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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.

By Howard Halle and Heather Corcoran
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UPDATE: Many museums have been closed due to coronavirus. Events on this list may be affected by these cancelations—if you're unsure, please call ahead to confirm.

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

Kenneth Noland Trans Shift, 1964
Kenneth Noland Trans Shift, 1964
Photograph: © 2019 The Kenneth Noland Foundation/Licensed by VAGA at Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY

1. “The Fullness of Color: 1960s Painting”

Art Painting Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Upper East Side

By the late 1950s Abstract Expressionism had run its course, while its core tenet—that painting through gestural brushwork constituted a kind of existential theater with the artist as star—had hardened into orthodoxy. Representational styles like Pop Art emerged in reaction, but there remained a group of painters committed to abstraction who looked for a fresh approach. They found it through an emphasis on color achieved by soaking thinned pigments into the canvas instead of slathering it on the surface. Variously called Lyrical Expressionism or Color Field painting, the style was championed by New York art critic Clement Greenberg (whose previous writings on Pollock, De Kooning, et al. were instrumental in boosting AbEx) though its impact was largely confined the early 1960s. This exhibition revisits that period with works by key figures of the time such as and Morris Louis, Kenneth Noland and Jules Olitski.

David Bailey, Surreal, 1980
David Bailey, Surreal, 1980
Photograph: © David Bailey, courtesy The Metropolitan Museum of Art

2. “About Time: Fashion and Duration”

Art Design The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Central Park

The Metropolitan Museum is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year, and in light of all of those years passing by, the Costume Institute is mounting this exhibition about fashion’s relationship with time. The show explores how fashion’s history is both linear and cyclical: On the one hand, there’s no more reliable marker for a particular period than the clothes being worn at the time; yet on the other hand, fashion itself often looks to the past for inspiration. The Met reaches into its vast collection to explore how fashion often moves forwards by moving back.

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Niki de Saint Phalle, Tarot Garden, 1991
Niki de Saint Phalle, Tarot Garden, 1991
Photograph: Ed Kessler, © 2019 Nikki Charitable Art Foundation

3. Niki de Saint Phalle

Art Pop art MoMA PS1, Long Island City

Combining Pop Art and feminism, Niki de Saint Phalle was a midcentury French-American artist who was also one of the few women sculptors to work on a monumental scale. One of her notable works was the waist-down half of giant female figure on her back with her legs spread to reveal a vagina-shaped opening that crowds of visitors could enter. She also “painted” by shooting a gun at pockets of paint concealed behind canvas, which would then bleed out various colors.

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