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NYPL treasures exhibit
Photograph: Max Touhey / NYPL

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

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If you have ever wanted to get inside an artist's head and understand where they were coming from, "Jean-Michel Basquiat: King Pleasure" will be the closest thing you'll experience to that. This major exhibition at the Starrett-Lehigh Building in Chelsea, has an advantage that many other shows do not have—it was organized and curated by Basquiat's family (with famed architect David Adjaye and design firm Pentagram), who have done a painstaking job of showing both the famous artist's intimate side and his genius.

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Get a closer look at more than 60 kimonos at the Met Museum that will show how these traditional Japanese garments transformed over their history. Across the gallery, these gorgeous kimonos will be paired along with Western garments, Japanese paintings, prints, and decorative art objects in thematic and chronological order, from the costumes worn for Japan’s traditional forms of theater, Noh and Kyōgen, to the western-influence of the second half of the 20th century.

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  • Things to do
  • City Life

NYC has been invaded by an army of zombies with an exhibit spotlighting AMC Networks' The Walking Dead. Open as of June 25 at the Museum of the Moving Image, "Living with The Walking Dead" features original costumes and props, concept art, storyboards, scripts and prosthetic makeup material that highlight the show’s origins, production and impact. It'll also has multiple screening series and public events over a six-month span for those interested in the show and learning more about behind the scenes. All in all, there are 500 objects including more than 300 props and production materials to see.

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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.

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  • 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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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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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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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."

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  • 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.

More on museums in NYC

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