10 Must-See Temporary Exhibitions in Summer 2018

The end of term is in sight and the days are getting longer. And that means we’re all daydreaming of summer. Whether your summer plans call for research or relaxation, take advantage of some stellar temporary exhibitions happening around the globe that are highlighting the production, context, and craftsmanship of medieval art. These exhibitions are pushing boundaries, considering new contexts, and boasting bold feats—several of these exhibitions present artworks on view in North America and Europe for the first time. Let us know your favourites by sharing your thoughts in the comments below. Happy Summer!

Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination

10 May – 8 October 2018

Cope of Benedict XV (r. 1914–22), 1918. Italian. Courtesy of the Collection of the Office of Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff, Papal Sacristy, Vatican City. Digital composite scan by Katerina Jebb

 The Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC

Sponsored by colossal names such as Condé Nast and Versace, this exhibition at The Metropolitan Museum of Art is blurring the lines between medieval art and fashion. The Met’s own Costume Institute, Robert Lehman Wing, 5th Avenue medieval galleries, and the Cloisters will collaborate with The Vatican to display medieval textiles such as papal robes and other liturgical accessories intermingled with examples of contemporary haute couture. Heavenly Bodies seeks to create a discourse between the artistic traditions in Catholicism and ongoing trends in today’s biggest names in fashion. Must-see objects include vestments from the Sistine Chapel’s sacristy, some of which have never left The Vatican. Use #MetHeavenlyBodies to share your thoughts on the exhibition.


Fra Angelico: Heaven on Earth

Through 20 May 2018

Fra Angelico
Fra Angelico (Italian, about 1400-1455), The Dormition and Assumption of the Virgin, 1424-1434. Tempera with oil glazes and gold on panel, 85.7 x 45.1 cm (33 3/4 x 17 3/4 in.)

Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston, MA

In 1899, Isabella Stewart Gardner acquired Fra Angelico’s Assumption and Dormition of the Virgin, making this the first work by the Renaissance master to reach the United States. This painting and three others that are now in the collection of the Museo di San Marco in Florence were designed by Fra Angelico as a complete series for the church of Santa Maria Novella to illustrate the life of the Virgin. This exhibition unites the four works and invites viewers to marvel at Fra Angelico’s exceptional skill, creativity, and craftsmanship.



Očím skryté. Podkresba na deskových obrazech 14.–16. Století ze sbírek Národní galerie v Praze (What the Eyes Cannot See & For the Eyes to Admire: Medieval Art in Bohemia and Central Europe, 1250– 1550)

For the Eyes to Admire: Decorative Techniques in Painting and Sculpture from the Collections of the National Gallery in Prague, 14th–16th Centuries: Through 20 May 2018Prague

What the Eyes Cannot See: Underdrawing in Panel Paintings from the Collections of the National Gallery in Prague, 14th–16th Centuries: Through 17 September 2018

National Gallery of Art, Prague

In 2017, two new exhibitions opened in the National Gallery, Prague’s Convent of St Agnes, the 13th-century building that houses its medieval art galleries. These two exhibitions (one closing on 20 May, the other on 17 September), present recent results of research and analysis on prominent artworks in the Gallery’s collection. Audiences can learn about techniques and procedures of medieval painters and craftsmen, and will have the opportunity to view rare preparatory designs and drawings of certain works. The exhibitions are accompanied by lectures and other programs for adults and families.


The Medieval World at Our Fingertips: Manuscript Illuminations from the Collection of Sandra Hindman

Through 28 May 2018

Masters of Zweder van Culembourg. Nehemiah before King Artaxerxes, initial ‘C’ from a Bible, c. 1430. Gift of Sandra Hindman.

Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL

Explore the world of medieval Europe through a selection of the Art Institute’s collection of manuscript illuminations, which in 2017 was greatly augmented by the generous gift of scholar and collector Sandra Hindman. One third of the miniatures exhibited come from Hindman’s gift and represent diverse books of hours, choir books, and religious narratives that span 400 years of the medieval period. The exhibition celebrates Hindman’s gift while also highlighting her own journey as a student and teacher of the medieval book. In addition, the exhibition is accompanied by a new publication on illuminated manuscripts by Dr Christopher de Hamel.


Tolkien: Maker of Middle-Earth

1 June – 28 October 2018Tolkien 2

The Bodleian, University of Oxford

While not a medieval exhibition per se, Tolkien: Maker of Medieval Earth examines the inspiration and life work of the celebrated novelist, philologist, and medievalist. Tolkien—who wrote extensively on Old English and Anglo-Saxon texts while a professor at the University of Oxford—was greatly inspired by medieval languages and cultures to create Middle Earth, the world of The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, and The Silmarillion. This exhibition gathers together manuscripts, drawings, and rare objects from Tolkien’s life to present a comprehensive look at one of the most respected writers of high fantasy.


Medieval Monsters: Terrors, Aliens, Wonders

8 June – 23 September 2018

Siren, from Abus du Monde (The Abuses of the World), France, Rouen, ca. 1510. New York, The Morgan Library & Museum, MS M.42, fol. 15r.

The Morgan Library & Museum, NYC

The Morgan Library & Museum’s Medieval Monsters will delve into our fascination with monsters by charting the imagery and iconography of such creatures in medieval manuscript illuminations—the first exhibition of its kind in North America. Featuring major works from The Morgan’s collection, this exhibition will investigate the various social roles assigned to the monster in medieval culture through captivating and skilfully executed illuminations. Lectures, workshops, films, and more accompany this exhibition that runs until September.



Chrétiens d’Orient, Deux mille ans d’histoire (Christians of the Orient: 2,000 Years of History)

Through 11 June 2018

Acanthist Hymn (detail), Yusuf Al-Musawwir, Aleppo, between 1650-1667. Tempura on wood, collection of George Antaki, London.

MUba Eugéne Leroy, Tourcoing, France

The Institute of the Arab World’s highly successful Christians of the Orient travels to the MUba Eugéne Leroy in Tourcoing, France. Featuring works never before seen in Europe, this exhibition charts the entire history of Christianity through artefacts and works of art lent from major institutions in the Near and Middle East. Exploring the practices and traditions of local Christian communities of Greek, Coptic, Armenian, and Syriac churches, the exhibition showcases the complex history of Christian artistic production in the Arab world.



The World of the Fatimids

Through 2 July 2018Fatimids

Aga Khan Museum, Toronto

This multi-sensory exhibition at the Aga Khan Museum explores the Fatimid Dynasty at the height of its power in the 10th and 11th centuries. With Cairo as their base, the Fatimids fostered a culture that embraced innovation in both the arts and sciences. This exhibition gathers together—for the first time in North America—a wide-ranging collection of Fatimid objects such as rock crystal, ivory, lusterware, and more. In addition to luxurious objects on loan from the Museum of Islamic Art in Cairo, this exhibition sports drone videography and virtual reality to augment the visitor’s experience. Also take advantage of the lectures, films, and courses relating to the exhibition.


Miniature Masterpieces: The Coëtivy Hours

Through 2 September 2018Beatty

The Chester Beatty Library, Dublin

Celebrating the 50th anniversary of Chester Beatty’s Gift to the Nation of Ireland, this exhibition takes a close look at one of Beatty’s most beloved treasures: The Coëtivy Hours. Illuminated in the 15th century, this book of hours is a work of the Dunois Master and is composed of 148 finely executed illuminated miniatures. Beatty, an American magnate and naturalized Irish citizen, bequeathed his priceless collection of East Asian, Islamic, and European manuscripts to a public trust in 1968. Accompanying the exhibition is a richly illustrated catalogue for only €15.


Jews, an Italian Story: The First Thousand Years

Through 16 September 201820_mosaico delle due Ecclesiae

The National Museum of Italian Judaism and the Shoah, Ferrara, Italy

The new National Museum of Italian Judaism and the Shoah has opened with a massive exhibition charting the history and experiences of Italian Jews from ancient Rome to the Middle Ages. Boasting over 200 objects, Jews, An Italian Story features jewellery, seals, manuscripts, coins, and other precious objects from museum collections around the world—some on display for the first time. The exhibition offers visitors the opportunity to engage with the formation and development of this unique regional culture of the Italian Peninsula.


Thanks is due to the ICMA for contributing to portions of this list. Become a member of The International Center of Medieval Art and receive further updates on upcoming exhibitions.


Published by ameliahyde

Amelia Roché Hyde holds an MA from The Courtauld Institute of Art, where she studied cross-cultural artistic traditions of medieval Spain, taking an in-depth look at the context and role of Spanish ivories within sacred spaces. Her favorite medieval art objects are ones that are meant to be handled and touched, and she has researched ivories, textiles, and illuminated manuscripts at The Metropolitan Museum of Art and The British Museum. Amelia is the Research Assistant at The Met Cloisters.

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