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Heads up! We’re working hard to be accurate – but these are unusual times, so please always check before heading out.

Niki de Saint Phalle Tarot Garden MoMA PS1
Photograph: Courtesy Peter Granser / © 2021 Fondazione Il Giardino Dei Tarocchi

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.

By Shaye Weaver
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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

KAWS What Party Brooklyn Museum
KAWS What Party Brooklyn Museum
Photograph: Shaye Weaver/Time Out

1. "KAWS: WHAT PARTY"

Museums Brooklyn Museum | Brooklyn, NY, Prospect Park

Brooklyn Museum's biggest exhibit this spring is opening on Friday. You may have seen KAWS' giant cartoon-y characters with X's for eyes around the city, but this is the first time Brooklyn-based artist (Brian Donnelly) has had a major New York survey of his work, which includes rarely seen graffiti drawings, paintings, smaller collectibles, furniture, and his popular "Companion" figures. See inside the exhibit here.

 Grief and Grievance: Art and Mourning in America
 Grief and Grievance: Art and Mourning in America
Photograph: Dario Lasagni

2. "Grief and Grievance: Art and Mourning in America"

News Art

"Grief and Grievance: Art and Mourning in America," a new exhibition that has taken over almost the entirety of the New Museum and is set to stay put until June 6, explores the history of racist violence all throughout the United States. Back in 2018, curator Okwui Enwezor began working on the project, hoping to mount it by last year's Presidential election. Unfortunately, the curator's passing in 2019 and the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic forced a shift in plans that delayed the show's opening to last week. In total, the work of 37 Black artists currently fills the museum's lobby, its three main viewing floors, the building's exterior and the South Gallery found in the building next door. Expect to browse through the amazing works of artists the likes of Kara Walker, who is the brain behind an entire wall filled with sketches and drawings; LaToya Ruby Frazier, who contributes over a dozen photographs from her "The Notion of Family" series; and Jean-Michael Basquiat, whose "Procession" can be glanced at as soon as the elevator doors open on the third floor. The show is a powerful one, with images ranging in style, theme and scope, but one that is necessary to delve into today more than ever. Given COVID-19-related guidelines, visitors have to purchase timed tickets ahead of their trip. Feel free to do so right here.

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Dior Vogue The Arab Issue series Hassan Hajjaj
Dior Vogue The Arab Issue series Hassan Hajjaj
Photograph: Courtesy of Hassan Hajjaj and M.E.P Paris

3. Hassan Hajjaj's "VOGUE, The Arab Issue"

Art Fotografiska, Gramercy

Your eyes will feast on the bold colors, varied textures and patterns that call your attention in this exhibit of Hassan Hajjaj’s photography. The immersive exhibit showcases five series Hajjaj developed over three decades that captures popular culture, street style, hip-hop and haute couture—all of which challenges the viewer through an eclectic confrontation of styles, and invites them to re-examine cultural stereotypes and cliches, Fotografiska says. Hajjaj asked local women to pose wearing his creations (traditional Moroccan djellabas, hijabs, caftans and babouches covered with candy-colored polka dots, leopard prints or counterfeit brand logos) in the streets of the Medina, often parodying the poses typical of Western models. The title "VOGUE, The Arab Issue" has a double meaning—“issue” refers not only to a copy of the monthly magazine but also to an important topic or problem for debate or discussion, one he also probes in his video Naabz and the series "Hijabs and Handpainted
Portraits."

Rubin Museum
Rubin Museum
Photograph: Courtesy David de Armas

4. “Awaken: A Tibetan Buddhist Journey Toward Enlightenment"

Art The Rubin Museum of Art, Chelsea

The Rubin Museum of Art's newest exhibit invites you to unplug and free your mind through Tibetan Buddhist art, including 35 traditional objects, including 14 from the Rubin Museum’s collection, with two contemporary works by Nepal-born, Tibetan American artist Tsherin Sherpa. "Awaken" features works from the 7th and 21st centuries including stone, wood, and metal sculptures, traditional Tibetan hanging scroll paintings, illuminated manuscript pages and vibrant contemporary pieces. Through these, the exhibition introduces the central teachings of Tibetan Buddhism as visitors "progress through 10 milestones on the journey from the chaos of ordinary life to the awakened states of awareness." 

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Frick Madison
Frick Madison
Photograph: Courtesy Joe Coscia/The Frick Collection

5. The Frick Madison

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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."

Bob Hope
Bob Hope
Photograph: Courtesy of the Bob & Dolores Hope Foundation

6. "So Ready for Laughter: Bob Hope and World War II"

Museums New-York Historical Society | Manhattan, NY, Upper West Side

The New-York Historical Society has a new exhibit that coincides with the 80th anniversary of the United Service Organizations (USO) that shows off artifacts (a World War II-era aircraft fragment, mess kit, and other relics engraved to Hope), films, and rare photographs to illustrate how Bob Hope helped lift spirits with his USO and radio shows during a dark time in American history. There's also a companion exhibition, "The Gift of Laughter," that delves into Hope’s varied career after World War II as a USO entertainer, television star, and Academy Award host demonstrating the many hats worn by comedians. His legacy will be brought to life with many items, including costumes from the Emmy Award-winning series The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, as well as objects related to other comedians—real and imagined—influenced by Hope.

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Estamos bien el museo del barrio
Estamos bien el museo del barrio
Photograph: Courtesy Patrick Martinez | "Defeat and Victory"

7. "Estamos Bien – La Trienal 20/21"

Museums El Museo del Barrio, East Harlem

El Museo del Barrio is doing its first-ever, national survey of Latinx contemporary art featuring more than 40 artists from across the U.S. and Puerto Rico. Curated by El Museo del Barrio’s Chief Curator Rodrigo Moura and Curator Susanna V. Temkin, along with New York-based and former (S) Files artist Elia Alba as guest curator, the exhibition explores how identity and structural racism, migration, displacement, climate and ecological justice are all addressed in the context of the pandemic, as it relates to Latinx populations. 

artechouse
artechouse
Photograph: Courtesy Photo Julius Horsthuis and ARTECHOUSE

8. “Geometric Properties: An Immersive Audio-Visual Journey Through Fractal Dimensions"

News Art

Over the last year, it’s often felt like reality has fractured. Now, a new exhibition opening in Chelsea’s ARTECHOUSE space will let you actually step into a fractal dimension. Geometric Properties: An Immersive Audio-Visual Journey Through Fractal Dimensions,” is the first solo exhibition of Dutch artist Julius Horsthuis’ work to come to NYC. Previously, his work has been featured in Manchester by the Sea and through collaborations with musical artists like ODESZA, Meshuggah and Birds of Paradise. He uses fractals to create alternate science-fiction-like realities using visual art and motion graphics, and they are a real trip, to say the least. The digital art destination on Manhattan’s west side (it’s literally located in Chelsea Market’s former boiler room) is opening the new show on March 1, and it will be on view through September 6. If you want to stop by and check out the endless geometric iterations and fractional dimensions for yourself—you frickin' fractal freak you—tickets cost $24 for adults and $17 for children. (Pro tip: New York and New Jersey residents receive a $5 discount on tickets on weekdays.) Check out a few more trippy images from the upcoming show by clicking through.

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Niki de Saint Phalle Tarot Garden MoMA PS1
Niki de Saint Phalle Tarot Garden MoMA PS1
Photograph: Courtesy Peter Granser / © 2021 Fondazione Il Giardino Dei Tarocchi

9. "Niki de Saint Phalle: Structures for Life"

News Art

A new stunning exhibit of massive sculptures is coming to MoMA PS1 this spring. The art show, "Structures for Life" opening March 11, puts a spotlight on feminist artist Niki de Saint Phalle's with 200 works on view, including sculptures, prints, drawings, jewelry, films, and archival materials. It'll be the first show in NYC to review her work. The biggest draw for this PS1 exhibit will be Saint Phalle's large-scale outdoor sculptures called Nanas as well as models of architectural projects including, Le rêve de l’oiseau (built for Rainer von Diez between 1968 and 1971); Golem, a playground in Jerusalem that is a big black and white monster with three tongues; Le Dragon de Knokke, a children’s playhouse in Belgium that looks like a giant monster with a long tongue and tail; and La Fontaine Stravinsky, a whimsical fountain that moves and sprays water. Nanas are her series of large, brightly colored sculptures of female figures. A seven-foot-tall sculpture called Clarice Again will welcome visitors to the show's gallery.

Not Another Second exhibit
Not Another Second exhibit
Photograph: Courtesy Not Another Second

10. "Not Another Second"

Art Online,

"Not Another Second" is an exhibit that offers a candid glimpse into the lives of 12 LGBTQ elders through a series of compelling portraits that intersect personal experiences of living during a time when being themselves was a crime. Shot by noted German photographer Karsten Thormaehlen also celebrates their personal journeys on deciding to live openly, as well as finding love and companionship. Each moving portrait is accompanied by the number of years lost living in the closet and not as their true, authentic self. This exhibit is a collaboration between nonprofit SAGE, Watermark Retirement Communities and Brooklyn’s iconic new luxury senior community The Watermark at Brooklyn Heights. The portraits will be viewable via AR and through free public and socially distanced viewings of the Not Another Second exhibit at The Watermark at Brooklyn Heights will take place every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday from January 19th through March 2021. A reservation must be made to view the Brooklyn exhibition of Not Another Second. To book and reserve your timed ticket, visit www.notanothersecond.com.

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A New Look at Old Masters at The Met Museum
A New Look at Old Masters at The Met Museum
Photograph: Courtesy The Metropolitan Museum of Art

11. The Met Museum's newly reopened old masters galleries

News Art

The Metropolitan Museum of Art's old masters have new digs. On December 12, the Met opened about two dozen galleries dedicated to old master paintings (like Caravaggio, Goya, Peter Paul Rubens, Jean Antoine Houdon, Jan van Eyck) with new skylights—marking the half-way point of a four-year construction project to reintroduce all 45 galleries for European Paintings, 1250–1800. This is the first time visitors to the museum can see the 21 renovated galleries and more than 500 works that are now enhanced by the natural light from the new skylights, according to the Met. This project began in April 2018 and the first phase 27 galleries on the second floor were closed. The second phase, replacing the roof and skylights over the remaining adjacent suite of galleries, will finish up in spring 2022.

 

Away from the Easel Jackson Pollock Mural at the Guggenheim
Away from the Easel Jackson Pollock Mural at the Guggenheim
Photograph: Time Out/Shaye Weaver

12. "Away from the Easel: Jackson Pollock’s Mural"

At the Guggenheim, you'll get to see the first major painting by Pollock that was commissioned by Peggy Guggenheim for her home in 1943. "Mural," as it simply called, hasn't been shown in New York in more than 20 years. It's about 20 feet wide and 8 feet tall—the largest of Pollock's works. 

Guggenheim paid the artist a monthly stipend that allowed him to paint full-time, which helped him establish his career—he had his first solo exhibition at the museum after the commission. It was during this time that he started to experiment further with abstraction.

"Mural" has been at Iowa's Stanley Museum of Art, where Guggenheim donated it, until now.

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