Best art exhibits to see at NYC museums right now

From the influence of Leonard Cohen to the latest science on the T. rex, there’s much to see — and learn.

The Costume Institute's spring exhibit shows artists' humorous and compelling interpretations of Susan Sontag's 1964 essay "Notes on 'Camp,'" including this work by Johnny Dufort. Photo Credit: The Metropolitan Museum of Art / Johnny Dufort

By Shaye Weaver

New York City museums have filled 2019 with exciting programming and exhibitions on popular literature, the musical instruments that changed rock history, dog art, an entire exhibit on the T-rex, the importance of protest and much more. Here are highlights as you schedule that leisure time:

'For Freedoms: Where Do We Go From Here?' & 'Your Mirror: Portraits from the ICP Collection'
International Center for Photography
Through April 28


"For Freedoms: Where Do We Go From Here?" explores the role of art and visual representation in American civic life, and "Your Mirror: Portraits from the ICP Collection" surveys the ways in which people present themselves to the camera, how and by whom they are represented and who is deemed worthy of commemoration.

Created in 1937, this set design for the ballet "Filling Station," by Paul Cadmus, is among works on show in "Lincoln Kirstein's Modern." Photo Credit: Estate of Paul Cadmus /MoMA

Diane von Furstenberg x Ashley Longshore art collection
874 Washington St., through May

See 37 portraits by Ashely Longshore of inspirational women, including Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Jackie Kennedy, Marlene Dietrich, Cleopatra, Oprah, Gloria Steinem, Whitney Wolfe Herd, Elizabeth Taylor, Nina Simone, Amelia Earhart, Rosa Parks and Jane Goodall. Entry is free.

'Joan Miró: The Birth of the World'
Museum of Modern Art
Through June 15

Peruse 60 paintings, prints, collages and other works in relation to the titular piece that show the artist's transition into surrealism.

'Lincoln Kirstein’s Modern'
Museum of Modern Art
Through June 15

The co-founder of the New York City Ballet, Lincoln Kirstein, collected photos, paintings, sketches and sculptures for the museum in the 1930s and 1940s, shaping the city's art scene during that time. The collection — mostly by male artists — shows overarching inclusivity nevertheless exists with respect to nationality, ethnicity, politics and sexual orientation.


'Sea Train'
New York Transit Museum at Grand Central Terminal
Through June 16

View previously unseen images from photographer Stephen Mallon’s archives of the MTA's subway car reefing program — where out-of-service trains were dropped into the Atlantic Ocean to be used as artificial reefs — many blown up to 40 x 60 prints.

Our art exhibit shortlist includes the Guggenheim's retrospective of Queens-born Robert Mapplethorpe, with 1973's "Candy Darling." Photo Credit: Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

'Implicit Tensions: Mapplethorpe Now'
Guggenheim Museum
Through July 10

The Robert Mapplethorpe retrospective at the Guggenheim covers the Queens-born artist’s career from 1970 to 1988, the year before he died at the age of 42 due to complications from AIDS. To be sure, the show contains explicit images — particularly of the downtown S&M community — but there is an almost sterile exquisiteness to these photographs, apart from their subject matter, that should not be missed.

‘Garry Winogrand: Color’
Brooklyn Museum
May 3 — Aug. 18

Large-scale projections of more than 400 little-known color slides by this Bronx-born photographer document the city and the nation in the two decades after World War II.

The Costume Institute's spring exhibit shows artists' humorous and compelling interpretations of Susan Sontag's 1964 essay "Notes on 'Camp,'" including this work by Johnny Dufort. Photo Credit: The Metropolitan Museum of Art / Johnny Dufort

'Nobody Promised You Tomorrow: Art 50 Years After Stonewall'
Brooklyn Museum
May 3 — Dec. 8


See the work of 22 LGBTQ+ artists who were born after 1969, whose paintings, sculpture, performances and videos tackle the current political atmosphere and ask how moments become monuments.

‘CAMP: Notes on Fashion'
Metropolitan Museum of Art
May 9 — Sept. 8

The Costume Institute’s spring exhibit shows artists' humorous and compelling interpretations of Susan Sontag’s 1964 essay “Notes on ‘Camp.’”

Learn about the entire tyrannosaur family at AMNH. Photo Credit: Charles Eckert

‘Whitney Biennial 2019’
Whitney Museum of American Art
May 17 — Sept. 22

The essential exhibition of contemporary art, featuring 75 artists across multiple disciplines, including painting, film, performance and sound.

‘Eclipse of the Sun: Art of the Weimar Republic’
Neue Galerie
May 23 — Sept. 2

Paintings and drawings from German artists of the 1920s and 30s, including George Grosz and Otto Dix, highlight the critical reaction to society and power post-World War I.

'She Persists: A Century of Women Artists in New York City'
Gracie Mansion
Through December

With 60 works by more than 40 artists, such as Diane Arbus, Cecily Brown, Guerrilla Girls, Lee Krasner, Cindy Sherman and Faith Ringgold, Gracie Mansion is celebrating the impactful work of women who called New York home at one point or another in this new exhibit. The paintings, sculpture, film, photography, craft and design, are divided into four themes: "contending with history," "body as a battleground," "picturing people" and "expanding abstraction," with the intention of looking forward while honoring the 19th Amendment, which granted women the right to vote and was passed by Congress in 1919.

'History Through Art — An Exhibition of 35 Years of Courtroom Art'
Moynihan U.S. Courthouse

More than 100 images from three longtime courtroom artists, Elizabeth Williams, Jane Rosenberg and Aggie Kenny, are displayed in the Daniel Patrick Moynihan U.S. Courthouse at 500 Pearl St. The drawings feature criminals, terrorists, lawsuits and the occasional Statue of Liberty climber, John Gotti Jr., Rep. Anthony Weiner, Ponzi schemer Bernie Madoff, household doyenne Martha Stewart, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, The Rolling Stone's Mick Jagger, former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, and most recently, Donald Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen. 

Museum of the Dog
101 Park Ave.

An entire art museum dedicated to dogs has arrived in Manhattan with a large, two-floor collection of paintings, figurines, sculptures and rare pieces) from famous dog artists, including Sir Edwin Landseer, Maud Earl and others. There are interactive exhibits, like a "Find Your Match" kiosk that takes your photo and pulls up the AKC-registered dog breed that is most like you and a "Meet the Breeds" touch screen where you can explore different breeds' features, traits and histories.

Museum exhibits

‘Leonard Cohen: A Crack in Everything’
Jewish Museum
April 12 — Sept. 8

Leonard Cohen's songs, poetry and art have inspired artists throughout the years and their works will be on display in this new exhibit as well as Cohen's own drawings and covers of his songs by other musicians.

‘Play It Loud’
Metropolitan Museum of Art
April 8 — Oct. 1

Co-organized with the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, this exhibit will showcase more than 100 instruments that helped reshape the musical landscape, including those played by artists like Chuck Berry, Eric Clapton, Sheryl Crow, Bob Dylan, Don Felder, Kim Gordon, Jimi Hendrix, James Hetfield, Wanda Jackson, Joan Jett, Lady Gaga, Steve Miller, Joni Mitchell, Jimmy Page, Kate Pierson, Elvis Presley, Prince, Keith Richards, Patti Smith, Bruce Springsteen, Ringo Starr, Eddie Van Halen, St. Vincent, Tina Weymouth, Nancy Wilson and others.

‘Auschwitz. Not long ago. Not far away’
Museum of Jewish Heritage
May 8 — Jan. 3, 2020

This groundbreaking traveling exhibition brings together more than 700 objects and 400 photos of Auschwitz from more than 20 institutions and museums globally, including artifacts from the Museum of Jewish Heritage’s collection.

'Exhibitionism: 50 Years of the Museum at FIT'
The Museum at FIT
Through April 20

The Museum at FIT has pulled more than 80 ensembles from 33 of its most influential exhibitions over its history (of more than 200 exhibits in total) to curate its newest showcase. While 33 exhibits are far too many to name here, the best from the museum's "Fairy Tale Fashion," "Black Fashion Designers," "Yves Saint Laurent + Halston: "Gothic: Dark Glamour," "Japan Fashion Now," "A Queer History of Fashion: From the Closet to the Catwalk," and much more are represented.

'Germ City: Microbes and the Metropolis'
Museum of the City of New York
Through April 28

All those germs you imagine living on the subway cars are real. The MCNY is taking a look at infectious diseases and the city’s history in dealing with germs in this new exhibit. Follow the story of “Typhoid Mary,” learn how the flu decreased the city’s population in 1918, see what an iron lung really looks like and view art from Blast Theory, Mariam Ghani and others. The museum will host a number of events, including a trip to Roosevelt Island (formerly Welfare Island) … just in time for flu season.

'A City for Corduroy: Don Freeman's New York'
Museum of the City of New York
Through June 23

This exhibit provides a sweeping look at Don Freeman's life work in three sections, "City Life," "Stage Life" and "Corduroy and Friends." The author wrote 40 books that included characters who lived and worked at well-known landmarks, including Norman the Doorman, a mouse who stands sentry at the art museum; Hattie, the backstage bat who lived at the Lyceum Theatre; and Maestro Petrini, the mouse who works at the Metropolitan Opera. But Corduroy, the stuffed bear in need of a button for his green overalls, is the most beloved.

'Frida Kahlo: Appearances Can Be Deceiving'
Brooklyn Museum
Through May 12

See Kahlo's personal items, including jewelry, clothing and prosthetics, which is on display in the United States for the first time. Several paintings by the iconic Mexican artist such as “Self-Portrait with Necklace” (1933), “Self-Portrait with Braid” (1941), and “Self-Portrait as a Tehuana, Diego on My Mind” (1943) are also highlighted. 

'Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth'
The Morgan Library & Museum
Through May 12

J.R.R. Tolkien's legacy and his tales of hobbits and elves are celebrated in an exhibit all about the man and his creation. The most extensive public display of original material, the collection features Tolkien's illustrations, maps, draft manuscripts and designs related to "The Hobbit," "The Lord of the Rings" and "The Silmarillion." 

'Love & Resistance: Stonewall 50'
NYPL's Stephen A. Schwarzman Building
Through July 14

This summer will mark the 50th anniversary of one of the gay rights movement’s most pivotal events, the police raid and resulting riots at The Stonewall Inn. To mark its role in transforming LGBTQ history, the New York Public Library opened its “Love & Resistance: Stonewall 50” exhibition, which features historic photographs, posters, and flyers from the library’s archives. The library is also running a series of ticketed events to complement the exhibition, including After Hours access, including Drag Queen Story Hour and curator talks.

'On the (Queer) Waterfront'
The Brooklyn Historical Society
Through Aug. 4

Through photographs, ephemera and artifacts culled by the Brooklyn Historical Society, the exhibit tells the tales of LGBTQ people who lived, worked and traveled along Brooklyn's coastline, from the 1800s up through World War II, including Walt Whitman, looking at both the changes and lack thereof in our ideas about sexuality. 

'T. rex: The Ultimate Predator'
American Museum of National History
Through Aug. 9

How does a museum celebrate its 150th anniversary? How about with a 40-foot-long model of most everyone’s favorite dinosaur? The giant T. rex is the centerpiece of an exhibit that, via fossils, infographics and interactive panels, shares the latest discoveries about the popular theropod.

'Letting Loose and Fighting Back: LGBTQ Nightlife Before and After Stonewall'
New-York Historical Society
Through Sept. 22

Learn about the way nightlife influenced the discovery of identity, building community, developing political awareness and creative expression and how these influenced popular culture. The NYHS also has other installations for its "Stonewall 50" exhibit, including "By the Force of Our Presence: Highlights from the Lesbian Herstory Archives" and "Say It Loud, Out and Proud: Fifty Years of Pride."

'Cycling in the City'
Museum of the City of New York
Through Oct. 6

The Museum of the City of New York is opening a new exhibit about the history of cycling and the city's relationship with it, called "Cycling in the City: A 200-Year History," through 50 objects including 14 bicycles, photographs, prints, and cycling apparel, posters, magazines, brochures, and badges. The exhibition will also feature vintage and contemporary films projected on a large screen, a newly commissioned film of interviews with cycling advocates, and three indoor stationary bicycles that will enable visitors to experience virtual cycling landscapes via Zwift, an online-based cycling video game.