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The top five New York art shows this week

Check out our suggestions for the best art exhibitions you don’t want to miss, including gallery openings and more

Photograph: Hollis Johnson
By Howard Halle |

With New York’s art scene being so prominent yet ever changing, you’ll want to be sure to catch significant shows. Time Out New York rounds up the top five art exhibitions of the week, from offerings at the best photography and art galleries in NYC to shows at renowned institutions like the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art and the Guggenheim.

Top 5 Monday, May 13–Sunday, May 19

Sally Saul, Effigy with Feathers
Photograph: © Dan Bradica, courtesy Pioneer Works and the artist
Art, Contemporary art

Sally Saul, “Blue Hills, Yellow Tree”

icon-location-pin Pioneer Works, Red Hook

Sally Saul is married to painter Peter Saul, with whom she shares a wacky aesthetic, and while her work isn’t quite as well known as her husband’s gonzo-satirical canvases, her ceramic sculptures have been attracting increasing attention. Borrowing equally from Folk Art and Surrealism, Saul’s objects depict historical personages (Presidents Eisenhower and Roosevelt), animals (dogs, vultures, beavers) and other figurative subjects that resist easy interpretation (a UFO stuck in a tree). The show represents the artist’s first retrospective.

Chris Ofili, Calypso (Green), 2019
Photograph: Kerry McFate, Courtesy David Zwirner New York/London/Hong Kong
Art, Contemporary art

Chris Ofili, “Dangerous Liaisons”

icon-location-pin David Zwirner, Lenox Hill

Twenty years ago, Chris Ofili caused a sensation in a show by that name at the Brooklyn Museum. A survey of the so-called YBAs—Young British Artists—who were taking the art world by storm back then, Ofili's contribution was a painting of the Virgin Mary with a ball of elephant dung attached to one breast—a material Ofili frequently used during his early career to reference his Nigerian roots. The news media, however, decided to characterize what was really an homage to the Holy Mother as an “excrement covered” Madonna, which brought down the wrath of both the NY Catholic Archdioses and former Mayor, current Trump toady, Rudolf Giuliani (who threatened to cut off the city's funding for the Museum). Ofili weathered the ginned-up controversy, going on to win Britain’s coveted Turner Prize in 2003. Over the years, dung has largely disappeared from his work—which, while always fancifully ornate and exultantly primitivistic, moved away from subjects that were, strictly speaking, Afrocentric to scenes of figures rooted in visionary landscapes. In the case of this show of canvases and works on paper at Zwirner’s uptown space, that mostly means vistas of undersea life—and love—as mermaids and mermen court and spark in fantastical surroundings under the waves.

Pablo Picasso, Buste de femme (Dora Maar), 1940
Photograph: Erich Koyama, © 2019 Estate of Pablo Picasso/Artist Rights Society (ARS), New York, courtesy Gagosian
Art, Painting

“Picasso’s Women: Fernande to Jacqueline”

icon-location-pin Gagosian Gallery, Upper East Side

When he wasn’t abusing the many women in his life, Pablo Picasso painted portraits of them that were to become some his most recognizable works. His attitudes towards the opposite sex were, to say the least, unenlightened, even for the period. He once describes women as “machines for suffering” (especially, it would seen, at his own hands); he also noted that they were either “goddesses or doormats,” and while his renderings of various wives and mistresses elevated them to the former, they more or less reverted to the latter once they left the studio. More than any other paintings by Picasso, these images raise the thorny issue of whether or not world-beating talent excuses awful behavior. Viewers, however, can judge for themselves by checking out these paintings, which still command your attention however problematic they may be.

Ron Nagle, Borderline Happy, 2018
Photograph: © Ron Nagle, courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery
Art, Contemporary art

Ron Nagle, “Getting to No”

icon-location-pin Matthew Marks Gallery, Chelsea

Ceramics used to be considered more of a craft than a fine art, until, that is, the 1950s, when a group of West Coast artists began to treat it as the equal of more traditional methods of sculpture. Ron Nagle played a key role in the California Clay Movement, as it was called, with objects that were part Pop Art, part Surrealism. Irreverent yet oddly impenetrable, these works were also influenced by Nagle’s interest in surfing, rock music and hot rod culture, and while they alluded to the functionality associated with ceramics, they were mostly abstract. His latest show follows suit with a selection of new pieces that are small in scale (measuring no more than six inches in any dimension), yet mighty in impact.

Photograph: Hollis Johnson
Art, Contemporary art

Whitney Biennial 2019

icon-location-pin Whitney Museum of American Art, Meatpacking District

With 75 artists spread over four floors, you’re bound to find works that make you go Meh and others that make you go Wow at the Whitney Biennial. For our money, you should keep a lookout for Nicole Eisenman’s monumental sculpture blowing smoke out of its ass, Josh Kline’s photos that literally weep over the current state of America, Calvin Marcus’s slacker-primitive paintings, and Diane Simpson’s sculpture exploring the heretofore little-known connection between art deco and samurai aesthetics. As to what you might get out of the show as a whole, your mileage may vary depending on your tastes.

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