The best museum exhibits in Europe this summer

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If you’re heading overseas — or looking for a good reason to — Europe’s museum exhibits have a lot to offer in the next few months. A few are family-friendly, such as a walk through iconic sets of “Harry Potter” films, a display of famous motorcycle helmets, and an exhibit of J.R.R. Tolkien’s little-known Middle-earth artwork. Others explore the complicated identities of artists Frida Kahlo and Marc Chagall. Use this guide to find 10 worthwhile museum stops in Europe this summer.

Classic Beauties” at the Hermitage in Amsterdam
Through Jan. 13, 2019
Following the excavation of Greco-Roman sculptures and buildings in Rome in the second half of the 18th century, artists and art aficionados flocked to Italy to see the works themselves. In the art world, this prompted a new movement — Neoclassicism — which took depictions of the human body and its beauty to a new a level. The exhibit features more than 60 sculptures, paintings and drawings by 25 prominent artists, including Pompeo Batoni, Anton Raphael Mengs, Angelica Kauffmann and Antonio Canova. Many are on loan from the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, as well as other private and public collections.
Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth” at the Weston Library at Bodleian Libraries in Oxford
Through Oct. 28, 2018
Author J.R.R. Tolkien was a man of many talents. The literary genius behind the novels “The Lord of the Rings” and “The Hobbit” is less known for his paintings, drawings and illustrations that reflect the Middle-earth world he created on the page. For the first time since the 1950s, Tolkien’s artwork, normally found throughout the U.K. and U.S., comes together for an exhibit in Oxford. In addition to three unusual, previously unseen works, the show includes original watercolors he painted while writing “The Hobbit” (some were used in printed copies of the books), his designs for his books’ dust-jackets and binding, and illustrations of his children’s bedtime stories.
Chagall. The Breakthrough Years, 1911–1919” at the Guggenheim Bilbao, Spain
Through Sept. 3, 2018
After working in urban Paris for three years, from 1911-1914, artist Marc Chagall returned for a visit to his home of Belarus and was stranded there for eight years while World War I tore through Europe. In France, his works reflected memories of his Jewish home with avant garde influences from his Parisian surroundings, but once at home, his work shifted toward introspective self-portraits and Jewish life in Belarus, as well as stage designs for the celebration of the first anniversary of the October Revolution. The Guggenheim focuses on these key years in Chagall’s career this summer with an exhibit featuring works on loan from predominantly Swiss public and private collections.
Post-Pop. Beyond the commonplace” at the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum in Portugal
Through Sept. 10, 2018
During the Portuguese Colonial War from 1961 to 1974, many of the country’s artists left and moved to cities like London and Paris. They were influenced greatly by the Pop Art movement — as well as the critiques and responses to the movement — happening in those places in the 1960s. This exhibition features more than 200 works produced between 1965 and 1975 by Portuguese artists and their English counterparts, including Bernard Cohen, Tom Phillips, Jeremy Moon, Allen Jones, Teresa Magalhães, Ruy Leitão, Eduardo Batarda, Menez, Nikias Skapinakis, Fátima Vaz, Clara Menéres, João Cutileiro and José de Guimarães.
Harry Potter: The Exhibition” at Fabbrica del Vapore in Milan
Through Sept. 9, 2018
A must-see exhibit for “Harry Potter” fans comes to Milan this summer. The exhibit features thousands of props, costumes and creatures from the series of films. Visitors get to experience a number of film sets from the most popular locations in the movies, including the Gryffindor common room and dormitory, the classrooms Potions and Herbology, the Forbidden Forest, and Hagrid’s hut (with the opportunity to sit in his giant armchair). Interactive elements include a Quidditch area. More than 4 million visitors have enjoyed this travelling international exhibit; since 2009, it has visited Boston, Toronto, Seattle, New York, Sydney, Singapore, Tokyo, Edmonton, Sweden, Cologne, Paris, Shanghai, Brussels, the Netherlands and Madrid.
Monsters, Devils and Demons” at Museum Rietberg in Zürich
Through Sept. 16, 2018
Whether depicted as nightmarish or humorous, frightening creatures have always been a subject visited by artists. These works are often associated with cultural myths and legends about heroes winning against evil forces. At Switzerland’s museum dedicated to Eastern cultures, depictions of monsters, devils and demons by Indian, Japanese, Persian and Swiss artists come together to startle visitors this summer. On display: paintings, woodblock prints, drawings, textiles, miniature sculptures and monstrous masks.
Aftermath: Art in the Wake of World War One” at the Tate Britain in London
Through Sept. 23, 2018
To mark 100 years since World War I’s conclusion, the Tate will bring together more than 150 works of art created in the years immediately following the end of the war (1916 to 1932). The exhibit focuses on British, German and French artists, including George Grosz, Fernand Léger and C.R.W. Nevinson. Their work responded to both the physical and psychological scars left on Europe, prompting them to respond to the war and its impacts on veterans, cities and rebuilding.
Frida Kahlo: Making Herself Up” at the V&A in London
Through Nov. 4, 2018
London is home to the first exhibition outside of Mexico to display a collection of Frida Kahlo’s clothes, cosmetics and other possessions after their 2004 discovery at her former home. The items will be juxtaposed with important self-portraits and photographs to study her appearance and style which is considered “highly choreographed.” Along with personal items including outfits, letters, jewelry, cosmetics, medicines and medical corsets, a few highlights: her eyebrow pencil “Ebony;” her favorite lipstick, Revlon’s “Everything’s Rosy;” and red nail polish. “A countercultural and feminist symbol, this show will offer a powerful insight into how Frida Kahlo constructed her own identity,” said Claire Wilcox, senior curator of fashion at the V&A and exhibition co-curator.
The Music of Color” at the Kunstmuseum Basel in in Switzerland
June 9 – Sept. 30, 2018
In his first solo exhibition in Europe, the Kunstmuseum Basel hosts a show of American artist Sam Gilliam’s abstract work. In 1972, the groundbreaking artist was the first African-American to represent the United States at the Venice Biennale. Exhibit curators have chosen to focus on the years between 1967 and 1973, which they consider Gilliam’s most creative and radical period. His work blurs the lines between painting, sculpture and architecture. The 45 works on display have been brought together from international private and public collections.
Colors of the World Championship” at the National Museum of Science and Technology in Milan
May 4 – June 3, 2018
Italian designer Aldo Drudi has made a name for himself with his boldly colored motorcycle racing helmets. Milan’s Science and Technology museum recognizes Drudi with an exhibit dedicated to his career and creations this summer. The highlight will be the collection of original helmets made by Drudi from the ’80s to today, as well as the 2008 Grand Prix motorcycle racing World Championship winner’s helmet and jumpsuit. “It is precisely through the graphics and design of these objects that, with this exhibition, we want to express the romantic soul of motorcycling,” Drudi said.
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