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Katharina Grosse
Photograph: Courtesy Pablo Enriquez

The best art events for your summer bucket list

Looking for the best shows to see before summer ends? Here are ten to check off on your summer bucket list.

By Howard Halle

It’s August, which means most Chelsea galleries have closed up shop until after Labor Day. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t great art left to see. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t great art left to see. The top art museums in NYC remain open with world-beating shows, and there are still public art projects deserving your attention, some in settings (Rockaway Beach, LIC waterfront) worth a visit by themselves. So if you have a bucket list of things to do before the end of summer, here are ten art events you should definitely add.

Best art events for your summer bucket list

Cao Fei
Courtesy the artist and Vitamin Creative Space

1. Cao Fei

Art Contemporary art

Since the early 2000s, the work of this Bejing film and installation artist has dealt with the transformation of China in the years since the Tiananmen massacre, when China’s leadership allowed free enterprise in exchange for banishing dissent. Essentially, the artist’s videos, sculptures and photos serve as surreal allegories for China's dizzying and disorientating reinvention as an economic superpower. In what’s perhaps her best-know video work, she inserts herself as a Second Life avatar into a futuristic city named for China’s currency, the Renminbi—also known as RMB. While her work is about China, the issues they raise about coping with rapid change apply to everyone struggling to maintain their place a global society. MoMA PS1, through Aug 29.

Cornelia Parker
Photograph: Courtesy Alex Fradkin

2. Cornelia Parker, Transitional Object (PsychoBarn)

Art Contemporary art

The Bates residence from Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho haunts The Met’s rooftop garden with this 30-foot high facsimile by British artist and Turner Prize nominee Cornelia Parker. Built of wood salvaged from a barn in upstate New York, the piece brings a touch of The Addams Family to Manhattan’s skyline. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, through Oct 31.

Stuart Davis
Photograph: Courtesy The Metropolitan Museum of Art

3. Stuart Davis: In Full Swing

Art Contemporary art

One of the most important figures of American art, Stuart Davis’s brightly colored, jazz-inspired paintings anticipated Pop Art. References to street signage, cigarette packaging and other artifacts of popular cultural appeared frequently in his work, which captured the spirit, energy and chaos of life in the first half of the 20th century. Whitney Museum of American Art, through Sept 25.

Ronald Lockett
Photograph: Courtesy Adam Reich

4. Fever Within: The Art of Ronald Lockett

Art Contemporary art

A protegé of his cousin, the über-self-taught artist Thornton Dial, Lockett (1965–1998) followed his mentor’s lead in using cast-off materials, though Lockett's output was very different from his mentor’s. More figurative, more delicate and more emotive, Lockett’s work addressed the problems of the next generation of African-Americans and, on a more personal level, his own struggle with depression. While more hermetic than the work of Dial, the message of Lockett’s art—that black lives matter—is more relevant than ever. American Folk Art Museum, through Sept 18.

Diane Arbus
Photograph: Courtesy Metropolitan Museum of Art

5. diane arbus: in the beginning

Art Contemporary art

Photos from the first seven years of Arbus's career have been collected for this show, featuring more than 100 images by one of photography’s most iconic and provocative figures. Taken in such locations such as Times Square, the Lower East Side and Coney Island these images demonstrate that Arbus's sardonic vision was fully formed from the start. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, through Nov 27.

Bruce Conner
Photograph: Courtesy Martin Seck

6. Bruce Conner: It's All True

Art Contemporary art

Conner (1933–2008) is among the most important postwar artists you've probably never heard of. A pioneer of the West Coast scene and an early practitioner of found-object assemblage, he delved into rise of consumerist culture and fears of nuclear Armageddon during the height of the Cold War. His work encompasses painting, sculpture, photography, performance and film. This show brings together over 250 examples of his groundbreaking work. Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), July 3–Oct 2.

Katharina Grosse
Photograph: Courtesy Pablo Enriquez

7. Katarina Grosse: Rockaway!

Art Contemporary art

If you’re a fan of public art, you might want to take the Ramones’ advice and hitch a ride to Rockaway Beach: Berlin artist, Katharina Grosse has transformed Ft. Tilden's decaying aquatics building into a sort of 3D painting in candy-cane colors—an abstract illusion in which a three dimensional structure appears to take on a two-dimensional form. MoMA PS1 @ Fort Tilden (Gateway National Recreation Area), through Nov 30.

The Keeper
Photograph: Robert Keziere

8. The Keeper

Art Contemporary art

This show unpacks the impulse to collect in all of its manifestations with assemblages, imaginary museums and other works that explore the mechanics of display while pondering what is worth hanging on to and what is not. New Museum of Contemporary Art, through Sept 25.

Moholy-Nagy: Future Present exhibition
Photograph: Courtesy David Heald

9. László Moholy-Nagy: The Future Present

Art Abstract

This is the first retrospective in 50 years of this giant of 20th-century modernism. Born in Hungary, Moholy-Nagy (1895–1946) became an instructor at the legendary Bauhaus, before his teaching eventually brought him to Chicago. A pioneering painter, photographer, sculptor, filmmaker and designer, Moholy-Nagy was a key innovator in the fields of kinetic sculpture and cameraless photography, as well the use of ephemeral or new materials like light and plastics. He held to the utopian belief that art could change the world by marrying it to technology. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, through Sept 7.

Photograph: Courtesy Socrates Sculpture Park

10. Landmark

Art Contemporary art

In celebration of its 30th Anniversary, Socrates Sculpture Park is mounting a group show of specially commissioned outdoor projects. Among the highlights is an earthwork by Meg Webster in which 300 cubic yards of soil has been packed together to create a bowl-shaped berm measuring five feet high. Planted with grass, flowers and shrubs, Webster’s work has also been attracting bees along with visitors. Socrates Sculpture Park, through Aug 28.

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