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Best art exhibits to see at NYC museums right now

From the evolution of street art to the whimsical journey of the Blue Man Group, there’s much to see — and learn.

The colorful entrance to "The Blue Man Group:

The colorful entrance to "The Blue Man Group: Ready...Go!" exhibit on view at the Museum of the City of New York. Photo Credit: Jeff Bachner

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:

Yayoi Kusama solo exhibition
David Zwirner Gallery
Opens in November

The quixotic Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama, famed for her infinity mirror rooms, will be returning to New York City in a solo exhibition at the David Zwirner Gallery come November. While details are scarce, there will be a new infinity mirror room.

'Beyond the Streets'
Twenty Five Kent
Through August

See work from New York City legends Tats Cru and Lady Pink as well as Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat as well as Martha Cooper’s classic photographs of New York City subway trains, streets and people in the 1980s. You'll also see the 30th anniversary work of graphic designer/street artist Shepard Fairey titled “Facing The Giant: 3 Decades of Dissent.” Fairey is well known for his Barack Obama “Hope” poster, a symbol of his presidential campaign. New Yorkers may recognize his “OBEY” stickers that featured the face of the late wrestler Andre the Giant.

'Spilling Over: Painting Color in the 1960s'
Whitney Museum of American Art
Through August

Selected for their embrace of color, 18 paintings, created between 1959 and 1972, were drawn from the museum’s collection, including two making their Whitney debuts: Kay WalkingStick’s spare “April Contemplating May,” featuring an orange silhouette of a woman casually regarding the blue-hued sky outside her window and Emma Amos’ “Baby,” depicting a woman split in two, amid an array of primary and secondary colors. 

‘Garry Winogrand: Color’
Brooklyn Museum
Through Aug. 18

Photographer Garry Winogrand (1928-1984) was known for his black and white photos of city streets, zoos, rodeos, airports, beaches and other public settings. "Garry Winogrand: Color" presents more than 400 rarely seen color pictures taken by the Bronx native.

‘Eclipse of the Sun: Art of the Weimar Republic’
Neue Galerie
Through 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.

'CAMP: Notes on Fashion'
Metropolitan Museum of Art
Through Sept. 8

"Camp: Notes on Fashion" invites visitors on a journey that explores the camp aesthetic's beginnings in the 18th century through the present, one fierce or whimsical ensemble at a time. The exhibit pairs the subject matter with the words of Susan Sontag, whose 1964 essay, "Notes on Camp," was considered the first serious exploration of the genre. Contemporary fashion is showcased an incredible display that resembles a more colorful and fantastic take on the "Hollywood Squares" game show.

'Apollo’s Muse: The Moon in the Age of Photography'
Metropolitan Museum of Art
Through Sept. 22

Metropolitan Museum of Art is marking the 50th anniversary of the lunar landing on July 20, 1969, with an exhibit that features more than 170 photographs, including the iconic snap of Buzz Aldrin by fellow Apollo astronaut Neil Armstrong, which shows the lunar surface in a mirror-faced space helmet. While photos make up the bulk of the show, there's an array of drawings, paintings, film clips, astronomical instruments and NASA cameras. 

‘Whitney Biennial 2019’
Whitney Museum of American Art
Through Sept. 22

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

'Culture and The People: El Museo del Barrio, 1969-2019'
El Museo del Barrio
Through Sept. 29

The first part of a two-part exhibition, this collection pulls works from the museum's permanent collection to reflect on its activist origins and role as a leader in presenting and preserving Latinx and Latin American art and culture.

'Nobody Promised You Tomorrow: Art 50 Years After Stonewall'
Brooklyn Museum
Through 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.

'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.

'Whitney's Collection: Selections from 1900 to 1965'
The Whitney Museum

The Whitney will reinstall 120 works by more than 70 artists, including Edward Hopper, Georgia O'Keeffe, Andy Warhol, Norman Lewis and Archibald Motley, in an effort to re-imagine American Art History and reintroduce art icons to newcomers and regulars alike. The art will be installed in a way that brings them new meaning.

'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

'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.

'Blue Man Group: Ready … Go!'
Museum of the City of New York
Through Sept. 2

This interactive exhibit takes on the qualities of a Blue Man Group show, where a blue character explores the world through pop culture. The exhibit beams with bright neon colors, UV paint, LED screens and even the group’s original 27-year-old PVC pipe instrument that guests can play. Along with an interactive music room, guests can also see a map of where the original group got started performing in New York City and a juxtaposed timeline of the Blue Man Group and historical events.

'Immigrants Mean Business'
The Tenement Museum 
Through Sept. 8

This two-room exhibit features current and archived photos, vintage artifacts from immigrant stores, and anecdotes from business owners that illustrate how small immigrant businesses shaped New York for the better. The exhibit, which is open only on weekends, includes several artifacts from the museum's collection, including old store signs from immigrant businesses that were located in the Lower East Side, receipts, catalogs and wares.

‘Leonard Cohen: A Crack in Everything’
Jewish Museum
Though 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.

'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."

'Brazilian Modern: The Living Art of Roberto Burle Marx'
The New York Botanical Garden
Through Sept. 29

The NYBG's summer show is all about Roberto Burle Marx, an artist, conservationist and landscape architect who left his imprint on the legendary Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro and represented Brazil at the Venice Biennale. As the biggest exhibit the garden has done, visitors will find a replica of the artist’s wall-size concrete mural at the Banco Safra headquarters in Sao Paulo and come upon tropical rainforest plants in the Explorer's Garden and day- and night-blooming water lilies in the Water Garden.

‘Play It Loud’
Metropolitan Museum of Art
Through 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.

'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.

'PRIDE: Photographs of Stonewall and Beyond'
Museum of the City of New York 
Through Dec. 31

See photos that Village Voice photojournalist Fred W. McDarrah took of the Stonewall riots on June 28, 1969, when members of the LGBT community retaliated against a police raid at the Stonewall Inn, a local gay bar, and ignited a six-day uprising against LGBT discrimination. The walls of photographs within the exhibit feature moments from the riots themselves to parades to personal moments of pride and celebration. Guests can also listen to interviews that the curators collected, and write down their experiences at LGBT pride marches from the past 50 years on a rainbow notecard that will be placed along the gallery wall.

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

This groundbreaking traveling exhibition brings together more than 700 objects and 400 photos related to the Holocaust, including concrete pillars and barbed wire brought over from the Polish extermination camp, in order to educate the public. Visitors will see the roots of anti-Semitism, World War I and the rise of the Nazi Party, connecting the dots as best as one can to explain how hatred and violence can manifest itself as state-sponsored policy.

'Pierre Cardin: Future Fashion'
The Brooklyn Museum
Through Jan. 5, 2020

Through 170 items, including clothing, hats, jewelry, shoes and even furniture, the Pierre Cardin retrospective offers a journey through the iconic French couture designer's innovations created between the 1950s and the present, including his tube clothing and kinetic tunics, which were "created for a world that does not exist yet." The museum also has a food pop-up to honor Cardin's Maxim's de Paris restaurant during the exhibit's run.

'Taking Care of Brooklyn: Stories of Sickness of Health'
Brooklyn Historical Society
Through June 5, 2020

Learn how Brooklynites have understood, struggled with and experienced illness over the course of 400 years, from the smallpox epidemic that wiped out the Lenape people to today's measles outbreak. Using interactive touch screens, audio experiences and artifacts like journal entries and vaccination tools, visitors get a personal view of what it was like for those who went through certain illnesses.

'City of Workers, City of Struggle: How Labor Movements Changed New York'
Museum of the City of New York
Through Jan. 5, 2020

New York City has long been a union town, from 19th century industry up to the current debate over Amazon’s halted plan to put a new headquarters in Queens. The new exhibit is filled with artifacts: a deep red banner from the Knee Pants Makers’ Union, a sewing machine used by a worker who participated in the 1982 Chinatown strike by the members of the International Ladies’ Garment Workers Union and the rolodex of Albert Shanker, who led both the American Federation of Teachers and the United Federation of Teachers, filled with the phone numbers of top political player and more.

Brooklyn Historical Society DUMBO
Through Dec. 1, 2022

After four years of studying the coastline’s evolution from the 19th century to modernity, BHS is showing its findings on displays that tell individuals’ stories, related objects and the waterfront's history. Using new technology, attendees can be virtually dropped into ten historic paintings and photographs, and record themselves interacting with historical figures and objects in minute-long movies.

The Statue of Liberty Museum
Liberty Island

A brand new museum about the Statue of Liberty is opening on Liberty Island with the original, glowing torch from 1884 and three interactive galleries within the space, including an immersive theater that will play an eight- to 10-minute film that sweeps visitors up through the statue's interior and tells a brief history of its beginnings and its meanings. 

Poster House Museum
119 W. 23rd St.

Learn about the global history of the poster at this new museum that has an archive of historical and contemporary works as well as rotating exhibits and programming. The museum's first two shows are "Alphonse Mucha: Art Nouveau/Nouvelle Femme" and "Designing Through The Wall: Cyan in the 1990s" with much more planned through 2020.



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