From Baselitz to Burning Man: 28 Can’t-Miss Museum Shows to See in the United States This Spring

From New York to Los Angeles, these are the art exhibitions that everyone will be talking about this coming season.

Anila Quayyum Agha's Intersections (2013) will be in the North Carolina Museum of Art's “You Are Here: Light, Color, and Sound Experiences." Courtesy of the artist. Image © 2013 Rice Gallery, photo: Nash Baker.

To celebrate the beginning of a spring that never seems to arrive, museums across the country are simply blooming with new programs to entice art-goers. From the never-before-seen sculptures of the late Jack Whitten in Baltimore to paintings fresh from the studio, here are the shows you don’t want to miss out on.

1. “No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man
Smithsonian American Art Museum
March 30, 2018–January 21, 2019

FoldHaus’s “Shrumen Lumen” courtesy of the artist and the Renwick Gallery.

The Renwick Gallery in Washington, DC, is awash with the psychedelic, awe-inducing designs culled from the yearly spectacle that takes over Nevada’s Black Rock Desert known as Burning Man. Beyond the mind-expanding music, the festival is a beacon for experimental art and architecture, but most pieces are ritually burned in the spirit of the event, making this exhibition all the more spectacular.

2. “Mel Chin: All Over the Place
Queens Museum, New York
April 5–August 12, 2018

Mel Chin, “Sea to See, installation view, 2014. Courtesy Mint Museum of Art/Mel Chin Studio.

This spring and summer, Mel Chin is taking over New York City. The sprawling multi-disciplinary exhibition will hold more than 70 works produced over his four-decade-long career. The exhibition will address issues ranging from social justice to the environment and will debut four newly commissioned projects with mind-bending works of Mixed Reality in Times Square.

3. “You Are Here: Light, Color, and Sound Experiences
North Carolina Museum of Art

April 7–July 22, 2018

Anila Quayyum Agha, Intersections (2013). Courtesy of the artist. Image © 2013 Rice Gallery, photo: Nash Baker.

The sense-stimulating immersive installations in “You Are Here” feature works that range from the inexplicable to the disconcerting. Highlights include projects by Sam Falls and OMAi/Markus Dorninger to be situated in the Museum’s outdoor park. And what an immersive exhibition without Kusama? The recently acquired Light of Life infinity room will be unveiled to the public. As an added bonus, the museum has partnered with Durham’s Fullsteam Brewery to release limited-edition IPA’s to enhance the immersive experience.

4. “Odyssey: Jack Whitten Sculpture, 1963–2017
Baltimore Museum of Art
April 22–July 29, 2018

Jack Whitten’s Lucy (2011) and detail. Courtesy of the artist’s estate and Hauser & Wirth. Photography: Genevieve Hanson, NYC.

The never before seen sculptures created by the acclaimed artist Jack Whitten will be unveiled, at long last in Baltimore, before traveling to the Met in September. Though known for his paintings, the exhibit will focus on 40 sculptures that bear resemblance to African, Minoan, and Cycladian works—and for the first time ever, Whitten’s Black Monoliths series will be displayed in conjunction with his sculptural works.

5. “Jason Moran
Walker Art Center, Minneapolis
April 26–August 26, 2018

Jason Moran, STAGED: Savoy Ballroom 1, 2015. Photo: Farzad Owrang, © Jason Moran; Courtesy the artist and Luhring Augustine, New York.

Jason Moran’s work straddles visual and performance art practices, and he is fully devoted to the central tenets of jazz—collaboration and improvisation. Moran’s sculptural “set pieces” are odes to music venues of yore, and throughout the show’s run visitors will be treated to complementary musical performances.

6. “Dorothea Rockburne
Dia: Beacon, New York
Opens May 2018

Dorothea Rockburne's <i>Tropical Tan</i> (1967–1968). ©Dorothea Rockburne/Artist Rights Society (ARS), New York. Courtesy Dorothea Rockburne Studio.

Dorothea Rockburne’s Tropical Tan (1967–1968). ©Dorothea Rockburne/Artist Rights Society (ARS), New York. Courtesy Dorothea Rockburne Studio.

The Canadian-born artist Dorothea Rockburne spent formative years training at the Black Mountain College in North Carolina—there she developed a practice that combines mathematics and art. In Rockburne’s paintings, what appear to be almost monochromatic canvases are in fact comprised of complex algorithms and subtle gradation.

7. “Anna Boghiguian: The Loom of History”
The New Museum, New York

May 2–August 19, 2018

Anna Boghiguian, Untitled, (2016). Courtesy of the artist and Sfeir-Semler Gallery.

The Armenian-Egyptian artist Anna Boghiguian has her first solo museum show this spring, where her colorful cut-out figures march across the galleries in the spirit of folk-theater sets.

8. “Chaim Soutine: Flesh
The Jewish Museum, New York
May 4–September 16, 2018

Chaim Soutine’s Still Life with Rayfish (ca. 1924). © Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY; Image courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

In an exhibition of 32 still-life paintings by Chaim Soutine, none of the tableaux are still at all. The tableaux of meat and fruit, and even the tablecloth are dynamic, roiling swaths of paint. Soutine’s childhood in a conservative Jewish home often revolved around preparing kosher food, and the emotional resonance of those rituals emerge in his paintings.

9. “One Hand Clapping
Guggenheim Museum, New York

May 4–October 21, 2018

Cao Fei’s Asia One (detail). © Cao Fei. Courtesy of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, NY.

The third installment of the Guggenheim’s lofty Chinese Art Initiative will feature new commissions by contemporary Asian artists Cao Fei, Duan Jianyu, Lin Yilin, Wong Ping, and Samson Young. The four artists in this show use innovative practices to explore technology’s impact on our reality, at both local and global levels.

10. “Renoir: Father and Son/Painting and Cinema
The Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia

May 6–September 3, 2018

Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Landscape with Woman and Dog (Femme et chien dans un paysage) (1917). Courtesy of the Barnes Foundation.

This show explores the visual and thematic connections between the painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir, and his son Jean, who briefly made pottery before turning his attention to cinema. Although the focus is on the Renoirs, the show opens a dialogue into the shared aesthetics of painting and cinema on a larger scale.


11. “In the Fields of Empty Days: The Intersection of Past and Present in Iranian Art
The Los Angeles County Museum of Art

May 6–September 9, 2018

Siamak Filizadeh's <i> Anis al-Dawla</i> (2014). © Siamak Filizadeh, photo: Museum Associates/LACMA.

Siamak Filizadeh’s Anis al-Dawla (2014). © Siamak Filizadeh, photo: Museum Associates/LACMA.

A survey of over 100 artworks in a variety of media address how contemporary Iranian art is inextricably linked to the country’s tumultuous past. Religious and political ideologies have long dominated the culture, and artists working today use ancient tropes and ideas to spark conversation.


12. “Caitlin Keogh: Blank Melody
Institute of Contemporary Art Boston
May 9–August 26, 2018

Caitlin Keogh’s Blank Melody, Cloaked Figure (2018). © Caitlin Keogh. Courtesy of the artist and Bortolami, NY; photo: John Berens.

Keogh’s work considers the history of gender and representation, the articulation of personal style, and the construction of artistic identity. Drawing from clothing design, illustration, and interior decoration as much as art history, Keogh’s large-scale canvases dissect elements of representations of femininity with considerable wit, pointing to the underlying conditions of the production of images of women.


13. “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination
Metropolitan Museum of Art & the Met Cloisters, New York
May 10–October 8

Evening Dress, Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli for Valentino, spring/summer 2014 haute couture, courtesy of Valentino S.p.A. Photo courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, digital composite scan by Katerina Jebb.

Evening Dress, Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli for Valentino, spring/summer 2014 haute couture, courtesy of Valentino S.p.A. Photo courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, digital composite scan by Katerina Jebb.

The Met’s Costume Institute is expected to pack a punch with this show, juxtaposing the sacred and the profane with a show that has some major star power attached to it, including Rhianna and Amal Clooney.


14. “Amy Sherald
Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis
May 11–August 19

Amy Sherald, What’s precious inside of him does not care to be known by the mind in ways that diminish its presence (All American), 2017. Courtesy of the artist and Monique Meloche Gallery.

Amy Sherald, What’s precious inside of him does not care to be known by the mind in ways that diminish its presence (All American), 2017. Courtesy of the artist and Monique Meloche Gallery.

One of the most buzzed-about shows of the spring is the solo exhibition of Amy Sherald, whose portrait of former first lady Michelle Obama made headlines earlier this year.


15. “Jeffrey Gibson: Like a Hammer
Denver Art Museum
May 13–August 12, 2018

Jeffrey Gibson's <i>AMERICAN HISTORY (JB)</i> (2015). Photo courtesy of Jeffrey Gibson Studio and Roberts Projects, Los Angeles, by Peter Mauney. ©Jeffrey Gibson.

Jeffrey Gibson’s AMERICAN HISTORY (JB) (2015). Photo courtesy of Jeffrey Gibson Studio and Roberts Projects, Los Angeles, by Peter Mauney. ©Jeffrey Gibson.

The first solo exhibition of Native American artist Jeffrey Gibson will include his vast repertoire: beaded objects, textile-based works, sculptures, and paintings all created from Gibson’s personal experience. The abstracted works are informed by his Choctaw and Cherokee heritage, as well as the formative pop-cultural events that define America.


16. “René Magritte: The Fifth Season
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
May 19–October 28, 2018

Rene Magritte’s Le tombeau des lutteurs (The Tomb of the Wrestlers) (1960). © Charly Herscovici, Brussels/Artist Rights Society (ARS) NY.

“The Fifth Season” looks at more than 70 works completed in Magritte’s “late” career after he formally broke ties with the surrealist art movement. The paintings are grouped thematically, and reveal the formal and conceptual shifts in his practice over time.


17. “Star Wars and the Power of Costume
Detroit Institute of Arts

May 20–September 30, 2018

Darth Vader Star Wars™: Return of the Jedi Credit: © & ™ 2018 Lucasfilm Ltd.

More than 60 original costumes from the Star Wars universe, delving into the creative process of George Lucas, and how his vision was brought to life. From Queen Amidala to Darth Vader, the specially crafted ensembles that define the films are on display.


18. “Bodys Isek Kingelez: City Dreams
Museum of Modern Art, New York

May 26, 2018–January 1, 2019

Bodys Isek Kingelez’s Kimbembele Ihunga (1994). © Bodys Isek Kingelez. Photo: Maurice Aeschimann. Courtesy CAAC–The Pigozzi Collection.

A long overdue survey of the artist who spent most of his life in the Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire); his artistic oeuvre touches on global issues while portraying a distinctly regional perspective.


19. “The People’s View: RFK Funeral Train
International Center of Photography, New York
May 23–September 2, 2018

Annie Ingram, [Elkton, Maryland], June 8, 1968. From Rein Jelle Terpstra’s The People’s View (2014–18). Photo courtesy Melinda Watson.

Annie Ingram, [Elkton, Maryland], June 8, 1968. From Rein Jelle Terpstra’s The People’s View
(2014–18). Photo courtesy Melinda Watson.

This poignant exhibition is another major show dedicated to the historic funeral train for Robert Kennedy, with “The Train: RFK’s Last Journey,” on view at SFMoMA through June 10 before travelling to Les Rencontres d’Arles; East Coast denizens can catch ICP’s take on the subject just in time for the 50th anniversary of RFK’s assassination. The ICP show (which will continue on to the Netherlands) was organized by artist Rein Jelle Terpstra, who was inspired by Paul Fusco’s photographs taken on assignment in 1968, and traveled with the funeral procession carrying Kennedy’s body from New York to Washington, DC, capturing the faces and reactions of people along the way.


20. “Taryn Simon: Assembled Audience + A Cold Hole
MASS MOCA, North Adams, Massachusetts
Opens May 26, 2018

Taryn Simon, Assembled Audience, 2018. Courtesy of the artist and MASS MOCA.

What is it about the viral ice bucket challenge or a winter morning polar bear plunge that is so appealing? Why are rites of passage so often linked to full-water immersion? And where did the act of hand-clapping as approval come from? Taryn Simon uses a combination of visual and conceptual practices to glean understanding from these ubiquitous moments that most of us don’t give a second thought, with her new installations “Assembled Audience” and “A Cold Hole.”


21. “Made in L.A. 2018
Hammer Museum, Los Angeles
June 3–September 2

Nancy Lupo’s All Always Already (2017). Courtesy of the artist and the Hammer Museum.

The biennial art show “Made in LA” is back at the Hammer, and this year the group of participating artists is overwhelmingly female. In keeping with its original mission, to highlight work from within the Los Angeles community, a new batch of home-grown creatives will take the stage.


22. “Mary Corse: A Survey in Light
Whitney Museum, New York
June 8–November 25, 2018

Mary Corse’s Untitled (2017). Courtesy of Kayne Griffin Corcoran, Los Angeles, Lehmann Maupin, New York, and Lisson Gallery, London.

On the East Coast, art institutions are also recognizing the vast contributions of California-born artists; the Whitney Museum is dedicating a career retrospective to Corse, who is known as a pioneering figure in the West Coast Art and Light movement, while just outside the city Dia:Beacon will also host a selection of Corse’s abstract works, opening in May.


23. “Liliana Porter: El hombre con el hacha y otras situaciones breves
Pérez Art Museum Miami
June 8, 2018–September 29, 2019

Liliana Porter’s El hombre con el hacha y otras situaciones breves– Venecia 2017 (Man with an axe and other brief situations–Venice 2017) (2017). Courtesy of PAMM.

The large-scale installation by Liliana Porter was recently acquired by PAMM and will be unveiled to visitors this summer. The grand display incorporates a series of vignettes, populated by miniature figures and objects engaged in a whole world of detailed interaction.


24. “Georg Baselitz: Six Decades
Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC

June 21–September 16, 2018

Georg Baselitz's <i>Orange Eater IX (orangenesser IX)</i> (1981). © Georg Baselitz, courtesy of Skarstedt, NY.

Georg Baselitz’s Orange Eater IX (orangenesser IX) (1981). © Georg Baselitz, courtesy of Skarstedt, NY.

As an 80th birthday present to the German artist Georg Baselitz, the Hirshhorn is staging the first major US retrospective of his work in more than 20 years. Over the course of his six-decade career, Baselitz has incited controversy and awe in equal measure, and finally, US viewers will see the scope of his range.


25. “Chaos and Awe: Painting for the 21st Century
Frist Art Museum, Nashville

June 22–September 16, 2018

Ali Banisadr’s Contact (2013). Courtesy of the artist.

Whoever said that painting was dead clearly has not seen the paintings brought together for the newly renamed Frist Art Museum’s survey opening this summer. The works included in this show take a painterly approach to the frenetic, complex, and ultimately colorful state of the world today.


26. “Winslow Homer and the Camera: Photography and the Art of Painting

Bowdoin College Museum of Art, Brunswick, Maine
June 23–October 28, 2018

Winslow Homer’s Eight Bells (1886). Addison Gallery of American Art, Phillips Academy, Andover MA/Art Resource NY.

A surprise gift to the Bowdoin College Museum of Art in 2014 sparked this exhibition, finally coming to fruition after years of scholarship. The gift was a camera that belonged to the artist Winslow Homer, and the exhibition explores how Homer’s photography impacted his paintings.


27. “I Was Raised on the Internet
The Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago
June 23–October 14, 2018

Eva and Franco Mattes, My Generation (2010). Installation view at Plugin, Basel. Courtesy of Alain Servais.

This show takes 1998 as its chronological beginning and uses over 100 works of art across all media to explore the generation who was, literally, raised on the internet. Featured artists include Corey Arcangel, Cao Fei, Ian Cheng, Petra Cortright, Simon Denny, Rachel Maclean, and Amalia Ulman.


28. “Truth and Beauty: The Pre-Raphaelites and the Old Masters
The Legion of Honor, San Francisco

June 30–September 30, 2018

John Roddam Spencer Stanhope’s Love and the Maiden (1877). Courtesy of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

This is the first major museum show to juxtapose and contextualize works of art by the 19th-century Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, and the work that inspired them, including late medieval and early Renaissance masters such as Fra Angelico, Jan van Eyck, and Hans Memling.


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