The best museum exhibitions in NYC

Searching for listings and reviews for the best New York museum exhibitions and shows? We have you covered.
Museums
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By Howard Halle |
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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

1
Eugène Delacroix, Three Arab Horsemen at an Encampment, 1832–37
Photograph: The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Art, Drawing

“Devotion to Drawing: The Karen B. Cohen Collection of Eugène Delacroix”

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As a warm-up to its retrospective this fall of the French painter Eugène Delacroix (1798–1863), the Met presents this trove of his works on paper, which was recently gifted to the museum. Culled from the artist’s notebooks, the collection includes watercolors, graphite sketches and renderings in pen and ink. With subjects ranging from Orientalist scenes, to copies of the Old Master compositions to anatomical studies, the show is a testament to the centrality of drawing to Delacroix’s art.

2
Pink: The History of a Punk, Pretty, Powerful Color
Photograph: Courtesy Eileen Costa, Museum at FIT
Things to do

Pink: The History of a Punk, Pretty, Powerful Color

icon-location-pin Chelsea
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The Museum at FIT unleashes the politics and provocations of the color pink at this stunning exhibition, featuring clothing from the 18th, 19th, 20th and 21st centuries. Divided into two sections, the exhibition explores how the color has come to play into eroticism, punk rock, activism and gender politics. You'll explore historical ensembles from Japan, India, Africa, Mexico, Great Britain, the U.S. and beyond that played into the lives of commoners and royals alike; then gag at stunning looks from the vaults of Dior, Yves Saint Laurent, Gucci, Moschino and Comme des Garçon. Witness the splendor!

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3
Padmasambhava
Photograph: Courtesy Rubin Museum, Museum Rietberg Zurich, Berti 
Things to do, Exhibitions

"The Second Buddha"

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Padmasambhava, known to some as the "The Second Buddha," is the subject of this exhibit at the Rubin Museum in which visitors use interactive tablets to examine 41 artworks made between the 13th and 20th centuries. The eighth century tantric master, credited with playing a vital role in bringing Buddhism to Tibet, taught lessons about impermanence and triumph over obstacles—important stuff to remember in any era.

4
Jan van Eyck and Workshop, The Virgin and Child with St. Barbara, St. Elizabeth and Jan Vos, ca. 1441–43, detail
Photograph: Courtesy The Frick Collection
Art, Masterpiece

“The Charterhouse of Bruges: Jan van Eyck, Petrus Christus and Jan Vos”

icon-location-pin Lenox Hill
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Two related masterpieces of 15th-century Netherlandish painting, one by Jan van Eyck, the other by Petrus Christus, are being reunited in this show for the first time in 24 years—and only for the second time in their entire existence. The panels had been commissioned by the Carthusian monk, Jan Vos, with both images prominently featuring the good friar in religious scenes starring the Virgin Mary, among other figures.

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5
Photograph: Courtesy Shady Ladies Tour
Things to do, Walks and tours

Shady Ladies of the Met Museum

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Discover the true stories behind the muses of some of the Met’s most fabulous artworks, including nude models in ancient Greece, Venetian poets and courtesans, and the true identity of John Singer Sargent’s Madame X.

6
The Jim Henson Exhibit
Photograph: Courtesy Museum of the Moving Image
Things to do, Exhibitions

"The Jim Henson Exhibit"

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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, Museum of Moving Image has provided the ultimate treat: a permanent exhibition featuring more than 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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7
2017.255a, b
Photograph: Kellen Anna-Marie, courtesy The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Art, Masterpiece

“Nedjemankh and His Gilded Coffin”

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Ever since Howard Carter uncovered the tomb of King Tut in 1922, people have been fascinated by Ancient Egyptian treasures. The Met recently acquired one such object—a gold-leafed covered coffin for a High Priest from Egypt’s Ptolemaic period. It's on display, along with 70 other Egyptian artifacts from the Met’s collection.

8
Jacob A. Riis, An Italian Home under a Dump, c. 1890
Photograph: Courtesy the Museum of the City Of New York
Things to do, Exhibitions

“Germ City: Microbes and the Metropolis”

icon-location-pin East Harlem
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Germs, bacteria, viruses—New Yorkers encounter them by the millions every day while going about their business. Just thinking about what could be covering those poles in subway cars is enough to make your skin crawl. But contagious  bugs have always been part of city life, and in this exhibition, the Museum of the City of New York charts the history of diseases in Gotham, and the many strategies that municipal authorities employed to combat them. 

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9
Tibetan Buddhist Shrine Room at the Rubin Museum of Art
Photograph: David De Armas
Things to do, Exhibitions

"Gateway to Himalayan Art"

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Do you enjoy the Rubin but feel a bit lost within the dizzying array of deities that figure in its works? This exhibition is the perfect initiation to the wide cast of characters that, by turns, traipse gleefully and skulk threateningly through Himalayan art. Don't miss the display explaining the process of Nepalese lost-wax metal casting and the life-size reproductions of murals from Tibet's Lukhang Temple.

10
Eugène Delacroix, Self-Portrait with Green Vest, ca. 1837
Photograph: Musée du Louvre, Paris, © RMN–Grand Palais (Musée du Louvre)/Michel Urtado
Art, Painting

Delacroix

icon-location-pin Central Park
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Hard as it is to believe, this exhibition represents the first-ever comprehensive retrospective in North America devoted to Eugène Delacroix (1798–1863). Joining forces with Musée du Louvre in Paris, the Met offers some 150 paintings, drawings, prints and manuscripts by this towering figure of 19th-century art. Presented chronologically, the show spans Delacroix’s four decades as a central player during a tumultuous period that laid the foundations of modernism

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