The days are getting longer and festival season is almost upon us. So take the initiative: head out to a sculpture park in Spain, a five-hour play in Melbourne or Venice’s Biennale with the help of our indispensible guide to the best films, series, art, books and exhibitions on offer this month.
Seattle-based label Light in the Attic’s compilation is a delight, particularly for those new to City Pop: whimsical Japanese music from the 1970s and 1980s.
As its name suggests, the album comprises sunny songs that are a wonderful mix of synths and disco. Hitomi Tohyama’s uptempo “Exotic Yokogao” is a highlight, with its irresistibly catchy refrain, “Love me tonight.” Haruomi Hosono, the godfather of Japanese electronica, also features.
This is the latest instalment of the label’s Japan Archival Series, a commendable line-up unearthing the best in Japanese music for a global audience.
‘Pacific Breeze’ is released on 3 May
Based on the remarkable true stories of those who risked their lives to save others in the aftermath of the 1986 nuclear-powerplant meltdown in Ukraine, Chernobyl reveals how and why the disaster was able to happen. The five-part mini-series was written by US screenwriter Craig Mazin and directed by Swede Johan Renck, whose eerie production design sends chills down the spine. Stars including Emily Watson (pictured), Jared Harris and Stellan Skarsgård transform into Soviet physicists and politicians to tell the story of those who tried to save Europe from the brink of annihilation.
‘Chernobyl’ starts on Sky Atlantic and Now TV on 7 May
Rarely does a great short film evolve into an award-winning feature; Thunder Road is an exception. Jim Cummings’s film, which won the Grand Jury award at last year’s sxsw film festival, captures the pain and hilarity in the life of police officer Jim Arnaud. It begins with the mild-mannered Texan delivering a eulogy at his mother’s funeral that ends with a rendition of Bruce Springsteen’s song “Thunder Road”. The toe-curling comedy continues through custody battles and public meltdowns.
Cummings wrote, directed, starred in and co-edited the film – and worked on its music and visual effects. It’s as though he thought he wouldn’t have the opportunity to make another movie. He will.
‘Thunder Road’ is out in the UK on 31 May
Adapting Australian author Tim Winton’s epic novel Cloudstreet for the stage was never going to be an easy task. The story – about two families cohabiting in a rambling old house in Perth from the 1940s to 1960s – is so sprawling that the last production (by Nick Enright and Justin Monjo in 1998) lasted five-and-a-half hours. This new version at Melbourne’s Malthouse Theatre is itself a five-hour affair but it’s well worth the investment. A dinner interval makes watching in one visit more manageable but viewers can also choose to split the play over two days.
“You need to tell a story that lasts 25 years,” says director Matthew Lutton. “It’s the most ambitious show that Malthouse Theatre has created.”
‘Cloudstreet’ is on until 16 June
Tokyo’s Photographic Art Museum has been at the forefront of Japan’s photography education since reopening in 2016. This exhibition of work by photographer Ryuji Miyamoto is suitably ambitious.
After working as an editor for an architecture magazine, Miyamoto won acclaim as a photographer for his unique perspective on the life of buildings: their construction, decay and regeneration. Top’s show also offers a glimpse of Miyamoto’s early work: pinhole images taken near his parents’ hometown on Tokunoshima Island and pictures captured during travels in Japan and beyond its borders.
‘Invisible Land’ is on from 14 May to 15 July
Though the Danes legalised pornography in 1969, art’s relationship with nudity has long been a prickly subject. Debuting at Aros, Aarhus’s huge contemporary-art museum (the show will later move to Copenhagen), Art & Porn surveys 50 artists whose work tackles everything from eroticism to queer politics.
The show features pieces by Wilhelm Freddie (a surrealist who was imprisoned in the 1930s because his work was deemed smutty) and feminist artists Carolee Schneemann and Ellen Cantor, as well as a video by Mike Bouchet with 10,000 snippets from online porn.
So is the show sexy? “Not really,” says curator Rasmus Christian Stenbakken. It’s worth a peek nonetheless.
‘Art & Porn’ is on from 29 May to 8 September
Financial strain has complicated this museum’s history since it opened in 2000. But the sculpture park dedicated to beloved Basque artist Eduardo Chillida is finally back on its feet after being closed for restructuring for eight years. Set among the hills of Hernani near San Sebastián, the estate is peppered with 40 of Chillida’s most inspired sculptures and a 16th-century farmhouse. Dutch garden designer Piet Oudolf redesigned parts of the grounds, while Basque chef Fede Pacha sources produce from the surrounding farmland for onsite cafeteria Lurra.“This is a reflection of Basque culture, the landscape and of Chillida’s dedicated spirit of giving back,” says museum director Mireia Massagué.
Chillida-Leku reopens on 17 April
Photography galleries, dealers and agencies from 21 countries will descend on the UK’s capital in May for the fifth Photo London. Collectors seeking to broaden their portfolio with contemporary pieces are in luck: alongside the bigger players are a raft of younger galleries. London-based agency-turned-gallery Webber will present a roster of up-and-coming photographers: look out for new works by Theo Simpson.
Alongside the fair is a strong programme of talks. Speakers include Stephen Shore, a pioneer of colour photography and forerunner of the New Topographic movement, seminal war photographer Susan Meiselas, street photographer Ed Templeton and Martin Parr. There will also be satellite auctions curated by Philips, Sotheby’s and Christie’s, while Tate Modern will again host the must-visit independent photography and graphic-design book fair Offprint. The latter is the place to go to bag rare and limited-edition publications from more than 140 global publishers.
Photo London is on from 16 to 19 May
What to buy:
1. Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York: Black-and-white chronicles of street life in Chicago by Vivian Maier.
2. Galerie Nathalie Obadia, Paris and Brussels: Striking portraits of women by French photographer Valérie Belin.
3. Galerie Sofie Van de Velde, Antwerp: Work by Brussels-based Max Pinckers, whose documentary photography has a cinematic quality.
“Nobody has to remain the person they were born; we can put ourselves together like a jigsaw.” Bujar has just returned from burying his father in Kosovo when best friend Agim visits him in great distress. Agim has been beaten by his father after he was discovered wearing his mother’s red dress.
He persuades Bujar that they should both leave Albania – they view it as Europe’s rubbish dump – in search of a better life. They set off with stolen money in their pockets and love and hope in their hearts. But, as the action flits between Rome, Madrid, New York and Helsinki, it becomes no easier for them to find a place to feel at home.
Vibrant and astonishingly beautiful, this novel about storytelling and identity captures the deep loneliness that stems from poverty, from feeling unwanted and from being the “wrong” nationality or gender in an unjust world.
‘Crossing’ is published by Pushkin Press and is released on 2 May
Pop-Se launched to acclaim in Brazil last December, making headlines by putting 66-year-old actress Vera Fischer on the cover – naked on a pink background.
Founders André Rodrigues and Allex Colontonio are not deterred by the difficult market in recession-hit Brazil: the first issue stretched to more than 600 pages. Issue two’s cover is even more explosive: drag-queen-turned-popstar Pabllo Vittar poses wearing both blue and pink. The choice of colours is an eloquent response to comments from Brazil’s women’s minister, who said that boys should wear blue and girls pink.
Pop-Se offers some welcome respite to the conservatism of Brazil’s new government – and it will certainly bring some colour to newsstands.
Issue two of ‘Pop-Se’ is on newsstands now
Nana Oforiatta Ayim
As Ghana prepares to make its debut at the Venice Biennale, we discuss the country’s art scene with the curator of the exhibition’s Ghana Pavilion.
“The show is called Ghana Freedom and is named after a song that was put out right after we gained our independence. It reflects on the idea that we now have freedom, what this freedom means and what it means to be Ghanaian.
There’ll be artists across three generations, both from Ghana and the diaspora. El Anatsui and Ibrahim Mahama are going to be creating large-scale sculptures, photographers Felicia Abban and Lynette Yiadom-Boakye are working with portraiture in different ways, and John Akomfrah and Selasi Awusi Sosu are using film to explore the idea of loss, memory and restitution. All of that is going to be displayed inside a wonderful design [for the pavilion] that architect David Adjaye is creating, which consists of elliptical chambers inspired by classical Ghanaian architecture.
I lobbied for the Ghana Pavilion to be in Venice. I talked to the Ministry of Culture about why it was important – it was a long process of negotiation. For the first time we have a government that is supportive of the arts and understands why it is important to invest in them. It’s an exciting moment.”
The Venice Biennale opens to the public on 11 May and is on until 24 November