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Top 10 Things We Are Excited to See in New York: Art Museum Edition

by Hrag Vartanian on December 29, 2011

Every year brings another crop of art shows that make us remember why New York is so friggin’ amazing. There is so much to see that it’s possible to see everything. As a result we pick favorites.

Here are our picks for what to see in New York’s glorious art museums for 2012.

#1 Whitney Biennial at the Whitney

OMG, part of me hopes this show sucks because it’s always really fun to talk about it when it does. Sadly, there’s no signs that this biennial affair will blow this time around. The last incarnation was good, diverse and interesting (though there were some haters) so maybe this time around we’re in store for some grade A suckage. Who knows.

There are 51 artists in the 2012 incarnation and the exhibition looks like it’s going to be heavy on photography and video.

In my fantasy biennial, Werner Herzog (who is in this show) would do the audio tour.

The Whitney Biennial opens March 1 and continues until May 27, 2012.

#2 The Generational at the New Museum

The last one sucked but that’s not to say this one might not shine … though the title already blows, The Ungovernables? Oh, brother.

Oh no, there’s also this description: “Through both materials and form, works included in The Ungovernables explore impermanence and an engagement with the present and future. Many of the works are provisional, site-specific and performative reflecting an attitude of possibility and resourcefulness.” Which simply sounds like artspeak.

Like the Whitney Biennial, even if the New Museum’s triennial sucks it’s a good thing for the rest of us, so this one is win win.

The Ungovernables opens February 15 and continues until April 22, 2012.

#3 The 2012 Annual at the National Academy Museum

This is a conservative institution but their Annual is a fun show to see since it offers up a number of people you wouldn’t see exhibited in other city museums.

Be warned … as walking through this show you can often feel like you’re in another decade (mostly because of the interiors but sometimes the work) but that’s ok, embrace it.

The series works to highlight “connections among generations and helps illustrate the ongoing narrative in American art.” Which sounds awesome but doesn’t always measure up to what they promise and can simply mean a whole bunch of artists went to the same school or had the same teacher. Also, if history is any guide then expect no or very little video or photography work at this thing.

Every year the list of artists is long. Some of the 2012 names are David Diao, Kate Gilmore, Joan Jonas, Glenn Ligon, Malcolm Morley, Alison Saar, Ursula von Rydingsvard, Carrie Mae Weems and Stephen Westfall.

The Annual: 2012 opens January 25 and continues until April 29, 2012.

#4 Rembrandt and Degas at the Metropolitan Museum

What else can you say about a show that has two of the finest European Old Masters.

This exhibition focuses on the fact that Edgar Degas was inspired by Rembrandt’s etchings, which he saw when the young Frenchman was studying the Old Masters in Rome. The show will also explore both artists’ love of self-portraits.

Let’s face it, if the Met gets this wrong it’s all on them … but judging by the reviews from the Amsterdam installation of this show, it should be quite good. You can also check out the Rijksmuseum’s video trailer for the show on YouTube.

Rembrandt and Degas: Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man opens February 23 and continues until May 20.

#5 Dust, Ashes, and Dirt in Contemporary Art and Design at the Museum of Arts and Design

The museum on Columbus Circle is really trying to forge a bridge between design and fine art. Exhibits like this appear to be becoming their signature contribution to the city’s vibrant museum culture.

In the past they’ve explore paper, nature, knitting and optics but this one devoted to dust, ash and dirt may be their curious yet.

Their shows always include a global roster of artists and honestly I am amazed they were able to curate a whole show with artists “whose major materials are dust, ashes, dirt, and sand.”

This will probably be full of surprises for everyone in the art and design worlds. Let’s just hope my dust allergy isn’t trigger by the works in the galleries.

Swept Away: Dust, Ashes, and Dirt in Contemporary Art and Design runs from February 7 until August 12, 2012.

#6 Keith Haring at the Brooklyn Museum

Keith Haring: 1978-1982, the first large-scale exhibition to explore the early career of one of the best-loved American artists of last century will be presented at the Brooklyn Museum this upcoming year.

The exhibition focused on the formative years of Haring’s career from the time of his arrival to New York from Pennsylvania “through the years when he started his studio practice and began making public and political art on the city streets.”

Keith Haring opens March 16 and continues until July 8, 2012.

#7 Cindy Sherman at MoMA

The queen of photographic disguises is having a big show at the temple of Modern Art starting February.

We all know she’s a pioneer and her early stuff is brillant but her more recent work hasn’t been as endorsed by the critical establishment. Part of the reason we want to see this is because we want to make up our mind on whether Sherman is mostly an important historical figure or a vibrant contemporary artist who continues to push boundaries.

Cindy Sherman opens on February 26 and continues until June 11, 2012.

#8 Weegee: Murder Is My Business at the International Center for Photography

As the years go by Weegee’s black and white images keep looking better and better.

During the 1930s and 1940s, Weegee freelanced for a number of New York newspapers and photo agencies and was best known for photographing the city’s crime scenes. The images are stark, inventive and at their best they have the radicalness of Soviet Constructivist photography.

According to ICP’s website, the show “will include environmental recreations of Weegee’s apartment and exhibitions,” which sounds like an unusual and intriguing way to complement a photo show.

Weegee: Murder Is My Business opens January 20 and continues until September 2, 2012.

ALSO: The museum is also featuring Perspective 2012 (starting January 20), which will feature the work of some young artists working in photography and video. The exhibit promises that those they’ve included have not been widely exhibited and many that have not shown in New York before — both refreshing notes that makes me want to see this show.

#9  Caribbean Show at El Museo, Queens Museum and the Studio Museum

A collaboration between three of the city’s major museums, the Caribbean exhibition appears to be an ambitious project that will explore the history, art and culture of a region influenced by Native American, European, African and Asian culture.

Just in case you can’t make it to New York to check this out, the organizers have also organized a symposia in New York, Trinidad and Martinique/Guadeloupe and they’re planning for events in Curaçao and Aruba.

We haven’t seen the artist list for this show yet but it’s not hard to imagine this thing turning out quite good considering all the talent coming out of the region.

Caribbean: Crossroads of the World starts on June 12 and continues until January 13, 2013.

#10 Shura Chernozatonskaya at the Brooklyn Museum

Red Hook-based artist Shura Chernozatonskaya has created two site-specific painting installations for her solo show at the Brooklyn Museum. She was handpicked by local legend Ron Gorchov as part of the museum’s Raw/Cooked series that offers some “under the radar” Brooklyn artists some institutional exposure.

This series hasn’t been hugely successful but it’s nice to see new faces in older places.

Raw/Cooked: Shura Chernozatonskaya opens January 27 and continues until April 8.

Top icon designed by Travis Ladue and via his personal website.

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