The 25 Most Buzzed-About Art Exhibitions This Year
Love them or hate them, but these shows got people talking.
In the age of social media, art shows aren’t just shows anymore. They’re events that demand to be photographed, talked about, and shared on Facebook and Instagram.
Since we’ve already broken down the list of the year’s best gallery and museum shows in New York, here’s artnet News’ round-up of some of the most talked-about exhibitions in the United States this year.
1. “Björk” at the Museum of Modern Art, New York
Yes, Klaus Biesenbach‘s latest (disastrous) brush with celebrity was seemingly–universally panned, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t one of the most-hyped exhibitions of the year, even after it dramatically flopped.
March 8–June 7, 2015.
2. “Picasso Sculpture” at the Museum of Modern Art, New York
The Cubist master wasn’t just a great painter—he was a virtuoso artist of sculpture as well, as this hugely-popular, critically-acclaimed exhibition proves.
September 14, 2015–February 7, 2016.
3. “Greater New York” at MoMA PS1 Greater New York
When an exhibition comes but once every five years, there is going to be buzz, especially if it is a showcase of art being produced in and around New York, curated by legend Douglas Crimp.
October 11, 2015–March 7, 2016.
4. “The Plains Indians: Artists of Earth and Sky” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
A seemingly rare example of an exhibition that generates buzz on the strength of the work alone, this showcase of Native American artwork ranged from contemporary pieces to thousand-year-old artifacts.
March 9–May 10, 2015.
5. “China: Through the Looking Glass,” the Metropolitan Museum of Art
As the latest example of the growing trend of blockbuster fashion exhibitions, the Costume Institute’s “China Through the Looking Glass” was extended an extra three weeks due to popular demand.
May 7–September 7, 2015.
6. “America Is Hard to See” at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York
A new presentation of the Whitney’s world-class collection of American art was the headlining event of the long-awaited opening of the museum’s Renzo Piano-designed new home in the trendy Meatpacking District this year.
May 1–September 27, 2015.
7. “Frank Stella: A Retrospective” at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York
A bright shiny new museum and the first major US show for Frank Stella in 30 years were a recipe for a highly-anticipated exhibition, even if the critics weren’t totally sold on the finished product.
October 30, 2015–February 7, 2016.
8. “2015 Triennial: Surround Audience” at the New Museum, New York
Curated by Ryan Trecartin and Lauren Cornell, the Triennial’s third edition was not without its critics, but the forward-thinking show certainly had people talking, and did explore several international trends to good effect.
February 25–May 24, 2015.
9. “Basquiat: The Unknown Notebooks” at the Brooklyn Museum
The Brooklyn Museum’s major coup this year (other than hiring Anne Pasternak and curator Nancy Spector), was scoring this trove of never-before-seen notebooks by Jean-Michel Basquiat, who was arguably just as much a writer as he was an artist.
April 3–August 23, 2015.
10. “Stanley Whitney: Dance the Orange” at the Studio Museum, Harlem,
This brightly-colored painting show from Stanley Whitney, the artist’s first solo exhibition in New York, was a favorite among critics this summer.
July 16–October 25, 2015.
11. “Sculpture in the Age of Donatello: Renaissance Masterpieces from Florence Cathedral” at the Museum of Biblical Art
This unprecedented chance to see Renaissance masterpieces from the Florence Duomo, including Donatello‘s monumental Saint John the Evangelist, here in New York was a blockbuster show by the standards of the small Columbus Circle museum, but it still wasn’t enough to keep the doors open.
February 20–June 14, 2015.
12. “International Pop” at the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota
The global emergence of Pop art proved a rich topic for this exhibition, which pleased crowds at the Walker before traveling to the Dallas Museum of Art.
April 11–August 29, 2015 at the Walker; October 11, 2015–August 29, 2016 at the DMA.
13. “The Inaugural Installation” at the Broad, Los Angeles Broad opening
The art (except perhaps Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirrored Room) may have been almost an afterthought as eager visitors waited with bated breath for the construction-delayed debut of super-collectors Eli and Edythe Broad’s new museum, but that doesn’t mean the opening wasn’t among the hottest tickets of all of 2015.
September 20, 2015–.
14. “Rain Room” at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art
Not much has changed since RH Restoration Hardware presented Random International‘s Rain Room at MoMA in 2013: if you want to stay dry in a dark room of artificial rain, you better be prepared to wait.
November 1, 2015–March 6, 2016.
15. “New Objectivity: Modern German Art in the Weimar Republic” at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art
The Weimar Republic, a key moment of German history between the end of World War I and the Nazi rise to power, gave birth to a powerful new art movement that is well-deserving of greater recognition.
October 4, 2015–January 18, 2016.
16. “Class Distinctions: Dutch Painting in the Age of Rembrandt and Vermeer” at the Museum of Fine Arts Boston
Two very different sides of Dutch society during the Golden Age are juxtaposed in this exhibition, which brings several of its 75 masterpieces to the US for the first time.
October 11, 2015–January 18, 2016.
17. “Black Chronicles II” at the Ethelbert Cooper Gallery of African & African-American Art, Cambridge, Massachusetts
A British research project tracked down archival photographs of blacks in Victorian England, revealing a long-overlooked facet of British society.
September 2–December 11, 2015.
18. “Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo in Detroit” at the Detroit Institute of Arts
In many ways, it seemed like the year of Frida Kahlo, but DIA’s exhibition of work by the Mexican painter and her husband was the biggest blockbuster of them all–even without a requested loan from Madonna.
March 15–July 12, 2015.
19. Loris Gréaud “The Unplayed Notes Museum” at the Dallas Contemporary
One way to get everyone talking about your exhibition? Destroy all the art during the opening, sexistly trash-talk the critic who slams the stunt, and then claim the whole thing was an extended bit of performance art.
January 18–March 21, 2015.
20. “Gustave Caillebotte: the Painter’s Eye” at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC
There’s more to French Impressionist Gustave Caillebotte than the famous Paris Street, Rainy Day, as evidenced by this popular exhibition, which also appeared at the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas.
June 28–October 4, 2015 at the Walker; November 8, 2015–February 14, 2016 at the Kimbell.
21. “Van Gogh and Nature” at the Clark, Williamstown, Massachusetts
Sure Vincent van Gogh did portraits, but the Clark was wise to focus this popular exhibition on the painter’s depiction of nature, in both landscapes and still lifes.
June 14–September 13, 2015.
22. Dana Schutz, “Fight in an Elevator” at Petzel Gallery, New York
Nearly every gallery staged a post-Labor Day opening on September 10, but Schutz‘s colorful painting were undeniably the one exhibition on every critic’s must-see list.
September 10–October 24, 2015.
23. Jannis Kounellis at Gavin Brown’s Enterprise, New York
Before decamping to Harlem, Gavin Brown closed up shop in Greenwich Village with a high-profile show of Kounellis’s Untitled (12 Horses), in which the gallery was temporarily converted into a makeshift stable. The Arte Povera work, which had never been staged in the US before, led to long lines for admission and even attracted the attention of animal rights activists.
June 24–June 27, 2015.
24. “Unrealism,” organized Jeffrey Deitch and Larry Gagosian at the Moore Building, Miami
When two titans of the art world joined forces for a museum-quality show in the Design District’s historic Moore Building during this year’s Art Basel in Miami Beach, everyone was paying attention.
December 1–6, 2015.
25. “First Show/Last Show,” organized by Vito Schnabel at 190 Bowery
Real estate developer Aby Rosen bought 190 Bowery, an iconic graffiti-covered former bank that had belonged to photographer Jay Maisel since 1966, and invited “art world pet” Vito Schnabel (aka, the son of Julian Schnabel) to curate the show. The public jumped at the chance to explore the derelict building, but, at the last minute, Schnabel turned away the crowds, causing some to wonder if it had been a publicity stunt all along.
May 16–29, 2015.
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