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Must-see shows in Turin during Artissima

Heavy-hitting, political shows by Wael Shawky and Josh Kline headline the city’s art programme

As collectors arrive in Turin for Artissima week, they’ll find plenty of other opportunities to see works by international contemporary artists in the city’s institutions and galleries. Here is our selection of a few of the must-see exhibitions.

All eyes on Wael Shawky The Egyptian artist has a retrospective at the Castello di Rivoli (until 5 February 2017) and a show of new work at the Fondazione Merz, titled Al Araba Al Madfuna (until 5 February 2017).

The striking parallels between Shawky's marionette crusaders and today's strife in the Middle East was not lost on visitors

Curated by Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev and Marcella Beccaria, the Castello di Rivoli show sees the palace’s Manica Lunga building transformed into an all-blue, immersive theatrical set in which a selection of his works are displayed. These include a new set of wooden high reliefs as well as screenings of all three parts of his acclaimed Cabaret Crusades films, in which he uses hand-made marionettes, which are also on show, to tell the story of the Crusades from an Arab perspective.

While the subject of the films resonates rather obviously with the current geo-political instability in the Middle East, their display in Turin strikes a further chord because the city has “one of the country’s highest concentration of people of Islamic faith in the country,” says Christov-Bakargiev. And interestingly, the Castello di Rivoli is recorded as one of the stops along the crusaders’ route to the Holy Land.

Wael Shawky's desert landscape and palm trees at his Fondazione Merz show, Al Araba Al Madfuna (2016). (Image: Andrea Guermani)

Shawky’s show at the Fondazione Merz is his prize for winning the first edition of the Mario Merz Prize. The space has been transformed into a blue-hued desert landscape, replete with sand dunes and palm trees, in which another trilogy of films, Al Araba Al Madfuna (2016), is shown together for the first time. The culmination of a lengthy visit to a village near the ancient Egyptian capital of Abydos, the films conflate history with archaeology, myth and story-telling, all in Shawky’s signature cinematographic style. “It’s interesting that these works are being shown during this period of so–called ‘clashes of civilisations,’” Christov-Bakargiev says.

Meanwhile, over in Milan, Lisson Gallery is giving the artist his first solo exhibition, showing drawings produced while he was making the Cabaret Crusades series.

A family affair One of the city’s most important centres for cutting edge contemporary art is the Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, led by the collector and patron Patrizia Sandretto. Her penchant for introducing up-and-coming artists to Italy led her to giving the American artist Josh Kline his first ever show in Italy.

Will technology render human beings obsolete in the future? Josh Kline's sinister installations strike a chord (Image: Paolo Saglia)

The Philadelphia-born, New York-based artist is presenting a series of sculptures, videos and installations (until 12 February 2017) that address growing social problems in the West. Set in 2030, the show advances the idea of a dystopian future, based on current socio-economic trends, in which “technological advancements have eliminated the jobs traditionally reserved for the middle class,” Kline said at the opening. “These issues are not talked about in the media but, for example, much of our online sports and business news is already being written by algorithms. What I’m trying to do with this show is ask ‘what does this mean for us?’” Blending fantastical objects with unsettlingly realistic sculptures, the show is as alluring as it is disturbing.

Meanwhile, Eugenio Re Rebaudengo, Patrizia’s son, has taken over the city’s 17th-century Palazzo Capris with A Place of Our Time (until 10 November), a pop-up exhibition organised by the online art platform Artuner, which he founded in 2013. The show takes the idea of landscape as a starting point, and brings together works artists of different ages and backgrounds, including Italy’s own Pietro Consagra and Luigi Ghirri, the veteran American sculptor Rachel Harrison and the edgy artist collective Slavs and Tatars.