15 Perspective-Altering Shows to See in New York City in 2020, From the Met Breuer’s Final Bow to a Muslim-Fashion Tribute
Mark your calendars for these must-see shows.
It’s the start of a new year, which means new exhibitions are opening at museums across the five boroughs of New York City. As always, expect something for everyone, whether you prefer blue chip art stars like Gerhard Richter or thought-provoking examinations of our rapid changing world from architect Rem Koolhaas.
Here are some of the exhibitions we’re looking forward to most this winter.
“Jacques-Louis David Meets Kehinde Wiley” at the Brooklyn Museum
January 24–May 10, 2020
The contemporary twist on equestrian portraiture painted by Kehinde Wiley is being shown alongside the work that inspired it, on view in New York for the first time. Jacques Louis David’s traditional depiction of a triumphant general astride a horse is contrasted with Wiley’s update, which switches out a drab mountain scene for a vibrant fleur-de-lis pattern and the uniform of contemporary battle—camouflaged pants and Timberland boots.
The Brooklyn Museum is located at 200 Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn, New York; general admission is $16.
“James Coupe: Warriors” at the International Center for Photography
January 25—May 18, 2020
The International Center of Photography is unveiling its new home at Essex Crossing on the Lower East Side, with a slate of inaugural exhibitions that includes James Coupe’s unsettling reimagining of Walter Hill’s cult film The Warriors (1979). Agree to let the artist scan your face, and deep fake technology will insert your likeness into the movie in real time, artificial analysis having studied your features and determined which gang you would most likely belong to. It’s a creepy reminder of the growing power of data harvesting and the potentially problematic applications of new technologies, particularly when it comes to your own image.
ICP is located at 79 Essex Street, New York; general admission is $16.
“Sahel: Art and Empire on the Shores of the Sahara” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art
January 30–May 10, 2020
The Met is looking back—way back, to the first millennium—for this show tracing the establishment of flourishing trade routes and societies in the southern region of the Sahara Desert. Some 200 works on loan from Mali, Senegal, and Niger, display the rich visual culture that emerged from those communities in the form of terracotta figures, bronze, illuminated manuscripts, and more, and explore the convergence of religions and political dynasties.
The Met is located at 1000 5th Avenue; general admission is $25.
“Measure Your Existence” at Rubin Museum of Art
February 7, 2020–August 10, 2020
This six-artist show at the Rubin Museum, featuring Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Shilpa Gupta, Tehching Hsieh, Meiro Koizumi, Lee Mingwei, and Taryn Simon, takes as its theme the Buddhist concept of impermanence, reminding viewers that the only thing that is inevitable is the passage of time. Featuring film, sculpture, photography, and durational installations, the exhibition is at times participatory, offering a fleeting moment of reflection. (The museum will celebrate the opening with a free reception on Friday, February 7, 6 p.m.–10 p.m.)
The Rubin Museum is located at 150 West 17th Street, New York; general admission is $19.
“Ballerina: Fashion’s Modern Muse” at the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology
February 11–April 18, 2020
Ballerinas often seem like otherworldly creatures, able to bend and fly across a stage like tulle-covered fairies, but their impact extends far beyond the stage. For the first time, an exhibition is examining the impact of ballet from its rise as a cultural force in Britain and America in the 20th century to its influence on contemporary fashion.
The Museum at FIT is located at 227 West 27th Street, New York; admission is free.
“Peter Saul: Crime and Punishment” at the New Museum
February 11–May 31, 2020
A great satirist of contemporary culture and politics, Peter Saul is finally getting his due with the first New York museum survey in his decades-long career. Saul’s acid-trip canvases are like the fever dreams of a conspiracy-theorist, depicting icons of popular culture ranging from Donald Duck to Donald Trump.
The New Museum is located at 235 Bowery, New York; general admission is $18.
“Bill Graham and the Rock & Roll Revolution” at the New-York Historical Society Museum & Library
February 14–August 23, 2020
The legendary rock-and-roll impresario Bill Graham (1931–1991), who worked with such stars as Jimi Hendrix, Santana, and the Rolling Stones, gets the museum treatment. The show, which comes to the New-York Historical Society by way of the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles, features over 300 objects including concert posters, archival photographs, and other memorabilia linked to the great concert promoter. Don’t miss the site-specific installation recreating the psychedelic liquid light show concert backdrops that Graham staged in New York with multimedia artist Joshua White beginning in 1967.
The New-York Historical Society is located at 170 Central Park West at Richard Gilder Way (77th Street); general admission is $22.
“Countryside, The Future” at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
February 20–August 14, 2020
This might be hard to process for New Yorkers, but only two percent of the year’s surface is occupied by cities. Rem Koolhaas and Samir Bantal, the director of AMO, the architect’s think tank, have teamed up with students at universities around the world to present global case studies that consider the so-called countryside that makes up the vast majority of the earth, and how humans are rapidly and radically modifying it. The exhibition will illustrate the effects of global warming, mass migration, and artificial intelligence, to name just a few of the factors that are physically altering landscapes the world over, sometimes almost beyond recognition.
The Guggenheim is located at 1071 5th Avenue at East 88th Street, New York; general admission is $25.
“Contemporary Muslim Fashions” at the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum
February 28–August 23, 2020
This buzzy show, with more than 80 ensembles and 40 photographs, was widely praised when it debuted at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco for its exploration of the wide range of Muslim dress and how it has influenced the wider fashion world.
Cooper Hewitt is located at 2 East 91st Street; general admission is $16.
“The Drawings of Al Taylor” at the Morgan Library & Museum
February 21–May 24, 2020
Although Al Taylor (1948–1999) died young, he produced no less than 5,000 drawings over the course of his prolific career. The Morgan highlights these witty artworks, and how the artist’s technical skill lends a gravitas to every day objects such as tin cans.
The Morgan Library & Museum is located at 225 Madison Avenue at East 36th Street, New York; general admission is $20.
“José Parlá: It’s Yours” at the Bronx Museum
February 26–August 16, 2020
In his first institutional solo show in New York, José Parlá presents paintings inspired by the Bronx, particularly by the way the borough has suffered due to redlining policies, structural racism, and displacement due to gentrification. Curated by Manon Slome, chief curator of nomadic art nonprofit No Longer Empty, the exhibition features Parlá’s childhood sketchbooks as well as recent large-scale paintings.
The Bronx Museum is located at 1040 Grand Concourse, Bronx, New York; admission is free.
“Judd” at the Museum of Modern Art
March 1–July 11, 2020
Even if you don’t know his name, you definitely know his legacy. Donald Judd, the man who essentially created the high ceiling-ed, streamlined furniture aesthetic of brands like Calvin Klein and turned Marfa into an art-girl thirst trap is being feted at MoMA with a career-long survey for the first time in over 30 years. Expect a whole lot of boxes, one right after another, plus wall-mounted “stacks” and “progressions” that trace Judd’s career.
The Museum of Modern Art is located at 11 West 53rd Street, New York; general admission is $25.
“Gerhard Richter: Painting After All” at the Met Breuer
March 4–July 5, 2020
The Met may be pulling the plug on its contemporary art experiment with the old Whitney flagship, subletting the Breuer Building to the nearby Frick Collection—which is closing for renovations—for the last three years of its lease, but Gerhard Richter should be a hell of a swan song. The show will span the German’s artist over six-decade career, while spotlighting two recent series, “Birkenau” (2014) and “Cage” (2006), which are making their US debut.
The Met Breuer is located at 945 Madison Avenue; general admission is $25.
“Carl Craig” at Dia:Beacon, Beacon, New York
March 6–September 7, 2020
Dia pushes the boundaries of the fine arts with this sound art commission with Detroit-based techno DJ Carl Craig that marks the culmination of a five-year engagement between the music producer and art foundation. The site-specific sound installation draws on the techno tradition of transforming industrial spaces into raging night clubs, inspired by the architecture of Dia’s lower level, a massive room filled with monumental columns that was once part of a Nabisco packaging factory.
The Dia Art Foundation, New York Dia:Beacon is located at 3 Beekman Street, Beacon; general admission is $15.
“Agnes Pelton: Desert Transcendentalist” at the Whitney Museum of American Art
March 13–June 28, 2020
This survey of spiritually infused paintings by Agnes Pelton (1881–1961), who retreated to the deserts of Cathedral City, California, to make her luminous, criminally under-known abstractions, could be this year’s Hilma af Klint. Organized by the Phoenix Art Museum, the show includes 45 paintings, two of which are from the Whitney’s own collection.
The Whitney is located at 99 Gansevoort Street, New York; general admission is $25.
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