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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“Jeff Koons: A Retrospective”

  • Rated as: 2/5
  • Price band: 2/4

If I had to sum up American history in a word, I wouldn’t use racism, though obviously that’s a biggie. I’d pick hokum. I put it right up there with liberty, as in “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” a passage which itself could be taken for hokum, written as it was by a man who owned slaves. However, I don’t mean the term as it’s generally construed, i.e. bullshit. I refer to this definition: “A device used (as by showmen) to evoke a desired audience

  1. Whitney Museum of American Art 945 Madison Ave, at 75th St, 10021
  2. Wed Jul 30 - Sun Oct 19
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Ingrid Michaelson + Neulore

  • Critics choice

Singer-songwriter Ingrid Michaelson has a cute, husky voice, which she applies to pretty, quirky songs. When discussing her latest disc, Lights Out, the New York native says she's gone from "the poppy ukulele girl to platforms-and-eye-makeup pop." Well, maybe it's Maybelline, but we get the feeling this talented songstress was born with it. Nashville folk duo Neulore opens.

  1. Central Park SummerStage Mainstage Rumsey Playfield, Central Park, enter at Fifth Ave and 72nd St
  2. Wed Jul 30
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"Charles James: Beyond Fashion"

  • Price band: 2/4
  • Critics choice

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. Wed Jul 30 - Sun Aug 10
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"Early American Guitars: The Instruments of C.F. Martin”

  • Critics choice

With all due respect to Les Paul, few names loom larger in American luthier lore than Christian Frederick Martin. The German immigrant crossed the Atlantic in the 1830s and began fashioning six-strings in the Spanish style (figure-eights with super-pretty rosewood inlays), but with sturdier and more streamlined construction. He also experimented with new design flourishes, some of which were later adapted by makers like Fender. This exhibit boasts 22 of his original creations,

  1. The Metropolitan Museum of Art 1000 Fifth Ave, at 82nd St, 10028
  2. Wed Jul 30 - Sun Dec 7
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Robert Melee, "a dozen Roses"

  • Critics choice

Leigh Ledare isn't the only contemporary photographer to sensationalize an unconventional mom. Melee made his reputation capturing his mother in varying stages of inebriation, undress and acting out, producing images that could at times seem cringeworthy, like a John Waters remake of Mommie Dearest. Created between 1993 and 2004, the works revisited here are as oddly affectionate as they are grotesque—and whatever else, nothing less than fascinating.

  1. Higher Pictures 980 Madison Ave , between 76th and 77th Sts, 10065
  2. Wed Jul 30 - Fri Aug 1
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Jazz in July

  • Price band: 3/4
  • Critics choice

Bill Charlap's annual series showcases its usual stellar array of retro-minded talent. This year's offerings include tributes to Hoagy Carmichael, Leonard Bernstein, Miles Davis, Sarah Vaughn and Fred Astaire. See 92y.org/jazzinjuly for more info.

  1. 92nd Street Y 1395 Lexington Ave, between 91st and 92nd Sts
  2. Wed Jul 30 - Thu Jul 31
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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. Wed Jul 30 - Wed Dec 31
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"Now You See It: Photography and Concealment"

  • Price band: 2/4
  • Critics choice

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. Wed Jul 30 - Mon Sep 1
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Blood Orange

  • Critics choice
  • Free

Cupid Deluxe, Devonté Hynes’s second record as Blood Orange, is a complex, swirling affair—packed with R&B, pop, blues and even jazz, it’s an upbeat ode to dance one moment and a soul-searching dirge the next. Formerly the man behind Lightspeed Champion, Hynes knows his way around a switchboard, producing unexpected, robust combinations of sounds. At SummerStage, he’s sure to lean on the more sexual numbers, sending the masses into the humid August night soaked in sweat.

  1. Central Park SummerStage Mainstage Rumsey Playfield, Central Park, enter at Fifth Ave and 72nd St
  2. Sat Aug 16
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"Under the Same Sun: Art from Latin America Today"

  • Rated as: 2/5
  • Price band: 1/4
  • Critics choice

The entire notion of lumping together art from more than 20 countries on two continents under the Latin American rubric is problematic to begin with, and in this exhibition of new acquisitions for the Guggenheim’s collection, it mostly serves as a marketing tool. This selection of works by some 40 artists, organized into six nebulous “themes” by Mexican curator Pablo León de la Barra, never really coheres; worse, it provides little artistic excitement or surprise. Too many

  1. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum 1071 Fifth Ave, at 89th St, 10128
  2. Wed Jul 30 - Wed Oct 1
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"The Roof Garden Commission: Dan Graham with Günther Vogt"

  • Price band: 2/4
  • Critics choice

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. Wed Jul 30 - Mon Nov 3
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”Italian Futurism, 1909–1944: Reconstructing the Universe”

  • Price band: 2/4
  • Critics choice

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. Wed Jul 30 - Mon Sep 1
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Kate Ericson and Mel Ziegler

  • Rated as: 4/5
  • Critics choice

This compact survey uptown at Galerie Perrotin covers the remarkable careers of Kate Ericson and Mel Ziegler, a husband-and-wife team who worked together from the late 1970s until 1995, when Ericson succumbed to cancer at age 39. They showed at MoMA in 1988 and in the 1989 Whitney Biennial, and a retrospective of their efforts traveled across the U.S. between 2005 and 2008. Inspired by Gordon Matta-Clark’s socially engaged practice of the late ’60s and early ’70s, Ericson

  1. Galerie Perrotin 909 Madison Ave , at 73rd St, 10021
  2. Wed Jul 30 - Fri Aug 22
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Old Crow Medicine Show

  • Price band: 2/4
  • Critics choice

Rootsy Nashville string ensemble Old Crow Medicine Show started as a group of buskers roaming through Canada, before catching the ear of country legend Doc Watson. The group’s 1920s-style instrumentation is harmonica-laced and heavy on fiddle, banjo and slide guitar, but its revivalism doesn’t bar relevance to younger listeners. Its renditions of classics are subtly rocked up, and in its bulkier repertoire of original compositions, bluegrass strains accompany lyrics about

  1. Central Park SummerStage Mainstage Rumsey Playfield, Central Park, enter at Fifth Ave and 72nd St
  2. Mon Aug 4 - Wed Aug 6
Buy tickets

"Goya and the Altamira Family"

  • Price band: 2/4
  • Critics choice

Taken from different collections as well as the Met's, this show reunites Goya's four portraits of the Altamira family, commissioned by the Count of Altamira in 1786 and completed two years later. The works include a likeness of the count himself, the Met-owned double portrait of his wife and daughter, and, of course, the Met's other treasure Manuel Osorio Manrique de Zuñiga, a.k.a. the "Boy in Red." Goya's painting of Manuel Osorio's oldest brother—as well as one of

  1. The Metropolitan Museum of Art 1000 Fifth Ave, at 82nd St, 10028
  2. Wed Jul 30 - Sun Aug 3
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"ZERO: Countdown to Tomorrow, 1950s–60s"

  • Price band: 2/4
  • Critics choice

This historical survey, the first of its type in the U.S., takes the measure of the postwar Zero group, which included artists from Europe, Japan, and North and South America. It was arguably the first truly global art movement, and though each participant had an individual agenda, they all pushed forms originally developed in prewar abstraction into radically new directions, often going beyond painting and sculpture to explore installation, performance and other nontraditional

  1. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum 1071 Fifth Ave, at 89th St, 10128
  2. Fri Oct 10 - 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. Wed Jul 30 - Wed Dec 31
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Sol LeWitt, Wall Drawing #370

  • Price band: 2/4
  • Critics choice

In this particular mural, Lewitt (1928–2007) creates an Op-py Pop-y meditation in black-and-white on the basic geometric triad of square, circle and triangle. As always, the piece was executed on-site by a crew following a set of the artist's instructions.

  1. The Metropolitan Museum of Art 1000 Fifth Ave, at 82nd St, 10028
  2. Wed Jul 30 - Mon Sep 29
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James Lee Byars, "Is Is and Other"

To coincide with Byars's current retrospective at MoMA PS1, his gallery presents examples of his late work, including a pair of gilded marble columns resembling large upright bars of gold bullion, and two spheres of carved basalt, placed in a proximity that suggests a certain feature of male anatomy. As usual for the artist, the pieces exude a presence that is at once mystical and mysterious.

  1. Michael Werner 4 E 77th St, between Fifth and Madison Aves
  2. Wed Jul 30 - Sat Aug 30
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