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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"Degenerate Art: The Attack on Modern Art in Nazi Germany, 1937"

  • Rated as: 5/5
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When the SS first solicited bids for death-camp crematoriums, one manufacturer proposed a design resembling a Greek temple. It was rejected not because of its appearance, but because of its cost. While such a juxtaposition of neoclassicism and mass murder seems unthinkable today, aesthetics played a key role in Nazism’s exterminist ideology. The perfection of the Aryan superman was contrasted with the perceived defectiveness of the Jew. The Nuremberg Rallies were visual

  1. Neue Galerie New York 1048 Fifth Ave, at 86th St
  2. Thu Apr 24 - Mon Jun 30
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"Charles James: Beyond Fashion"

  • Price band: 2/4
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The Metropolitan Museum of Art may be known for its paintings and ancient treasures, but fashion is increasingly what brings crowds to the institution. Nearly 700,000 people came to the stunning “Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty” retrospective in 2011, making it one of the most-visited exhibitions in the museum’s history. Last year’s “PUNK: Chaos to Couture” was a more modest success, as 450,000 people clamored to see a replica of CBGB’s grotty bathroom. With more

  1. The Metropolitan Museum of Art 1000 Fifth Ave, at 82nd St, 10028
  2. Thu May 8 - Sun Aug 10
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"Now You See It: Photography and Concealment"

  • Price band: 2/4
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The Met digs into its collection for this show of vintage and contemporary photos and video with the aim of exploring how the camera can hide as well as reveal subject matter. The roster of contributors includes Vera Lutter, Taryn Simon, Diane Arbus and Weegee, among others.

  1. The Metropolitan Museum of Art 1000 Fifth Ave, at 82nd St, 10028
  2. Thu Apr 24 - Mon Sep 1
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2014 Whitney Biennial

  • Price band: 2/4
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This year’s edition of the exhibition once known as the show everybody loves to hate represents a departure for a couple of reasons. For one, it will be the last Biennial mounted in the Whitney’s current home; in 2015, the museum moves into its brand-new Renzo Piano–designed building in the Meatpacking District. But it also signals a departure from form, because it’s basically organized as three separate shows on as many floors by three outside curators. If nothing else,

  1. Whitney Museum of American Art 945 Madison Ave, at 75th St, 10021
  2. Thu Apr 24 - Sun May 25
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“Jeff Koons: A Retrospective”

  • Price band: 2/4
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Love him or hate him, it’s hard to ignore Jeff Koons. From his vacuum cleaners sealed in Plexiglas cases to his monumental balloon dog sculptures, Koons has displayed a knack for showmanship that is probably unrivaled in the history of American art. This 30-year survey of Koons’s greatest hits represents the Whitney’s valedictory exhibition at the Marcel Breuer building on Madison Avenue. To that end, it gives over the entire place to Koons—a first for any artist. Don’t

  1. Whitney Museum of American Art 945 Madison Ave, at 75th St, 10021
  2. Fri Jun 27 - Sun Oct 19
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”Italian Futurism, 1909–1944: Reconstructing the Universe”

  • Price band: 2/4
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Painting, sculpture, architecture, design, ceramics, fashion, film, photography, advertising, free-form poetry, publications, music, theater and performance—Italian Futurism encompassed all of these and more, as one of the most dynamic, controversial and unpredictable movements in early modern art. More so than their Cubist contemporaries in Paris, the artists of Futurism celebrated the revolutionary furor and breakneck technological pace of life in the nascent 20th century,

  1. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum 1071 Fifth Ave, at 89th St, 10128
  2. Fri Apr 25 - Mon Sep 1
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"Lucas Samaras: Offerings from a Restless Soul"

  • Price band: 2/4
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The Met surveys artist Lucas Samaras (born 1936), a New York art-world fixture for more than 50 years, whose category-defying pieces testify to his indelibly idiosyncratic aesthetic vision. As a performance artist, sculptor, painter and photographer, Samaras's work has been rooted in the late-1950s transition from Abstract Expressionism to a cavalcade of styles (Pop Art, Minimalism, Conceptualism), and in a sense, he borrowed and combined elements of all of them. He's probably

  1. The Metropolitan Museum of Art 1000 Fifth Ave, at 82nd St, 10028
  2. Thu Apr 24 - Sun Jun 1
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"Antonio Canova: The Seven Last Works"

  • Price band: 2/4
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The nude seemingly made flesh in marble was the specialty of Venetian sculptor Antonio Canova (1757–1822) one of the greatest practitioners in the medium and a key proponent of the Neoclassical style. But as this show demonstrates, he took a bit of a departure from the work that established his reputation for the final project of his life: a plan to illustrate 32 scenes from the Bible as a suite of reliefs, intended for the Tempio Canoviano, the Palladian-style church (which

  1. The Metropolitan Museum of Art 1000 Fifth Ave, at 82nd St, 10028
  2. Thu Apr 24 - Sun Apr 27
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"Carrie Mae Weems: Three Decades of Photography and Video"

  • Price band: 2/4
  • Critics choice

Along with Lorna Simpson, Glenn Ligon and Kara Walker, Weems was part of what was arguably the first generation of African-Americans to truly command the attention of the art world. Like her contemporaries, Weems used various approaches associated with Conceptual Art to explore the fraught subjects of race and gender. Her particular approach was to filter these issues through the narrative conventions of photography and video, resulting in works notable for their visually stark

  1. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum 1071 Fifth Ave, at 89th St, 10128
  2. Fri Apr 25 - Thu May 15
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The New American Wing

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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. Thu Apr 24 - Wed Dec 31
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"Radiant Light: Stained Glass from Canterbury Cathedral"

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Six magnificent stained-glass windows from England's legendary Canterbury Cathedral will winter this year at the Cloisters—the first time these masterpieces of Romanesque art have left home since they were created between 1178 and 1180. Measuring up to 12 feet in height, the windows feature the biblical figures, including Abraham, who were considered the ancestors of Christ, part of a series that originally numbered 86 works in all.

  1. The Cloisters Fort Tryon Park, 99 Margaret Corbin Dr
  2. Thu Apr 24 - Sun May 18
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Martin Kippenberger, "The Raft of the Medusa"

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Théodore Géricault’s 1819 masterpiece, The Raft of the Medusa, serves as the starting point for this series of the same name by Martin Kippenberger (1953–1997), the artist provocateur and leading light of Germany's art scene during the 1980s and ’90s. Kippenberger's output could be described as a wry deconstruction of the idea of artistic genius, as well as an expression of rueful nostalgia for the days when such a notion was taken seriously. The works here, which consist

  1. Skarstedt Gallery 20 E 79th St, between Fifth and Madison Aves
  2. Thu Apr 24 - Sat Apr 26
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"The Roof Garden Commission: Dan Graham with Günther Vogt"

  • Price band: 2/4
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Graham, a pioneer of video and conceptual art, has spent the past 25 years or so creating elegant pavilions of glass and steel (and sometimes mirrors) in rural and urban outdoor settings. Similar to the architectural follies that grace formal gardens—albeit with a phenomenological bent—these structures are meant to explore the relationship between the individual and the public space. Here, in an echo of sprawling Central Park below, Graham collaborates with Swiss landscape

  1. The Metropolitan Museum of Art 1000 Fifth Ave, at 82nd St, 10028
  2. Tue Apr 29 - Mon Nov 3
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"Other Primary Structures"

  • Price band: 2/4
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Nearly 50 years after its groundbreaking 1966 exhibition, "Primary Structures"—widely considered the first ever museum survey of Minimalist sculpture—the Jewish Museum presents this revisionist version of the show. While the original featured American and British artists, the current lineup draws from countries that were largely ignored by the art world at the time, such as Argentina, Pakistan, Poland and the former Yugoslavia. Though obviously organized from a 21st-century

  1. The Jewish Museum 1109 Fifth Ave, at 92nd St, 10128
  2. Thu Apr 24 - Sun Aug 3
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