper of the photobook and the printed photograph. You'll see photobooks from Ródchencko, William Klein and Robert Frank, as well as those from Japanese artists, who pioneered the phenomenon. There's a section dedicated to photobooks of protest and propaganda, which brings together radical designs. Manuel Álvarez Bravo, Gabriel Cualladó and Henri Cartier-Bresson are other names represented in the exhibition, as well as the latest works from renowned contemporary artists who have brought a real vision to the medium, such as Laia Abril and Vivian Sassen, as well as illustrating the processes involved in creating a photobook.

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CCCB. Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona , El Raval Until Sunday August 27 2017
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Ismael Smith, the beauty and the monsters

This exhibition encompasses the entire career of Ismael Smith (Barcelona, 1886 - White Plains, New York, 1972), a disturbing and varied body of work that remained on the margins of the official discourse of Catalan art. In this show, you can see pieces from the many different creative forms that the artist indulged in: sculpture, drawing, illustration, posters, graphic design, interior design, ceramics, jewellery design, engravings, bookplates and even paintings, which is one of Smith's least-known facets.

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Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya (MNAC) , Sants - Montjuïc Until Sunday September 17 2017

Allan Sekula. Collective Sisyphus

This is the first solo show in Spain of work by Allan Sekula (Erie, 1951 - Los Angeles, 2013), one of the most significant names in modern photography from the second half of the 20th century. The Antoni Tàpies Foundation is showing two important blocks of work in which Sekula observed and analysed the impact of the maritime economy on the incipient globalisation of the 1990s, as well as a new moral framework imposed by neoliberalism at the start of the 21st century. This exhibition pays tribute to an artist who maintained a close relationship with Barcelona in the years after the city hosted the 1992 Olympic Games; the place fascinated him as a case study for examining the new forms that injustice can adopt in the context of neoliberalism.  

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Fundació Antoni Tàpies , Dreta de l'Eixample Until Sunday September 24 2017

Björk Digital

This immersive virtual reality exhibition presents the digital and video works that are the fruit of collaborations between iconic Icelandic artist Björk and some of the best programmers and visual artists in the world, including Michel Gondry, Spike Jonze, Alexander McQueen, Nick Knight, Stephane Sedanaoui, and most recently Jesse Kanda, Andrew Thomas Huang, Warren du Preez and Nick Thornton Jones. Following stops in Tokyo, Sydney, Montreal, Reykjavik, London and Los Angeles, the exhibition is now in Barcelona, and combines performance, cinema, installation, video and interactive art, as well as audiovisual pieces produced with the latest virtual reality technology.

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CCCB. Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona , El Raval Until Sunday September 24 2017
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Akram Zaatari. Against photography. An annotated history of the Arab Image Foundation

Rather than offering a potted history of the Arab Image Foundation (AIF), this exhibition gives us the perspective of an artist, which is fundamental for understanding how the organisation works. Through Akram Zaatari, a founding member of the AIF who has also played a key part in its ongoingdevelopment, this show reflects on the 20 years that the AIF has existed and the multiple conditions that a photograph can have: photographic document, object, its material value, aesthetic and memory. The expansive work of Zaatari on photography and collecting adopts an almost archaeological perspective: excavating the past brings forward new narratives and resuscitates them in the contemporary world. 

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MACBA. Museu d'Art Contemporani , El Raval Until Sunday September 24 2017

Antoni Tàpies Collection. Objects

At the end of the 1960s, coinciding with an increase in his political commitment, Antoni Tàpies put more emphasis on his work with objects. It wasn't anything new for the artist – he'd already been working with them since he started with material paintings. In 1956, for the window display at the shop Gales on Passeig de Gràcia, Tàpies created the work 'Metallic door and violin'. With this piece, which paired an old, beat-up, ugly warehouse door along with a violin and which was part of the creation of five Christmas scenes organised by Alexandre Cirici, Tàpies gave value to items previously condemned to disuse.

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Fundació Antoni Tàpies , Dreta de l'Eixample Until Thursday September 28 2017

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