Upper East Side events: The best shows and cultural happenings

Find things to do on the Upper East Side, including museum exhibitions, shows, festivals and other events.

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Barneys New York holiday windows

  • Critics choice
  • Free

Walk by Barneys New York for a holiday view of fluffy woodland creatures and fantastical snow owls from the creative mind of writer and director Baz Luhrmann and his wife, costume designer Catherine Martin.

  1. Barneys New York 660 Madison Ave, at 61st St
  2. Sun Dec 21 - Wed Dec 31
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Metropolitan Museum Christmas Tree and Neapolitan Baroque Crèche

  • Price band: 2/4
  • Critics choice

The city’s most elegant tree is an exhibit unto itself, hung with more than 200 18th-century hand-sculpted Neapolitan crèche figures, which are wearing jeweled and embroidered costumes. Many of the ornaments are arranged in pairs, including an angel gesturing to a shepherd.

  1. The Metropolitan Museum of Art 1000 Fifth Ave, at 82nd St, 10028
  2. Sun Dec 21 - Tue Jan 6
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Claude Rutault

  • Critics choice
  • Free

Some 35 years ago, this French painter was one of the first artists to participate in the studio program at MoMA PS1 (then known simply as PS1). It was the last time his refined brand of shaped-canvas minimalism was seen in New York until now. The exhibit affords an opportunity to catch up on what he's been doing in the interim.

  1. Galerie Perrotin 909 Madison Ave , at 73rd St, 10021
  2. Tue Dec 23 - Sat Jan 3
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"ZERO: Countdown to Tomorrow, 1950s–60s"

  • Rated as: 3/5
  • Price band: 2/4
  • Critics choice

It’s often the case that the most self-consciously futuristic art of its time seems the most dated in retrospect. So it is with much of the output of the ZERO group, a movement founded in Dusseldorf in 1957 by the German artists Otto Piene and Heinz Mack, and later expanded to include Günther Uecker. (A show of Mack’s work from the 1950s runs concurrently at Sperone Westwater, and his sci-fi looking photographs are worth the visit alone.) ZERO emerged at a time when artists

  1. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum 1071 Fifth Ave, at 89th St, 10128
  2. Sun Dec 21 - Wed Dec 31
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"El Greco in New York"

  • Price band: 2/4
  • Critics choice

This year marks the 400th anniversary of the death of El Greco (1541–1614), surely one of the most popular of the Old Masters, not only due to the devotional nature of his work, but also because much of it anticipated modern Expressionism (or, more accurately, influenced it). To mark the occasion, the Met brings out its considerable El Greco holdings, including the superlative View of Toledo, painted around 1597, and The Hispanic Society of America has loaned its El Grecos to

  1. The Metropolitan Museum of Art 1000 Fifth Ave, at 82nd St, 10028
  2. Sun Dec 21 - Sun Feb 1
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Amie Siegel, Provenance

  • Rated as: 5/5
  • Price band: 2/4
  • Critics choice

In the early 1950s, a newly independent India commissioned Le Corbusier to design a city, Chandigarh, as a regional administrative center in the northern part of the country. The institutional buildings he created with other modernist architects were outfitted with functional furniture (designed by his cousin, Pierre Jeanneret), that has become collectible in Europe and the United States. Provenance, Amie Siegel’s slow-paced, engrossing HD video, traces this narrative of

  1. The Metropolitan Museum of Art 1000 Fifth Ave, at 82nd St, 10028
  2. Sun Dec 21 - Sun Jan 4
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"Madame Cézanne"

  • Price band: 2/4
  • Critics choice

Although Paul Cézanne’s wife was his most frequently painted subject, she’s been given short shrift by art historians, who have tended to focus on the artist’s still lifes, landscapes and figurative studies of bathers. As a remedy, the Met gathers paintings, drawings and watercolors, featuring Hortense Fiquet (the spouse in question) from its collection, as well as from others in Asia, Europe and the United States.

  1. The Metropolitan Museum of Art 1000 Fifth Ave, at 82nd St, 10028
  2. Sun Dec 21 - Sun Mar 15
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"Kandinsky Before Abstraction, 1901–1911"

  • Price band: 2/4
  • Critics choice

Besides being one of the first artists to push Modern painting into the realm of pure abstraction, Vasily Kandinsky (1866–1944) is also the signature artist of the Guggenheim collection, which contains more than 150 of his works. Taking advantage of its trove, the Gugg pulls out its holding of Kandinsky's paintings and woodcuts, spanning the decade before the artist's abstract breakthrough, when he worked in a representational style typical of the Blue Rider group.

  1. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum 1071 Fifth Ave, at 89th St, 10128
  2. Sun Dec 21 - Wed Dec 31
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Enrico David

  • Critics choice
  • Free

The London artist's figurative sculptures seem to capture their subjects in the midst of morphing from one state into the next, and you can discern within them echoes of classic modernists such as Nadelman, Giacometti, Brancusi and Calder.

  1. Michael Werner 4 E 77th St, between Fifth and Madison Aves
  2. Tue Dec 23 - Sat Jan 24
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"Nam June Paik: Becoming Robot"

  • Price band: 1/4
  • Critics choice

Video is a common medium today, but it was far-out and new in the mid-1960s when Nam June Paik (1932–2006) arrived in New York and quickly made the acquaintance of legendary names such as John Cage, Merce Cunningham and Yoko Ono. He just as quickly established himself as the father of video art, though he certainly wasn't the first artist to tinker with the technology. But he understood the cultural impact of television and found a metaphor for its pervasiveness in his use of

  1. Asia Society 725 Park Ave, at 70th St
  2. Sun Dec 21 - Sun Jan 4
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"Cubism"

  • Price band: 2/4
  • Critics choice

These 80 paintings, collages, drawings and sculptures from the Leonard A. Lauder Collection—all promised gifts to the Met—represent the first time they have been shown in public, offering an opportunity to revisit the seminal early-20th-century movement through the taste of one patron. The contributing artists make up a mighty quartet of Braque, Gris, Léger and Picasso.   

  1. The Metropolitan Museum of Art 1000 Fifth Ave, at 82nd St, 10028
  2. Sun Dec 21 - Wed Dec 31
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The New American Wing

  • Critics choice

The Met's expansive galleries trace the evolution of American painting, sculpture and decorative arts from colonial days to the early 20th century. Gems include Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze’s iconic 1851 painting Washington Crossing the Delaware, which depicts the Revolutionary general looking presidential as he launches an attack, a Gilbert Stuart portrait of the first President and a life mask of Abraham Lincoln.

  1. The Metropolitan Museum of Art 1000 Fifth Ave, at 82nd St, 10028
  2. Sun Dec 21 - Wed Dec 31
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Wang Jianwei, Time Temple

  • Price band: 2/4
  • Critics choice

Installation, painting, film and live theater are all part of this Chinese artist’s exhibition, his first in America and the first of three major works commissioned by the Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Chinese Art Initiative for the Guggenheim. The piece, which will become part of the Gugg’s permanent collection, is the latest example of the artist’s ongoing examination of social order and the individual’s relationship to it. His work also often alludes to China’s

  1. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum 1071 Fifth Ave, at 89th St, 10128
  2. Sun Dec 21 - Mon Feb 16
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"V.S. Gaitonde: Painting as Process, Painting as Life"

  • Price band: 2/4
  • Critics choice

Over the past 20 years, contemporary artists from India have become significant players in the global art market, so it's only natural that Western institutions would begin to explore the context from which they emerged. Enter this Guggenheim retrospective of painter Vasudeo Santu Gaitonde (1924–2001). Gaitonde started as a figurative painter, channeling Indian tradition through modernist templates brought to the subcontinent by the British. By the mid-1960s, his style had

  1. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum 1071 Fifth Ave, at 89th St, 10128
  2. Sun Dec 21 - Wed Dec 31
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"Death Becomes Her: A Century of Mourning Attire"

  • Price band: 2/4
  • Critics choice

Widow's weeds from the Victorian and Edwardian period are given the Costume Institute survey treatment, which charts the evolution of funeral fashion from The Napoleonic Wars to WWI.

  1. The Metropolitan Museum of Art 1000 Fifth Ave, at 82nd St, 10028
  2. Sun Dec 21 - Wed Dec 31
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"On Kawara—Silence"

  • Price band: 2/4
  • Critics choice

Over the 40 year span of his career, On Kawara has been best known for his “Today” series of paintings, one created each day in a single day and bearing, simply, the date of its making. Starting in 1966, he’s maintained this daily practice even while traveling, marking the location of each place a painting was created by covering the back of the canvas with the front page of the local newspaper from the same day. However, as this Guggenheim retrospective demonstrates,

  1. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum 1071 Fifth Ave, at 89th St, 10128
  2. Fri Feb 6 - Mon May 4
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"Thomas Struth: Photographs"

  • Price band: 2/4
  • Critics choice

These 25 photos by Struth, dating from 1978 to the present, are exemplary of the German artist's panoramic, empirical treatment of subjects, which range here from deserted New York streets to a robotically assisted surgery in progress.

  1. The Metropolitan Museum of Art 1000 Fifth Ave, at 82nd St, 10028
  2. Sun Dec 21 - Mon Feb 16
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"Egon Schiele: Portraits"

  • Price band: 2/4
  • Critics choice

Vienna at the turn of the 20th century was a hothouse of psychological and sexually charged art, and no figure channeled the milieu better than Egon Schiele (1890–1918), whose fevered sensibility found expression in drawings and paintings depicting subjects that were as explicit as they were jittery. This show, the first to focus on his output in portraiture, collects some 125 examples of his work in two and three dimensions, featuring likenesses of lovers, fellow artists and

  1. Neue Galerie New York 1048 Fifth Ave, at 86th St
  2. Sun Dec 21 - Mon Jan 19
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The Metropolitan Museum of Art Store sale

  • Price band: 2/4
  • Critics choice

Design lovers should skip out on this sale, where you can shop 50 percent off select items at the Met’s store. Highlights include Herakles knot link bracelets, halved from $150 to $75, Art Color Magic wall clocks (were $95, now $47) and decorative Adolf Dehn Spring in Central Park tea towels, nicked from $40 to $20.

  1. The Metropolitan Museum of Art Store 1000 Fifth Ave, at 82nd St
  2. Fri Dec 26 - Sat Jan 31
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Warby Parker Wheel of Good Omens event

  • Critics choice

Feeling lucky? Stop by one of Warby Parker’s four NYC locations, and spin the Wheel of Good Omens. Browse chic frames from the brand’s Concentric collection (from $145) and then take a spin of the wheel for a prize. Even if luck normally isn’t on your side, everyone walks away a winner. Locations around the city.

  1. Warby Parker 1209 Lexington Ave, at E 82nd St, 10028
  2. Sun Dec 21 - Sun Jan 4
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