Fall preview: New museum exhibits for NYC families

Looking for a family-friendly new museum exhibit? Our fall preview has the scoop on this fall's crop, one of the NYC's finest in recent years.

Fall 2012 is shaping up to be one of the most exciting in recent memory for family-friendly new museum exhibits. For our fall preview, we searched far and wide to bring you our picks of the season's best shows, from the Guggenheim's Picasso blockbuster to an installation celebration at the Bronx's Lehman College Art Gallery and the Morgan's homage to the beloved Beatrix Potter. When an excursion to a new museum exhibit is in order, check out our fall preview of the 12 shows we think are the cream of the New York City crop.

"Hava Nagila: A Song for the People" at the Museum of Jewish Heritage Opens Sept 13
You hear it at every Jewish wedding and bar mitzvah, and it has been performed by artists ranging from Harry Belafonte to Bob Dylan, but not many people can pinpoint what exactly made "Hava Nagila" such a cultural staple. This interactive, multimedia exhibit explores the history of the famous folk song with inventive displays, a documentary featuring celebrity interviews, and of course, lots of music.

"The Art of Science" at Liberty Science Center Opens Sept 15
Dispel the notion that art and science are antithetical at this show of photography from Princeton University. All of the images were taken to document and celebrate scientific research at the university, and were submitted to an annual juried competition that began in 2005. They reveal a fantastical world of natural wonders not often seen by the human eye.

"Regarding Warhol: Sixty Artists, Fifty Years" at the Metropolitan Museum of Art Opens Sept 18
Don't miss the chance to introduce your kids to the seminal world of Andy Warhol at this show spotlighting the huge influence the artist has had on his contemporaries and modern-day creators alike. The exercise in comparison may not hold the attention of little ones but the master's works are bound to excite and spark curiosity in those seeing them for the first time.

"Global Shoes" at the Brooklyn Children's Museum Opens Sept 22
The BCM has constructed a magical shoe store and factory designed to teach kids about the world's diverse cultures and traditions. In this interactive, bilingual exhibit, shoes are used as portals to different people and places: Role-playing, try-ons and investigative activities allow children to understand other people by (almost literally) walking a mile in their shoes.

"Alt.Comics" at the Museum of Chinese in America Opens Sept 27
Shown in conjunction with "Marvels & Monsters," a show that looks at Asian stereotypes in classic American comics, "Alt.Comics" rounds up a rich collection of contemporary works executed by Asian-Americans themselves. Older kids will be intrigued by the wide range of comics on view: Some speak to the history of the medium while others seek to simply bring more exposure to the modern-day Asian-American experience.

"Saga Sites: Landscapes of the Icelandic Sagas" at Scandinavia House Opens Sept 29
About 1,100 years ago, Scandinavians started exploring the part of the earth now known as Iceland in search of farmland. Stories of their journeys were passed down orally for centuries until some unknown scribes wrote the tales down, dubbing them the Sagas, in the 13th and 14th centuries. The imaginative show on view juxtaposes a series of 19th-century watercolors and contemporary photography of Iceland, inviting New Yorkers of all ages to "travel" to that faraway land of ancient lava fields, volcanoes and chilly rivers. Best of all, Scandinavia House is hosting a series of Pratt educator--led family workshops in conjunction with the show, called Discovering Iceland through Story and Art, on Saturday afternoons throughout the fall. The kickoff workshop (Sat Sept 29 2--4pm) is free.

"Silver Wind: The Art of Sakai Hoitsu" at Japan Society Opens Sept 29
Introduce the kids to Hoitsu Sakai, an artist whose work is considered among Japan's most important contributions to world art. (It's the first time the Japanese museum that houses some of the work has ever allowed it to travel to the United States.) Sakai, a samurai from an aristocratic clan, became a monk, and in his solitude created a wealth of exquisite folding screens, hanging scrolls and fans inspired by the natural world and the work of Korin, an artist he revered that was born more than a century before him. Don't miss the family workshop Nature and Beauty Art Cart (Sat Nov 10 2--4pm, $12; ages 8 to 12), a combined gallery lesson on themes in the exhibit and hands-on art-making session.

"Space Invaders" at Lehman College Art Gallery Opens Oct 2
The latest space-invader show to hit the scene is not another celestial battleground affair, but rather concerns how artists "attack" the physical spaces of Lehman College Art Gallery in the Bronx, designed by the preeminent Bauhaus modernist Marcel Brauer. The set of site-specific installations is a great primer on the art form for kids, who'll be bedazzled by the imagination of the 18 artists whose works "appear to grow out of the structure, hang down, wrap around or peer out from under" the architecture, itself a thing of beauty. Kids' workshops will take place on-site on Saturday, October 20, and Saturday, November 17, from 10:30 to 11:30am.

"The Rammellzee Galaxseum" at the Children's Museum of the Arts Opens Oct 4
Gracing the CMA walls this fall are works by Rockaway-born Rammellzee, a visionary street artist, emcee, and hip-hop lyricist and vocalist who broke down genre barriers as he expressed his personal ethos in myriad mediums. Resin frescoes, paintings, sculpture, and even costumes and comic books are in the mix to inspire the creators of the future.

"Picasso Black & White" at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum Opens Oct 5
Kids learn that a palette of black and white isn't limited to the art of photography in this show that gathers 110 works—paintings, sculptures and works on paper—of the modern master from across his epic career. Visitors will see some color, though, in the form of Picasso's blue and rose paintings, where his formal exploration of monochromatism began.

"Beatrix Potter: The Picture Letters" at the Morgan Library and Museum Opens Nov 2
The Morgan's latest family-friendly offering sheds considerable light on the creative processes of kid-lit maverick Beatrix Potter with an extensive collection of original drawings, first-edition publications and even spinoff merchandise. Kids will see childhood drawings, from a scarily accurate spider to adorable scenes of ice-skating bunnies; an eight-page illustrated letter containing the tale of Peter Rabbit, the book that launched her career; a nine-foot-long accordian-style manuscript of A Fierce Bad Rabbit; and two examples of tie-in merchandise—a Jemima Puddleduck doll and Peter Rabbit board game—dreamed up by the artist herself, among other child-captivating historical fare.

"Shop Life" at the Lower East Side Tenement Museum Opens in early November; date TBD
The first new permanent exhibition to open at the Tenement Museum since 2008 will showcase the array of local businesses that have occupied the historic tenement at 97 Orchard Street. Visitors will be led through re-creations of those shops, including a 19th-century beer saloon, a kosher butcher shop from the 1890s, a 1930s auction house and an undergarment shop from the 1970s. The boon for kids is that exhibit features the museum's first interactive technology, allowing them to choose a piece of merchandise that, when set on the counter, initiates a multimedia presentation—audio clips played on vintage telephone receivers, projections of newspaper clippings and historic images—on the item's significance and historical context.

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