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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Richard Prince, "New Portraits"

  • Critics choice
  • Free

Mercifully avoiding the temptation to present paintings, Prince does his photo-appropriation thing, this time plunging into the fever swamp of social media by grabbing selfies from Instagram and enlarging them as ink-jet prints on canvas. If nothing else, the images are less likely to get him sued for copyright infringement.

  1. Gagosian Gallery 976 Madison Ave , between 76th and 77th Sts , 10075
  2. Fri Oct 24 - Sat Oct 25
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"Rite of Passage: The Early Years of Vienna Actionism, 1960–1966"

  • Rated as: 5/5
  • Critics choice
  • Free

People familiar with the 1960s Vienna Actionism movement are aware of its notoriety for trangressive works—or more succinctly, acts—of art. For everyone else, this survey of paintings, collages, drawings and performance photographs curated by Hubert Klocker should provide an eye-opening introduction to a group whose outrageous reputation is well earned, if also somewhat misunderstood. Like their German contemporaries Gerhard Richter, Sigmar Polke and Konrad Lueg, the

  1. Hauser & Wirth New York 32 E 69th St, between Madison and Park Aves, 10021
  2. Fri Oct 24 - Sat Oct 25
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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 often-explicit drawings and paintings depicting subjects that were as 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 himself.

  1. Neue Galerie New York 1048 Fifth Ave, at 86th St
  2. Fri Oct 24 - Mon Jan 19
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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 24 - Wed Dec 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. Fri Oct 24 - 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. Fri Oct 24 - Wed Dec 31
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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. Fri Oct 24 - Wed Dec 31
More info

Wayne Thiebaud

  • Critics choice
  • Free

At 93, this left coast legend is still going strong after a nearly half-century career that began with his role as one of the defining figures of ’60s art in California. Thanks to paintings of cakes and pies rendered in bright, frosting-thick pigments, he was confused early on for a Pop artist, but its fairer to call him a tactile realist, immersed in traditional genres such as still life, landscape and figuration while focusing on quotidian subjects. Much of the work here—35

  1. Acquavella Galleries 18 E 79th St, between Fifth and Madison Aves, 10075
  2. Fri Oct 24 - Fri Nov 21
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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. Fri Oct 24 - Sun Dec 7
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Jörg Immendorff, "Café Deutschland"

  • Critics choice
  • Free

Immendorff (1945–2007) created this cycle of paintings between 1977 and 1984, and they quickly became the German artist's best-known works. Stylistically evoking such pre-World War I figures as Erich Heckel, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner and Max Pechstein, as well as the Neue Sachlichkeit (New Objectivity) group, each composition depicts a tavern, club or bistro, crowded with individuals meant to represent Germany's Cold War present and Nazi-haunted past. The series is a landmark of

  1. Michael Werner 4 E 77th St, between Fifth and Madison Aves
  2. Fri Oct 24 - Sat Nov 8
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The World of Ice and Fire with George R.R. Martin

  • Critics choice

The creator of the cult series A Song of Ice and Fire discusses his new best-seller, The World of Ice and Fire: The Untold History of Westeros and the Game of Thrones.

  1. 92Y, Kaufmann Concert Hall 1395 Lexington Ave, and 92nd St, 10128
  2. Sun Oct 26
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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. Fri Oct 24 - Wed Dec 31
More info

"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. Fri Oct 24 - Mon Feb 16
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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. Fri Oct 24 - Mon Nov 3
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Barneys holiday windows

  • Critics choice
  • Free

This year, the Madison Avenue shop incorporates video, light installations and more forward-thinking concepts into its holiday displays. The theme is "A New York Holiday," and elements include an interactive scene with Santa and Mrs. Claus, and a "floating city" created with 3-D mapping and light projections.

  1. Barneys New York 660 Madison Ave, at 61st St
  2. Thu Dec 4 - 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. Fri Oct 24 - 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. Fri Oct 24 - Wed Dec 31
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"Men in Armor: El Greco and Pulzone Face to Face"

  • Price band: 2/4
  • Critics choice

Like knights of old, the subjects of these separate portraits by El Greco (1541–1614) and Scipione Pulzone (c. 1540/42–1598) seem to square off in a contrast of styles, resplendent in ceremonial armor that speaks to their status as military figures. Pulzone's portrait Jacopo Boncompagni depicts the commander of the papal army during the reign of Pope Gregory XIII, who was also Boncompagni's father (celibacy wasn't quite as celibate back then). El Greco's full-length

  1. The Frick Collection 1 E 70th St, between Fifth and Madison Aves
  2. Fri Oct 24 - Sun Oct 26
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"The Pre-Raphaelite Legacy: British Art and Design"

  • Price band: 2/4
  • Critics choice

This exhibit examines a fascinating moment in 19th-century British art, when a group of young painters, reacting to the onslaught of the Industrial Revolution, turned to medieval and early Renaissance art as the spur for their own work, taking solace in a romanticized past.

  1. The Metropolitan Museum of Art 1000 Fifth Ave, at 82nd St, 10028
  2. Fri Oct 24 - Sun Oct 26
More info

"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. Fri Oct 24 - Sun Jan 4
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