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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.
Photograph: Shutterstock
By Howard Halle |

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

2017.255a, b
Photograph: Kellen Anna-Marie, courtesy The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Art, Masterpiece

“Nedjemankh and His Gilded Coffin”

icon-location-pin The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Upper East Side

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.

Photograph: Scenocosme: Gregory Lasserre (b. 1976, Annecy, France) & Anaïs met den Ancxt (b. 1981, Lyon, France); Metamorphy; 2014; interactive installation; courtesy of the artists
Things to do, Exhibitions

“The Power of Intention: Reinventing the (Prayer) Wheel”

icon-location-pin The Rubin Museum of Art, Chelsea

Many of the most visually audacious and immersive exhibitions in NYC turn into selfie traps.  The Rubin’s “Power of Intention: Reinventing the (Prayer) Wheel” is not that kind of show—or, at least, it asks you to be fully present and mindful instead of  Instagramming. Of the numerous works of interactive contemporary art inspired by Tibetan Buddhist practices, we suggest checking out Scenocosme’s “Metamorphy” (pictured): When you touch the piece’s fabric membrane, it conjures up a “storm” using motion-sensing camera projection. The installation will make you  think about how your energy affects the karma of the world.

Photograph: Courtesy Nickolas Muray Photo Archives
Art, Contemporary art

“Frida Kahlo: Appearances Can Be Deceiving”

icon-location-pin Brooklyn Museum | Brooklyn, NY, Prospect Heights

Though countless exhibitions have covered the work of the iconoclastic Mexican artist, the Brooklyn Museum’s new show is the first in the U.S. to feature personal artifacts from Kahlo’s childhood home, La Casa Azul. While browsing through her paintings, drawings and photos, you can also marvel at jewelry, hand-painted corsets, prosthetics and other lived-in items, all of which illustrate the heritage, rituals and mission at the heart of Kahlo’s life and work.

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 Museum of the City of New York, East Harlem

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. 

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

"Gateway to Himalayan Art"

icon-location-pin The Rubin Museum of Art, Chelsea

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.

Robert Mapplethorpe
Photograph: Courtesy Kristopher McKay
Art, Contemporary art

“Implicit Tensions: Mapplethorpe Now”

icon-location-pin Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Upper East Side

Thirty years after his death, artist Robert Mapplethorpe still provokes. While capturing the fever dream of underground NYC in the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s, he ignited national conversations—and conflicts—on sex, race, censorship and government involvement in art, all of which still rage on today. Running until July, the first section of the Guggenheim’s ambitious, two-part exhibition displays Polaroids, collages, nude photographs, portraits of celebrities and the artist himself, and takes on the New York S&M scene.

Victor Gadino,Perfect Freedom, 1981. Acrylic on board, 14.5 x 19 in. Collection of Leslie-Lohman Museum. Gift of the artist.

"Male Gaze: Life, Legend, Legacy"

icon-location-pin Leslie-Lohman Annex, Soho

This retrospective celebrates the fiftieth anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, and of the first exhibition of gay art held by Charles W. Leslie and J. Frederic "Fritz" Lohman in their Soho Loft. Boasting works by Andy Warhol, Enrique Gomez, Keith Haring, Robert Mapplethorpe and nearly 100 other queer artists, "Male Gaze" looks back on the advocacy efforts of the gallery, its founders and the artists they featured. 

Things to do

Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth

icon-location-pin The Morgan Library & Museum, Murray Hill

Wielding original maps, manuscripts, photographs and illustrations, the Morgan Library reconstructs J.R.R. Tolkien’s journey from the trenches of World War I to the creation of the beloved, world-renowned Lord of the Rings saga.

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