(Boston, MA—January 7, 2019) The Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston (ICA) announces its exhibition schedule for 2019. Upcoming exhibitions include Huma Bhabha’s largest survey to date, the U.S. premiere of John Akomfrah’s Purple at the ICA Watershed, and a major exhibition that considers how contemporary artists are responding to the migration, immigration, and displacement of peoples today. For more information, please contact Margaux Leonard at mleonard@icaboston.org, 617-478-3176.

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Nina Chanel Abney
January 17, 2019–March 15, 2020
Nina Chanel Abney (b. 1982, Chicago, IL) is known for weaving colorful geometric shapes, cartoons, language, and symbols into chaotic and energetic compositions. At the ICA, she will create a mural that speaks to social tensions in the digital age, including the constant stream of true and false information, the dilemma of liberal racism, and abuses of power that lead to structural inequality. This exhibition is organized by Ellen Tani, Assistant Curator.

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Ragnar Kjartansson: The Visitors
February 13, 2019–July 28, 2019
A sentimental portrayal of friendship, love, and loss and one of the best-loved works in the ICA’s permanent collection, Ragnar Kjartansson’s (b. 1976, Reykjavik, Iceland) masterwork The Visitors (2012) is a monumental nine-channel sound and moving-image installation of a performance staged at Rokeby Farm, a historic forty-three-room estate in upstate New York. This presentation is organized by Jeffrey De Blois, Assistant Curator.

A bust by Huma Bhaba, that is gray and organic in texture, with the top covered in light blue paint.

Huma Bhabha: They Live
March 23, 2019–May 27, 2019

Since the early 1990s, Huma Bhabha (b. 1962, Karachi, Pakistan) has developed a distinct visual vocabulary that draws upon a wide variety of influences, including horror movies, science fiction, ancient artifacts, religious reliquary, and modernist sculpture. The largest survey of the artist’s work to date, Huma Bhabha: They Live encompasses sculpture, drawing, and photography, with a special focus on Bhabha’s engagement with the human figure. Best known for her sculptures, Bhabha uses a diverse array of natural, industrial, and found materials to make compelling works that engage the arts and histories of diverse cultures. Her work transcends a singular time and place, instead creating an exploration of what she describes as the “eternal concerns” found across all cultures: war, colonialism, displacement, and memories of home. Huma Bhabha: They Live will also include drawings, photographs, and prints spanning the past two decades, as well as new works made on the occasion of this exhibition. It will be accompanied by a lushly illustrated scholarly publication. This exhibition is organized by Eva Respini, Barbara Lee Chief Curator

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John Akomfrah: Purple
May 26, 2019–September 2, 2019
At the ICA Watershed

Co-commissioned by the ICA and making its U.S. premiere at the ICA Watershed, Purple is an immersive six-channel video installation by the acclaimed artist and filmmaker John Akomfrah (b. 1957, Accra, Ghana). Akomfrah draws from hundreds of hours of archival footage, combining it with newly shot film and a hypnotic sound score to address themes related to the implications of climate change across the planet and its effects on human communities, biodiversity, and the wilderness. Sited in the Watershed’s industrial building, Purple resonates deeply with the Watershed’s harbor location and its proximity to the current and historical maritime industries of the East Boston Shipyard and Marina. Symphonic in scale and divided into five interwoven movements, the film features various disappearing ecological landscapes, from the hinterlands of Alaska and the desolate environments of Greenland to the Tahitian Peninsula and the volcanic Marquesas Islands in the South Pacific. Purple conveys the complex and fragile interrelation of human and non-human life with a sense of poetic gravity that registers the vulnerability of living in precarious environments. John Akomfrah: Purple is organized by Eva Respini, Barbara Lee Chief Curator, with Cara Kuball, Curatorial Project Manager.

An organic sculpture round in shape.

Less is a bore: Maximalist Art & Design
June 26, 2019–September 22, 2019

Less is a bore: Maximalist Art & Design is a multigenerational survey of strategies of pattern and decoration in art and design. Borrowing its ethos from Robert Venturi’s infamous retort to Mies van der Rohe’s modernist edict “less is more,” this exhibition includes art works that privilege decoration, patterning, and maximalism over modernism’s reductive “ornament as crime” philosophy. Less is a bore: Maximalist Art & Design investigates the impulse toward ornamentation, pattern painting, and decorative modes as a persistent strategy, one that can be deployed to critique, subvert, and transform accepted histories and trajectories related to craft and design, feminism, queerness and gender, beauty and taste, camouflage and masquerade, multiculturalism and globalism, among others. The exhibition surveys a field of interdisciplinary creative production, from art to design, that proves such strategies are multivalent and exceedingly adaptable methods to make art works that play fast and loose with “high” and “low,” and that reference ideas, forms and symbols at once personal and political, contemporary and historical, local and global. This exhibition is organized by Jenelle Porter, guest curator, with Jeffrey De Blois, Assistant Curator.

Hanging unstretched paintings with light coming through them.

Vivian Suter
August 21, 2019–January 5, 2020

Vivian Suter (b. 1949, Buenos Aires, Argentina) works in close partnership with the natural environment surrounding her home and studio in Panajachel, Guatemala. The artist’s first Boston exhibition will feature a single installation filling the galleries with a canopy of color and shapes evocative of the lush setting. Her method often involves moving her canvases between the indoors and outdoors and exposing them to the climate in order to allow nature to comingle with her broad swaths of painted, vivid color. The mud and rain, light through the trees, and animals in the forest work in concert with Suter’s gestural compositions, which are inspired by the surrounding vegetation and landscape. Her installation of layered and suspended canvases invites visitors to discover her unique dialogue with the imagined and natural worlds. This exhibition is organized by Ruth Erickson, Mannion Family Curator.

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2019 James and Audrey Foster Prize
August 21, 2019–January 5, 2020
The 2019 installment of the ICA’s biannual James and Audrey Foster Prize exhibition highlighting the work of Boston-area artists will feature four individuals: Rashin Fahandej (b. 1978, Shiraz, Iran), Josephine Halvorson (b. 1981, Brewster, MA), Lavaughan Jenkins (b. 1976, Boston, MA), and Helga Roht Poznanski (b. 1926, Tartu, Estonia). This intergenerational group of artists works across media, including painting, sculpture, film, and video, to explore questions of place, portraiture, and belonging. Their unique and exceptional work demonstrates the breadth and ecology of contemporary art practices in Boston. First established in 1999, the James and Audrey Foster Prize (formerly the ICA Artist Prize) is central to the ICA’s efforts to nurture and recognize local artists, showcase exceptional artwork, and support a thriving local arts scene. This exhibition is organized by Ruth Erickson, Mannion Family Curator.

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When Home Won’t Let You Stay: Migration through Contemporary Art
October 23, 2019–January 26, 2020
When Home Won’t Let You Stay: Migration through Contemporary Art considers how contemporary artists are responding to the migration, immigration, and displacement of peoples today. We are currently witnessing the highest levels of movement on record—the United Nations estimates that one out of every seven people in the world is an international or internal migrant who moves by choice or by force, with great success or great struggle. When Home Won’t Let You Stay borrows its title from a poem by Warsan Shire, a Somali-British poet who gives voice to the experiences of refugees. Through artworks made since 2000 by twenty artists from more than a dozen countries—such as Colombia, Cuba, France, India, Iraq, Mexico, Morocco, Nigeria, Palestine, South Korea, the United Kingdom, and the United States—this exhibition highlights diverse artistic responses to migration ranging from personal accounts to poetic meditations, and features a range of mediums, including sculpture, installation, painting, and video. Artists in the exhibition include Kader Attia, Tania Bruguera, Isaac Julien, Hayv Kahraman, Reena Saini Kallat, Richard Mosse, Carlos Motta, Yinka Shonibare, Xaviera Simmons, and Do-Ho Suh, among others. A fully illustrated catalogue accompanies the exhibition, with an essay by Eva Respini and Ruth Erickson and texts by prominent scholars Aruna D’Souza, Okwui Enwezor, Thomas Keenan, Peggy Levitt, and Uday Singh Mehta, among others. This exhibition is organized by Ruth Erickson, Mannion Family Curator, and Eva Respini, Barbara Lee Chief Curator, with Ellen Tani, Assistant Curator.

About the ICA
Since its founding in 1936, the Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston has shared the pleasures of reflection, inspiration, imagination, and provocation that contemporary art offers with audiences in Boston and beyond. Its innovative exhibitions, performances, and educational programs provide access to contemporary art, artists, and the creative process, inviting audiences of all ages and backgrounds to participate in the excitement of new art and ideas. Spanning two locations across Boston Harbor, the ICA offers year-round programming at its iconic building in Boston’s Seaport and seasonal programming (May-September) at the Watershed, part of a functioning East Boston shipyard.

The ICA is located at 25 Harbor Shore Drive, Boston, MA, 02210. The Watershed is located at 256 Marginal Street, East Boston, MA 02128. For more information, call 617-478-3100 or visit our website at icaboston.org. Follow the ICA at Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.


Nina Chanel Abney is supported, in part, by Jean-François and Nathalie Ducrest.

Ragnar Kjartansson: The Visitors is a Gift of Graham and Ann Gund to Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, and Gund Gallery at Kenyon College.

Support for this presentation is generously provided by Kate and Charles Brizius, James and Audrey Foster, Jodi and Hal Hess, Kristen and Kent Lucken, and Tristin and Martin Mannion. 

Major support for Huma Bhabha: They Live is provided by The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts.


Huma Bhabha: They Live is generously sponsored by Max Mara.

Additional support is generously provided by Karen and Brian Conway, Steve Corkin and Dan Maddalena, Fotene Demoulas and Tom Coté, Cynthia and John Reed, and Charlotte and Herbert S. Wagner III. 

Support for the Huma Bhabha: They Live publication provided by Salon 94.

John Akomfrah: Purple has been commissioned by the Barbican, London and co-commissioned by Bildmuseet Umeå, Sweden, TBA21-Academy, The Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston, Museu Coleção Berardo, Lisbon and Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, Moscow.

Free Admission to the ICA Watershed is made possible by the generosity of Alan and Vivien Hassenfeld and the Hassenfeld Family Foundation.

The ICA Watershed is supported by Fund for the Arts, a public art program of the New England Foundation for the Arts.

The 2019 James and Audrey Foster Prize exhibition and prize are generously endowed by James and Audrey Foster.

Nina Chanel Abney, I Left Three Days Ago, 2016. Acrylic and spray paint, Library Street Collective, Detroit, Michigan. Courtesy of Nina Chanel Abney studio. © Nina Chanel Abney. | Ragnar Kjartansson, The Visitors, 2012. Nine-channel HD video projection, 64 minutes, Edition 4 of 6, Gift of Graham Gund to the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston and the Gund Gallery, Kenyon College. Courtesy of the artist, Luhring Augustine, New York, and i8 Gallery, Reykjavik. © Ragnar Kjartansson | Huma Bhahba, Four Nights of a Dreamer (detail), 2018. Cork, Styrofoam, acrylic, oil stick, and lacquered wood pedestal, 74 ½ × 36 × 36 inches (189.2 × 91.4 × 91.4 cm). Courtesy the artist and Salon 94, New York. © Huma Bhabha | John Akomfrah, Purple (still), 2017. Six-channel HD color video installation with 15.1 surround sound; 62 minutes. Courtesy Lisson Gallery. © Smoking Dogs Films | Haegue Yang, The Intermediate — Inceptive Sphere, 2016. Artificial straw, steel stand, powder coating, artificial plants, artificial fruits, plastic twine, Indian bells, and caster. 53 ⅛ x 45 ¼ inches (134.9 x 114.9 x 114.9 cm). General Acquisition Fund. Photo by Charles Mayer. © Haegue Yang | Vivian Suter, Nisyros (Vivian’s bed), 2016–17. Installation view, Kassel, Germany, for Documenta 14. © Vivian Suter | Helga Roht Poznanski, Untitled, c. 2018. Watercolor on paper, 17 x 24 inches. Courtesy the artist. © Helga Roht Poznanski | Woven Chronicle, 2011–2016. Installation view, Insecurities: Tracing Displacement and Shelter, October 1, 2016 – January 22, 2017, The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Photo by Jonathan Muzikar.© The Museum of Modern Art/Licensed by SCALA / Art Resource, NY