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The best summer art events at NYC museums and spaces

Get excited, art aficionados: This summer is going to be chock-full of exceptional shows

Photograph: © Courtesy of World of Lygia Clark Cultural Association
Lygia Clark, Óculos, 1968

The new, and already-acclaimed, Met roof-garden installation by Dan Graham is here and ready for your enjoyment (accompanied by delicious cocktails) all summer long. We're also totally jazzed for the opening of Kara Walker's much-anticipated show at the Domino Sugar Factory, A Subtlety or the Marvelous Sugar Baby.

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to things to do in the summer in NYC

"The Roof Garden Commission: Dan Graham with Günther Vogt"

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 artist Günther Vogt to site the piece within its own greensward on the Met's roof.

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Tue Apr 29 - Mon Nov 3

Kara Walker, "A Subtlety or The Marvelous Sugar Baby"

The very long subtitle of Walker's first ever public-art project reads an Homage to the unpaid and overworked Artisans who have refined our Sweet tastes from the cane fields to the Kitchens of the New World on the Occasion of the demolition of the Domino Sugar Refining Plant. While the word artisan is a bit vague, the subject of sugar is certainly in keeping with the artist's career-long investigation of the historical wages of slavery and racism. Sugar was a key leg of the so-called triangle trade that traversed the Atlantic between the 16th and 19th centuries, as European slavers brought their human cargo to the Caribbean in exchange for molasses, which was then transported back to the Continent to be made into rum. However, the project is described as focusing on its site—the old Domino Sugar factory, which will soon be rebuilt as a complex of office and residential towers along the Williamsburg waterfront. Perhaps then, the piece will comment on the use of art as an emollient—or better yet, sweetener—for real-estate development. Whatever the outcome, urban spelunkers should have a field day going through the abandoned plant.

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Sat May 10 - Sun Jul 6

“Lygia Clark: The Abandonment of Art, 1948–1988”

Brazilian artist Lygia Clark (1920–1988) wasn’t particularly well known to American audiences during her lifetime, but then neither was much of art being produced during the postwar era in Brazil, or, for that matter, the rest of South America. Yet during the 1960s and ’70s, the Brazilian art scene, in particular, was a hotbed of radical innovation thanks to the Neo-Concretist movement, of which Clark was a leading figure. This MoMA retrospective of the multimedia artist represents the first comprehensive examination in North America of her work, and surveys everything from her efforts in painting and sculpture to her self-styled “abandonment” of art, as she made her move into a unique form of conceptualism that grew out of a lengthy period of psychoanalysis.

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Sat May 10 - Sun Aug 24

“Jeff Koons: A Retrospective”

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 worry about him being able to fill it.

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Fri Jun 27 - Sun Oct 19

"Christopher Williams: The Production Line of Happiness"

Like Robert Heinecken, Williams came out the West Coast as a photographer who deconstructed his medium through unconventional methods. In Williams's case, this has meant employing commercial photographers to create his works, images which dispassionately dismantle the mystique of the darkroom, the photographer's studio and the camera itself. The results often have the look of mid-century catalogs for photographic services and equipment.

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Sat Aug 2 - Sun Nov 2