AZTECS A meticulous reconstruction of the 14th-century Templo Mayor, perhaps the greatest of Aztec monuments, forms the heart of one of the most ambitious exhibitions ever staged at London's Royal Academy. More than 350 treasures, many seen for the first time outside Mexico, include exquisite turquoise mosaics, monumental sculptures and the pictorial manuscripts the Aztecs used to record their history. Other elements of Aztec belief--like the human sacrifices that, according to the Spanish, made the temple reek of blood--are left to the imagination. The Royal Academy of Arts, London, Nov. 16-April 11.
Tremulous dark forests, lustrous socialites dripping jewels, and children chasing butterflies are among the vibrant images that fill Thomas Gainsborough's work. The 18th-century English painter built his worldwide reputation on accessible, rather sentimental portraits. Yet, as the show demonstrates, his work was also highly original and intellectually rewarding. The Tate Britain's major fall exhibition brings together the largest group of Gainsboroughs ever gathered, including many lesser-known pieces returned to the United Kingdom for the first time in living memory. It's a welcome reassessment of the lively and inventive imagination behind those bucolic landscapes and luminous smiles. Tate Britain, London, Oct. 24-Jan. 19.
The secret of his portraits is simple, but the results are complex. Avedon shoots unflinching, warts-and-all photographs that are nevertheless more glamorous than any Hollywood publicity still. What makes them rich are the sitters, from singer Marian Anderson to deep- thinking literary critic Harold Bloom. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Sept. 26-Jan. 5.
PICASSO, EL NACIMIENTO DE UN GENIO (THE BIRTH OF A GENIUS)
Tokyo's most talked-about show this fall peers into the adolescent mind of Pablo Picasso. The Ueno Royal Museum is displaying 222 drawings, paintings and sketches--rarely seen outside Barcelona's Museu Picasso-- that the artist completed between the ages of 9 and 23. The show reveals how freely the young Picasso experimented with different styles, from his youthful depictions of Hercules to the far more mature "The First Communicants," which he painted when he was 14. The large, surprisingly realistic and detailed oil painting, depicting a girl in a white dress and veil kneeling before an altar, is the star of the show. The Ueno Royal Museum, Tokyo, Sept. 21-Dec. 8.
MAX BECKMANN: UN PEINTRE DANS L'HISTOIRE He was perhaps Germany's most distinguished, prolific and overlooked 20th-century artist. Finally, 52 years after his death, Centre Pompidou in Paris is giving Beckmann his due: a high-profile retrospective with 100 paintings and 60 drawings, including his most famous triptych, "Departure," which captured his sinister and Gothic view of the increasingly powerful Nazi regime. In the 1930s the Nazis labeled Beckmann's work, filled with frightful circus characters and scenes of violence, "degenerate," forcing him into exile. Now viewers can judge for themselves. Centre Pompidou, Paris, through Jan. 6.
Inspired in part by John Lennon, whose drawings continue to raise millions for charity, former South African president Nelson Mandela will begin selling his own art works this fall. …