Global modernisms in the 21st century

Culture, like capitalism, is increasingly global. Artists work internationally and no single city is now the center of the art world. Istanbul, Beijing, Bogotá, Beirut, Lagos, and São Paulo all support thriving communities of artists.

Global modernisms in the 21st century

Culture, like capitalism, is increasingly global. Artists work internationally and no single city is now the center of the art world. Istanbul, Beijing, Bogotá, Beirut, Lagos, and São Paulo all support thriving communities of artists.
Article
Emily Kame Kngwarreye, Earth’s Creation
Essay by Allison Young
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Mariko Mori, Pure Land
Essay by Katrina Klaasmeyer
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Frank Gehry, Guggenheim Bilbao
Frank Gehry, Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao, 1992-97 essay by Dr. Matthew A. Postal
5:11
Shirazeh Houshiary
This video brought to you by Tate.org.uk Born in Iran, Shirazeh Houshiary has lived and worked in England since 1973, consistently drawing on modern sensibilities as well as Islamic traditions, particularly Sufi mysticism. Here she discusses works like Veil (1999), returning to themes of light and darkness, visual perception and judgement, explaining: "I'm trying to explore how we see the world."
Article
Yinka Shonibare, The Swing (After Fragonard)
Exercise
Shonibare, The Swing Quiz
Test your knowledge.
Article
William Kentridge, drawing from Tide Table (Soho in Deck Chair)
4:15
Mona Hatoum's self-contradictory objects
This video brought to you by Tate.org.uk Palestinian, London-based artist Mona Hatoum creates art that challenging our perceptions of everyday objects. "Often my work is about conflict and contradiction, and that contradiction can be within the actual object," she explains. One of her sculptures is a simple wheelchair, an unremarkable object apart from the fact that its handles have been replaced with knives. Another is a baby’s cot, but one with the bottom taken out and replaced with taut, menacing wires. Sometimes the materials she works with are unexpected, like the soap she used to draw a map of a peace agreement between Israel and Palestine. There are many internal contradictions at work in Hatoum’s art. What purpose do they serve? Do they get you thinking about commonplace objects in uncommon ways? Click here to learn more about Mona Hatoum and her work.
4:16
El Anatsui, Untitled
El Anatsui, Untitled, 2009 repurposed printed aluminum, copper, 256.5 × 284.5 × 27.9 cm as installed (Smithsonian National Museum of African Art) Speakers: Dr. Peri Klemm and Dr. Steven Zucker
Article
El Anatsui, Old Man’s Cloth
Exercise
El Anatsui, Old Man's Cloth (quiz)
Test your knowledge.
Exercise
Mehretu, Stadia II (quiz)
Test your knowledge.
Article
Doris Salcedo, Shibboleth
5:07
Doris Salcedo's "Shibboleth"
This video brought to you by Tate.org.uk "Every work of art is political because every work of art is breaking new ground," says Colombian artist Doris Salcedo. In this video, Salcedo explains why she decided to literally break new ground in Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall by splitting the floor open with a long snaking crack in her piece Shibboleth. The word “shibboleth” refers to a word or custom that can be used to differentiate one group from another, and is therefore a token of power: the power to judge and reject with violence. What might it mean to refer to such violence in an art museum? For Salcedo, the crack represents a history of racism, running parallel to the history of modernity. As Salcedo comes from a country riven by war, she has always seen conflict and the world from the perspective of the oppressed. The piece is not an attack, but rather a reminder, a question mark and a disruption of the status quo: she invites us to look down into it, and to confront discomforting truths about our world. If you could create some kind of artistic distruption, what would it be? Would it be in a gallery, or on the street? Would it be confrontational or subtle? To learn more about Doris Salcedo, Shibboleth, and other thought-provoking sculptures by the artist, click here.
3:31
Zarina Hashmi
This video brought to you by Tate.org.uk Zarina Hashmi left India in 1958. Around the same time, her family were subject to relocation from Delhi to Karachi following the partition of India and Pakistan. As a result, exile and the loss of the family home are embedded in her work, which often evokes physical and psychological spaces relating to memories of childhood and later life. Hear the artist speak about her piece Letters from Home (2004), a set of woodcuts in which handwritten letters from her sister Rani are overlaid by maps and floorplans that represent the artist's travels and places where she has lived, exploring the relationship with her native language and origins.
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Marlene Dumas, Models
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Julie Mehretu, Stadia II
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Jeff Wall, A View from an Apartment
2:21
Traces of illegal migration in Mexico: Mark Ruwedel
This video brought to you by Tate.org.uk In photographer Mark Ruwedel’s Crossing (2005), we come across a landscape littered with strange and incongruous objects: inner tubes, water bottles, passports, and single shoes are scattered across the desert that stretches over the border between Mexico and Southern California. While we don’t see the players in the drama Ruwedel has documented, his photographs reveal the traces they have left behind, both banal and poignant, as the attempt to cross an invisible line in the desert while escaping detection. Ruwedel walked miles along the US-Mexico border and photographed every object he came across in order to tell the story of undocumented migrants attempting to cross the border in secret. As Ruwedel puts it, his photographs deal with “forensic evidence as it is embedded in a landscape that speaks of human histories." What purpose do you think Ruwedel’s photographs serve? Are they merely documenting evidence, or telling more complex stories?
Article
Wangechi Mutu, Preying Mantra
Essay by Dr. Shawnya Harris
3:20
Shai Kremer in an Israeli military training stage
This video brought to you by Tate.org.uk Israeli photographer and former solider Shai Kremer invites us into an expansive military training ground. Kremer snuck into an Israeli training compound—or “stage”—for urban military manoeuvres and took photographs of the exercises taking place within. Hiding from an hourly patrol, Kremer secretly took photos of this fake city in hopes of raising discussion about what he see as the militarisation of society. Although it seems empty from afar, looking more closely at Kremer’s photograph reveals even more details. What message do you think Kremer is trying to convey in this photograph? Is he supportive or against what he sees—or neither? 
9:40
Gabriel Orozco
This video brought to you by Tate.org.uk Creative, playful and inventive, Gabriel Orozco creates art in the streets, his apartment or wherever he is inspired. Born in Mexico but working across the globe, Orozco is renowned for his endless experimentation with found objects, which he subtly alters. Join him as he shares his work, throws a boomerang, and marvels at what art can do.
Exercise
Doris Salcedo, Shibboleth (quiz)
Test your knowledge.
5:21
Zaha Hadid, MAXXI National Museum of XXI Century Arts, Rome
Zaha Hadid, MAXXI National Museum of XXI Century Arts, 1998 -- 2009 (opened 2010), Via Guido Reni, Rome. A conversation between Dr. Beth Harris and Dr. Steven Zucker
Exercise
Zaha Hadid, MAXII National Museum (quiz)
Test your knowledge.
4:00
East-West Divan at the Venice Biennale
This video brought to you by Tate.org.uk The Venice Biennale art fair is home to a number of national exhibitions as well as smaller shows, often representing people and places that wouldn't normally get a look in. Former Tate curator Jemima Montagu presents an exhibition of work by artists from Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. She talks about the thriving visual culture of the region and misconceptions surrounding it.
4:16
Doug Fishbone: Elmina
This video brought to you by Tate.org.uk New Yorker Doug Fishbone talks about his film Elmina, in which he joins the cast of an entirely Ghanaian-written and produced film melodrama as the lead character. There is no explanation for Fishbone's difference, leading us as viewers to question our preconceptions of fiction, narrative, cinema, and race. Take a look at the artist's unique project as he guides us through big questions about roles and representations in film.
3:02
Hrair Sarkissian: Syria's "Execution Squares"
This video brought to you by Tate.org.uk Syrian artist Hrair Sarkissian was profoundly marked after witnessing a public execution as a child. Having grown up around photographs, Sarkissian decided to use his craft to engage with and document the places that have haunted him the most. Taken in the Syrian cities of Damascus, Aleppo, and Lattakia, Execution Squares takes us to the major public squares in which executions have taken place for civil rather than political crimes. Sarkissian photographed the squares in the early morning when the streets were quiet, around the time when executions are typically carried out. Does seeing these empty squares encourage you to imagine that these peaceful places, and that no such acts of violence could have occurred there? Or does knowing Sarkissian’s stories of what really happened give these photographs new meaning?
Article
Ai Weiwei, "Remembering" and the Politics of Dissent
Article
Ai Weiwei, Kui Hua Zi (Sunflower Seeds)
Essay by Megan Lorraine Debin
14:42
Ai Weiwei: Sunflower Seeds
This video brought to you by Tate.org.uk In the process of crafting millions of porcelain sunflower seeds, Chinese artist Ai WeiWei creates a work of art as well as a positive social project for the village in rural China he employed to make the seeds. Follow Sunflower Seeds on its remarkable journey from conception to delivery, and hear the artist talk about his unique socio-political approach to making art.
3:43
Isaac Julien, Ten Thousand Waves | MoMA
Artist Isaac Julien discusses his work, Ten Thousand Waves, and its installation. To learn more about what artists have to say, take our online course, Modern and Contemporary Art, 1945-1989.
2:39
Nawa, PixCell-Deer#24
Met curator John Carpenter on perception in Kohei Nawa’s PixCell-Deer#24, 2011. This taxidermied deer has been completely transformed through the artist’s use of variably sized “PixCell” beads, a term he invented. PixCell is a portmanteau word combining the idea of a “cell” with that of a “pixel,” the smallest unit of a digital image. Whether intentionally or unintentionally on the artist’s part, PixCell-Deer#24 resonates with a type of religious painting known as a Kasuga Deer Mandala, which features a deer—the messenger animal of Shinto deities—posed similarly with its head turned to the side, and with a round sacred mirror on its back. For Japanese artists the deer was depicted often as a companion of ancient sages and had auspicious or poetic associations. View this work on metmuseum.org. Are you an educator? Here's a related lesson plan. For additional educator resources from The Metropolitan Museum of Art, visit Find an Educator Resource.
4:58
Wang Peng: Performance as politics in China and beyond
This video brought to you by Tate.org.uk Chinese artist Wang Peng started out as an abstract painter before turning to installations—at a time when installation and performance art was banned in China. And yet the artist flourished in what could be considered a hostile environment, using the restrictions imposed upon him to play with how far his art could go instead of simply giving in to the ban. In one piece, the artist and his fellow performers blocked the entrance to a gallery by building a wall of bricks in front of it. The next day, police tore down the wall in an ironic subversion, unwittingly taking part in the performance and symbolically opening the gallery back up. Underpinning Wang Peng’s work is a steadfast resolve to challenge the conventions and boundaries of art. "Your love of art should never be affected by politics,” he says. Do you think that an artist can be unaffected by politics but still engage with political and social issues? Learn more about Wang Peng's performance and politics here.
4:34
Michael Rakowitz on Star Wars and Saddam Hussein
This video brought to you by Tate.org.uk In this video, artist Michael Rakowitz explores seemingly implausible connections and contradictions between objects and events. In his 2010 exhibition The worst condition is to pass under a sword which is not one’s own, Rakowitz explores the unexpected links between Western science fiction and fantasy and the design of weapons, uniforms, and monuments under the regime of Saddam Hussein in Iraq. The project explores how images and idea from popular culture have become powerful contemporary mythologies, creating a world in which fictional characters coexist with and inform even the most radical historical figures. What kind of effect do these strange juxtapositions have? Could they make an extreme figure more relatable?
8:47
Wolfgang Laib, "Pollen from Hazelnut"
Wolfgang Laib describes the pollen he collected over 27 years "as the beginning of life."  To learn more about what artists have to say, take our online course, Modern and Contemporary Art, 1945-1989.
4:40
Meschac Gaba
This video brought to you by Tate.org.uk Drawing his greatest inspiration from his hometown of Cotonou, Benin, artist Meschac Gaba uses the city as his workspace and presentation site. Take a look as Gaba parades his work through the street, encouraging passersby to engage with his art, questioning what contemporary African art is and where it dwells. Find out what the artist means when he says, "The Africa I come from, a lot of people don't know this Africa."