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Photograph: Delia Barth

The best museum exhibitions in NYC right now

Searching for listings and reviews for the best New York museum exhibitions and shows? We have you covered.

Shaye Weaver
Written by
Shaye Weaver
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Don't waste your time—head to NYC's best museum exhibits now!

New York City has tons of things going for it, from incredible buildings to breathtaking parks. But surely, the top of the list includes NYC’s vast array of museums, covering every field of culture and knowledge: There are quirky museums and interactive museums, free museums and world-beating art institutions like the Metropolitan Museum. Between them, they offer so many exhibitions, of every variety and taste, that it's hard to keep track of them. But if you’ve starting to suffer a sudden attack of FOMA, fear not! We've got you covered with our select list of the best museum exhibitions in NYC.

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to museums in NYC

Best museum exhibitions in NYC

  • Art
  • Art

The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute is back with part two of this year’s flagship exhibition “In America” with “An Anthology of Fashion,” and the new iteration of the show is an even more expansive look at what has defined American fashion over the years. It is a visually splendid tour through hundreds of years of this country’s history told through clothes designed and worn by its citizens. Building on last year’s spartan, intellectually rigorous presentation of garments categorized by the expression of various themes, this year’s show explodes across most of the American Wing of the museum.

  • Things to do
  • Midtown West

Hundreds of items have been pulled from the New York Public Library's expansive and centuries-spanning archive to be put on display—many of them for the first time—in a permanent exhibition called "The Polonsky Exhibition of The New York Public Library’s Treasures." Inside the NYPL's Stephen A. Schwarzman Building and its beautiful Gottesman Hall, are more than 250 unique and rare items culled from its research centers spanning 4,000 years of history and includes a wide range of history-making pieces, including the only surviving letter from Christoper Columbus announcing his "discovery" of the Americas to King Ferdinand’s court and the first Gutenberg Bible brought over to the Americas.

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  • Art
  • Midtown West

MoMA has reunited the six paintings, ceramic and three sculptures that Matisse depicted in his 1911 "The Red Studio" painting for the first time in over 100 years! Matisse painted a large canvas to depict his studio in the outskirts of Paris that was filled with his paintings and sculptures, furniture, and decorative objects. These objects have been saved and are finally back together since they left the studio. Created between 1898 and 1911, these objects range from familiar paintings, such as "Young Sailor (II)" (1906) to lesser-known works such as "Corsica, The Old Mill" (1898) and other objects.

  • Art
  • Art

The Whitney Biennial has been a long time coming. Originally meant to open in 2021, the 80th edition combines three years of planning as well as 63 artists and collectives to present an event that has been described as both "dynamic" and timely by its curators. "Whitney Biennial 2022: Quiet as It’s Kept," which opens April 6, is broken up into two experiences on the fifth and sixth floors of the Meatpacking District building. Each one presents a completely different atmosphere—on the sixth floor is a cavernous, labyrinth-like gallery, and on the fifth floor is an open and airy room where works are displayed together.  The exhibition mimics the range of emotions we felt during the past two years, from fear and pain to joy and hope, and everything in between.

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  • Things to do
  • Upper West Side

Just in time for Black History Month, the New-York Historical Society is bringing Frederick Douglass’ vision of freedom, citizenship and equal rights to life in a new ongoing special installation. A range of artifacts and documents illustrate Douglass’ vision, including illustrations from the popular press of the time and scrapbooks of articles by or about Douglass compiled by his sons that also documented his work to usher in a more just country. Visitors will also see speech excerpt from his contemporary, Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, who raises the question of gender in step with Douglass’ ideas about racial equality. Political cartoons and a copy of an editorial that Douglass wrote about Chinese immigrants’ right to belong in the U.S. in the Chinese American newspaper are also on view. The maquette of a statue of Douglass erected on the campus of the University of Maryland in 2015, which was gifted to the late Congressman John Lewis, is also on display and a recreation of the Douglass statue, painted to be lifelike, greets visitors to the Museum at the 77th Street entrance.

  • Art

European artists take center stage in a new installation at the Brooklyn Museum. "Monet to Morisot: The Real and Imagined in European Art" opens next month, presenting nearly 100 pieces by the likes of Claude Monet, Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse and Vasily Kandinsky, among others. The works—which range in theme, scope and material—are all renowned holdings of the museum but they have not been on view together in Brooklyn since 2016.

 

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  • Things to do
  • Midtown East

The AKC Museum of the Dog is opening a timely exhibit of 10 life-sized, carved-wood allegorical memorials of military dogs from WWII and Afghanistan by sculptor James Mellick. Visitors will see the artist's collections "Wounded Warrior Dogs" and "Over the Rainbow Bridge," along with the museum’s permanent collection, which includes sculptures, paintings, collars, vests, photographs and more. Mellick says that the exhibit of wounded and rehabilitated dogs aims to draw attention to the service and heroism of dogs in the military. The Wounded Warrior Dog statues are carved from cedar, walnut, sycamore, cherry, poplar, maple and more, laminated and painted to showcase beautiful life-size dogs who fought alongside veterans and often aided in the completion of successful missions. The AKC Library and Archives will also feature photographs and documents of the WWII U.S. Marine Corps "Devil Dogs" during the time of the main exhibit. Throughout the installation, there will also be events and veterans invited to speak on their experiences and the history of dogs in the military. For these dates, check the events calendar at museumofthedog.org

 

  • Art
  • Hell's Kitchen

The Museum of Arts and Design (MAD) is hosting its first global survey exhibition dedicated to the use of clothing as a medium of visual art, March 12 to August 14. The work of 35 international contemporary artists, from established names to emerging voices, will be on display, and you'll see how they made or altered clothing for expressive purposes via sculpture, installation, and performance art to transform dress into a critical tool for exploring issues of subjectivity, identity, and difference.

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  • Museums
  • Music
  • Midtown West

If you loved the music and cool jazz scene in Disney and Pixar's movie Soul, you'll want to make a beeline to The National Jazz Museum in Harlem, which has been transformed into the film's Half Note jazz club. Showcasing incredible artifacts from major players in Harlem's jazz scene, including Duke Ellington’s white grand piano, Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis' tenor saxophone, a player piano and a working 78rpm Victrola, "The Soul of Jazz: An American Adventure" highlights the many different cultures and creators who influenced this genre. The exhibit is a traveling exhibit, first hitting Epcot in Orlando, followed by the New Orleans Jazz Museum in New Orleans and the American Jazz Museum in Kansas City, Missouri before coming to Harlem.

  • Art
  • Harlem

The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture is exploring the work of Austin Hansen and the Black gaze in photography in "Been Seen," its spring exhibition. For 47 years, Harlem-based photojournalist, studio photographer, and documentarian, Austin Hansen ran a photo studio on West 135th Street that doubled as a gallery and exhibition space. Over his career, he photographed inside nightclubs, freelanced for the Amsterdam News, trained as a combat/war photographer in the Navy, and continued to document community life in Harlem. Now, some of his 500,000 portraits of African American families, clergy, political leaders, entertainers, writers, and community members are on view as well as correspondence, original photographs, news clippings, programs for special events held at many historic Harlem churches, and other social events in Harlem and elsewhere. The exhibit also features the work of seven contemporary photographers: Dario Calmese, Cheriss May, Flo Ngala, Ricky Day, Gerald Peart, Mark Clennon, and Lola Flash, whose practices explore identity, Black experiences, visual culture, and portraiture.

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  • Things to do
  • Midtown West

The Final Frontier will be just a train ride away at The Paley Center for Media with its new immersive exhibition, "The Visionary Universe of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds," opening on Wednesday, April 27. The exhibit celebrates the latest series in the Star Trek franchise, Strange New Worlds from Paramount+ and the other acclaimed series in the Star Trek universe from across the decades. Through May 29, fans and visitors will be able to take photos in the captain's chair, see costumes and props from several series (Vulcan uniforms, set pieces including the USS Enterprise), sit in for special screenings and bring kids to weekend events featuring Paramount+’s hit animated original kids’ series Star Trek: Prodigy and much more. The Paley Center will be holding a preview screening of Episodes 1 and 2 of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds on May 1 at 1pm and daily screenings of premiere episodes on the big screen from various Star Trek TV series, including "The Cage," the 1965 pilot episode from the original Star Trek series. Screenings begin at 12:10pm daily.

  • Art
  • East Harlem

Head to the Museum of the City of New York to see 100 photographs selected from the more than 1,000 images recently gifted to the Museum by the Joy of Giving Something (JGS), a non-profit organization dedicated to the photographic arts. Images range from documentary-style to quirky and from architectural to atmospheric. “Celebrating the City” features works by more than 30 creators new to the MCNY collection, including multiple images from Helen Levitt’s dynamic and celebrated street photography; Sylvia Plachy’s playful and eccentric examination of the people, animals, and moments of NYC; and Michael Spano’s slice-of-life city shots spanning the 1990s and 2000s. Other key figures in 20th-century photography are incorporated into the show, including Ilse Bing, Bruce Davidson, Mitch Epstein, Elliott Erwitt, Robert Frank, William Kline, Saul Leiter, Alfred Stieglitz, Rosalind Solomon, and Paul Strand, to name a few—all capturing indelible, sometimes implausible, intimate, and often incredible moments of the city. You'll even see a llama in Times Square, fireworks over the Brooklyn Bridge, polar bears playing in a pool at the zoo as well as subways, skylines, shadows, and stolen moments.

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  • Things to do

"Andy Warhol: Revelation," a new exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum, seeks to do just that. Featuring over 100 objects—from some of Warhol's own belongings to the artist's drawings and rarely seen prints—the show explores the Pop genius' career through the prism of his religion. Although not as grand as expected given the heftiness of the subject, the exhibit does a great job at showcasing as-yet unexplored portions of the life of an artist who has been the subject of countless shows and profiles throughout the years. 

 

  • Things to do
  • Flatiron

The Museum of Sex always has something exciting going on behind closed doors. "Super Funland: Journey into the Erotic Carnival" is back and better than ever with its 4-D immersive “Tunnel of Love” ride, the Love & Lust Deity Derby game, an erotic fortune-telling machine (modeled as RuPaul), a kissing booth, the Glory Stall game, an immersive "Stardust Lane - the Erogenous Kaleidoscope," an erotic mechanical bull and a lit-up climbing structure, "The Climbx," and more. Then when it's time to take the edge off, visitors can slide down a spiral slide into the Museum’s psychedelic carnival bar, Lollipop Lounge, for cocktails. 

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  • Art
  • Art

The Frick Collection is starting a new chapter after 85 gorgeous years at its 1 East 70th Street mansion. On March 15, The Frick Madison opened at 945 Madison Avenue—the former home of the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Met Breuer—while Henry Clay Frick's mansion undergoes a massive renovation. This new stint will last two years, and while the Brutalist building by Marcel Breuer is a huge departure from the Gilded Age mansion, the space is offering a much different and rare look at the collection, according to museum officials. Unlike at the Frick Mansion, the Breuer building is a clean slate—stark in contrast, which actually helps to attract the viewer's attention to individual works. Eyes aren't busy looking at ornate furniture here. It's all about seeing the smaller details in the artwork that you might have overlooked at the mansion. According to Anna-Maria and Stephen Kellen Director Ian Wardropper, "It's a different Frick than you’ve ever known."

  • Things to do
  • City Life

Can you imagine how grim our world would be without the influence of Jim Henson? For those of us who learned comedy, whimsy and even literacy from Sesame Street and the Muppet franchise, the Museum of the Moving Image has provided the ultimate treat: a permanent exhibition featuring over 47 Muppet and puppet characters; 27 screens of archival footage from The Dark Crystal, The Muppet Show, Fraggle Rock and beyond; and stories of how the great genius and his architects brought to life some of our favorite characters.

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