Happy spring! Each season, New York’s art community consistently offers a range of exciting exhibitions, performances, film series, and other arts and cultural events. Even in spite of — or perhaps partly in response to — a tumultuous political landscape, this spring is no exception. As the national census begins and presidential primaries loom large, now is a time to harness the power of art to make us reexamine the world around us.
Focusing on museums, nonprofits, art house cinemas, and galleries, we’ve gathered a list of some of the events we’re most looking forward to this season. As the city continues to change around us — sometimes in ways we wish it wouldn’t — we hope you’ll take every chance to stop and smell the proverbial roses by attending some of the very programs and events that make this city a place we’re proud to call home.
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When: November 8, 2019–May 4, 2020
Where: Rubin Museum of Art (150 West 17th Street, Chelsea, Manhattan)
Four decades of images by Shahidul Alam, a photojournalist, human rights activist, and former TIME Person of the Year, depict the beauty and hardships of life today in South Asia and his native Bangladesh. The exhibition is Alam’s first major museum survey in the United States.
When: November 20, 2019–March 22, 2020
Where: El Museo del Barrio (1230 Fifth Avenue, East Harlem, Manhattan)
The queer, Cuban-born artist’s first museum retrospective, which was previously on view at The Phillips Collection in Washington DC and the Museo de Arte de Ponce in Puerto Rico, is overdue: Zilia Sánchez is a longtime icon in Puerto Rico, where she has lived and worked since 1972. The exhibition charts seven decades of work and includes her sensually shaped canvases.
When: Begins January 3, ongoing throughout 2020
Where: Tiger Strikes Asteroid, Trestle Gallery, and various other locations around New York City
A year-long presentation of artist-run projects from across the country, Artist-Run 2020 invites 11 distinct DIY-spaces, pop-up projects, and galleries to curate exhibitions at various locations. Throughout the year, the collaboration will offer opportunities to build new relationships with the New York art community and expand existing relationships between makers, to participants, and visitors alike.
When: January 14–April 4
Where: Grey Art Gallery (100 Washington Square East, Greenwich Village, Manhattan)
Culled from the collection of the Barjeel Art Foundation in Sharjah, the nearly 90 paintings, drawings, and prints on view present four decades of non-figurative art through the lens of the Arab world, practices informed by a rich array of local customs, cultures, and histories.
When: January 16–March 23
Where: SculptureCenter (44-19 Purves Street, Long Island City, Queens)
SculptureCenter’s In Practice program, now in its 18th year, spotlights emerging artistic and curatorial talent. This year, the group show is centered around themes of doubt, disbelief, and skepticism — subjects that are particularly apropos in light of today’s political climate.
When: January 17–May 10
Where: Yale University Art Gallery (1111 Chapel Street, New Haven, Connecticut)
Early in his career, while studying art at Mexico City’s La Esmeralda, artist John Wilson painted a stirring fresco mural titled “The Incident” (1952), which depicted a horrifying lynching scene perpetrated by the Ku Klux Klan. While the mural itself is no longer visible, this exhibition marks the first time a significant number of Wilson’s preparatory sketches and studies for it have been presented publicly, offering a chance to observe his process of creating this important work and reflect on how he grappled with racialized violence in the US.
When: January 18–July 19
Where: Museum of the Moving Image (36-01 35th Avenue, Astoria, Queens)
The exhibition, which traveled from Deutsches Filminstitut & Filmmuseum in Frankfurt, pays homage to the canonical 1968 sci-fi film — and to the close collaboration between the film’s director Stanley Kubrick and the science fiction author Arthur C. Clarke — through a presentation of artifacts and ephemera including costumes, photographs, sketches, and storyboards. Screenings of Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey on 70-mm film will occur throughout the exhibition’s run.
When: January 18–March 18
Where: Eli Klein Gallery (398 West Street, Greenwich Village, Manhattan)
A survey of 13 rising artists from China, Force Majeure invites audiences to consider the dynamics of power in relation to nature, gender, politics, and identity. Featuring a range of works, including paintings, photography, video, installation, and performance, this exhibition focuses on work made between 2010 and 2020, encompassing a period of significant political change in China.
When: January 24–September 13
Where: Brooklyn Museum (200 Eastern Parkway, Prospect Heights, Brooklyn)
Drawing upon the museum’s permanent collection of feminist work across media, Out of Place features over 60 works by 44 artists including Louise Bourgeois, Betye Saar, and Carolee Schneemann. The show incorporates several new acquisitions, including works gifted by the Souls Grown Deep Foundation in 2018.
When: January 25–May 18
Where: International Center of Photography (79 Essex Street, Lower East Side, Manhattan)
In 2018, at just 23, photographer Tyler Mitchell made a portrait of Beyoncé that graced the cover of Vogue, turning him into something of a wunderkind nearly overnight. This exhibition offers a deeper dive into his recent work, focused on his idea of “what a Black utopia looks like or could look like.”
When: January 28–April 4
Where: Hauser & Wirth (32 East 69th Street, Upper East Side, Manhattan)
While the late Jack Whitten is best known for his acrylic “tesserae” paintings, he also has a fascinating body of drawings and prints, many of which employ experimental media and techniques. This is the first major survey show of Whitten’s works on paper.
When: January 30–May 10
Where: The Metropolitan Museum of Art (1000 Fifth Avenue, Upper East Side, Manhattan)
More than 200 objects, ranging from illuminated manuscripts to stone sculptures, paint a political and cultural picture of the fourth to nineteenth centuries in Western Sahel, which today encompasses Senegal, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger.
When: February 9–May 9
Where: The Museum of Modern Art (11 West 53rd Street, Midtown West, Manhattan)
MoMA has a longstanding relationship with Lange: the museum featured her in its first photography show in 1940 and held her first major retrospective in 1966. Drawing upon the museum’s extensive collection of Lange’s work, the exhibition features photos, photobooks, and archival materials spanning the photojournalist’s career as well as fresh commentary from contemporary figures like Rebecca Solnit and Wendy Red Star.
Where: Yancey Richardson (525 West 22nd Street, Chelsea, Manhattan)
When: February 13–April 4
Best known for his ironic photographic portraits and tongue-in-cheek performances, Tseng Kwong Chi rose to prominence as part of a group of artists making art in New York City’s East Village in the 1980s. This exhibition presents photographs from Tseng’s East Meets West series, for which the artist donned a stereotypical Mao suit — an extension of his artistic persona of a Chinese “Ambiguous Ambassador” — and posed in front of iconic architecture, playfully examining the conventions of tourist photography and poking fun at perceptions of identity, truth, and fiction.
When: February 13–May 3
Where: Newark Museum of Art (49 Washington Street, Newark, New Jersey)
With paintings and works on paper spanning five decades, the museum presents the first monographic survey of leading second-generation Abstract Expressionist and action painter Norman Bluhm.
When: February 14–April 4
Where: Hales New York (547 West 20th Street, Chelsea, Manhattan)
Featuring the work of artists Omar Ba, ruby onyinyechi amanze, Rotimi Fani-Kayode, TM Davy, Anthony Cudahy, Sarah Peters, and Maja Ruznic, this group show draws its inspiration from magical realism and brings together paintings, drawings, sculptures, and photographs that both explore and stretch our ideas of the figurative and the mystic.
When: February 14, 2020–January 10, 2021
Where: Brooklyn Museum (200 Eastern Parkway, Prospect Heights, Brooklyn)
Choctaw-Cherokee artist Jeffrey Gibson pairs pieces from the collection of the Brooklyn Museum with his own work, which pulls from contemporary art and Indigenous craft alike and includes brilliantly colored beaded punching bags and vibrant paintings on animal hide. The exhibition probes the ways in which Indigenous artists and makers have historically been represented in institutional collections.
When: February 15–March 21
Where: Paula Cooper Gallery (524 West 26th Street, Chelsea, Manhattan)
Ja’Tovia Gary, who is predominantly known for her work in documentary film and experimental video, presents her first sculptural installation and New York City premiere of “THE GIVERNY SUITE” (2019). The three-channel video expands upon her much-lauded “The Giverny Document (Single Channel)” (2019), which considers the bodily autonomy of Black women today. It is Gary’s first exhibition at Paula Cooper Gallery.
When: February 17–May 17
Where: Whitney Museum of American Art (99 Gansevoort Street, Meatpacking District, Manhattan)
Comprising about 200 works by 60 artists, this exhibition highlights cross-cultural exchange around the end of the Mexican Revolution between leading Mexican muralists — many of whom were using their art to publicly protest social injustices — and American artists who were working in Mexico at the time.
When: February 17–May 17
Where: Whitney Museum of American Art (99 Gansevoort Street, Meatpacking District, Manhattan)
Cauleen Smith, an experimental filmmaker and multimedia artist widely celebrated by Afrofuturists, presents one drawing series and two film installations. The films, “Pilgrim” (2017) and “Sojourner” (2018), link various historic sites, figures, and voices to envision a radical, spiritual black feminist future.
When: February 19–May 24
Where: The New Museum (235 Bowery, Lower East Side, Manhattan)
In her first museum solo show in New York City, Jordan Casteel presents 40 oil paintings of the people in her life, from her neighbors in Harlem to her students at Rutgers University-Newark. The paintings simultaneously explore Casteel’s relationship to her communities and representations of the Black body in portraiture at large.
When: February 20–April 19
Where: Gallery at BRIC House (647 Fulton Street, Fort Greene, Brooklyn)
Co-curated by the Green-Wood Cemetery just a few blocks from Prospect Park, this death-positive group show presents contemporary artwork on the theme of death and the rituals and rhetoric that surround it today.
When: February 21–March 7
Where: Metrograph (7 Ludlow Street, Lower East Side, Manhattan)
As we continue to teeter towards environmental collapse, the art-house cinema Metrograph presents a range of cinematic approaches to one of the most pressing issues of our time. Focusing on narrative film, as opposed to the more conventional choice of documentary, this film series positions speculative forms of storytelling as a prescient means for examining the long road ahead as we continue to wrestle with governmental inaction.
When: February 21–May 9
Where: Ford Foundation Gallery (320 East 43rd Street, Midtown, Manhattan)
Since 1986, the state of Louisiana has had one of the highest incarceration rates in the world, with women ranking among the state’s fastest growing prison populations. In response to these staggering statistics, Tulane University’s Newcomb Museum of Art partnered with formerly incarcerated women, community organizations, and others directly impacted by the prison system to create this exhibition which aims to share the stories of women both currently and formerly incarcerated in Louisiana. Its presentation at the Ford Foundation Gallery is part of a national tour.
When: February 22–June 21
Where: Princeton University Art Museum (Elm Drive, Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey)
In its heyday from 1936 to 1972, LIFE set the tone for photojournalism in the United States. Mining the magazine’s archives, the museum presents a selection of iconic LIFE photographs as well as the contact sheets and shooting scripts behind them.
When: February 25–April 18
Where: Marianne Boesky Gallery (507 West 24th Street, Chelsea, Manhattan)
Often referencing his own experience as a refugee, Johannesburg-based artist Serge Nitegeka makes paintings, sculptures, and installations that grapple with issues of national and political borders.
When: February 26–April 4
Where: Alexander Gray Associates (510 West 26th Street, Chelsea, Manhattan)
Betty Parsons is best known as a New York City art dealer who played a key role in promoting Abstract Expressionism in the 1940s and 1950s when she represented Barnett Newman, Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, and Clyfford Still. However, Parsons’s passion for art also manifested her own abstract painting practice, which is on view in Alexander Gray’s second solo show of her work.
When: February 27–April 18
Where: Recess (46 Washington Avenue, Brooklyn Navy Yard, Brooklyn)
Inspired by Catherine Opie’s “Dyke Deck,” artist and educator Naima Green made a 54-card poker deck, “Pur·suit,” featuring images of people who are often erased: queer womxn, trans, non-binary, and gender non-conforming people. The exhibition, which includes an in-gallery portrait studio where queer visitors can sit for portraits, expands upon the deck.
When: February 28–March 20
Where: AC Institute (16 East 48th Street, 4th Floor, Midtown, Manhattan)
For their collaborative exhibition at the AC Institute, Brooklyn-based artists Biagini and Niemann will present an immersive installation based on a series of sonic and physical improvisations. Working in performance, education, and improvisation, and painting, sculpture, and sound, respectively, the pair will transform AC’s intimate gallery space into an ecosystem that utilizes and evokes man-made and organic materials, such as thread and spiderwebs.
When: February 29–July 12
Where: Bard Graduate Center Gallery (8 West 86th Street, Upper West Side, Manhattan)
This solo exhibition is the first in the US to examine the work of pioneering modern architect and designer Eileen Gray. Presenting her architectural plans, sketchbooks, and letters alongside her paintings and photographs, this show offers a unique deep dive into her work.
When: March 1–July 11
Where: The Museum of Modern Art (11 West 53rd Street, Midtown, Manhattan)
This spring, MoMA will open the first US retrospective of Donald Judd’s career in nearly 30 years. The museum will devote the entirety of its coveted 6th-floor galleries to the artist’s tireless conceptual reinventions and conceptual explorations of form, material, and process — a presentation that will be further enriched by a slew of Judd-themed exhibitions and programs scheduled to take place at other institutions across the city this spring.
When: March 3–28
Where: The Museum at FIT (227 West 27th Street, Chelsea, Manhattan)
Often referred to as the “original fashion publicist,” Eleanor Lambert was, among many other things, a tastemaker. Founder of the precursor to New York’s Fashion Week, she played a major role in establishing the city as an international fashion capital. This exhibition traces the influence of her pioneering 75-year career.
When: March 5–12
Where: Anthology Film Archives (32 2nd Avenue, Lower East Side, Manhattan)
Honing in on a year of high-profile hacking arrests, the release of Netscape Navigator and Windows 95, and the beginning of aggressive marketing campaigns by companies like AOL, this series presents the vanguard of internet-based cinema. Presented by Screen Slate, the program includes experimental gems like Lynn Hershman Leeson’s Seduction of a Cyborg, Nam June Paik’s cacophonous Bye Bye Kipling, and classics like Mamoru Oshii’s Ghost in the Shell.
When: March 5–April 18
Where: James Cohan (48 Walker Street, Lower East Side, Manhattan)
If last year’s spectacular presentation of Báez’s work at James Cohan is any indication, the gallery’s forthcoming exhibition will be one you shouldn’t miss. Best known for her intricate and elaborate works focused on the histories, rituals, and myths of the African Diaspora, the Dominican-born artist rarely disappoints.
When: March 6–12
Where: BAM (30 Lafayette Avenue, Fort Greene, Brooklyn)
In the lead up to the national release of the recent Brazilian thriller Bacurau, BAM presents a selection of films that exemplify the rich and layered history of revolutionary cinema. Including titles such as Ashutosh Gowariker’s “anti-colonial Bollywood epic” Lagaan, Glauber Rocha’s stylish Cinema Novo Western Antonio das Mortes, and Gillo Pontecorvo’s excoriating classic The Battle of Algiers, Rise Up! offers a taste of the possibilities enabled by a radical, decolonial approach to filmmaking.
When: March 6–April 19
Where: Pioneer Works (159 Pioneer Street, Red Hook, Brooklyn)
Presenting a selection of film works by two key figures of Japan’s Expanded Cinema movement, this exhibition showcases an important moment in the history of experimental film. In addition to highlighting the research and conservation efforts of the Philadelphia-based nonprofit Collaborative Cataloging Japan (CCJ), it will feature various performances and multimedia presentations.
When: March 6–September 7
Where: Dia:Beacon (3 Beekman Street, Beacon, New York)
This spring, art and music fans alike will be in for a special treat with the presentation of the first commission for an art institution from the acclaimed Detroit-based techno DJ and producer. The culmination of a five-year-long collaboration with Dia, Craig will debut a new site-specific sound installation that engages with the building’s unique architecture — a former Nabisco packaging factory — and promises a deeply personal approach to the “euphoria of the club environment.”
When: March 11 – May 16
Where: Hunter East Harlem Gallery (The Silberman School of Social Work, 2180 3rd Avenue, Harlem, Manhattan)
The Guatemalan composer and musician Joaquín Orellana is known for many things, but is perhaps most prominent for the particularly exciting forms of electronic sound he produced using his own handmade analog instruments. Organized by Americas Society as part of a larger series of programs, this exhibition will present a range of his fantastical instruments, which will be activated by students from Hunter College and CUNY Graduate Center throughout its run.
When: March 12–May 22
Where: Mishkin Gallery, CUNY Baruch (135 East 22nd Street, Gramercy, Manhattan)
A musician and visual artist, Fofana’s work focuses on creating spaces for contemporary Black life through sonic and physical means. For his exhibition at the Miskin, the artist will present a trilogy of sound works comprising three of his albums, which engage with critical texts by Sylvia Wynter, W.E.B. Du Bois, and Amiri Baraka to examine contemporary social and political thought through the lens of Black studies. Alongside these, the exhibition will include videos and photographs by Fofana and his collaborators Jim C. Nedd and Nicolas Premier.
When: March 25–April 5
Where: The Museum of Modern Art and Film at Lincoln Center (11 West 53rd Street, Midtown, Manhattan, and 165 West 65th Street, Upper West Side, Manhattan, respectively)
Each year, New Yorkers and visitors alike are treated to a thrilling range of films from some of the most exciting filmmakers working today. Focused on first and second-time directors, this festival has consistently offered a taste of compelling work from rising stars, with previous iterations featuring the likes of Spike Lee, Chantal Akerman, RaMell Ross, Kelly Reichardt, and Bi Gan.
When: April 2–May 22
Where: Acquavella Galleries (18 East 79th Street, Upper East Side, Manhattan)
Linked by their consistent explorations of supple bodily forms through industrial materials, Eva Hesse and Hannah Wilke are two figures who loom large in the history of postwar abstraction. While it remains unclear whether the two artists ever met, they shared a commitment to developing a new formal language that drew on feminist iconographies and minimalist aesthetics, pushing the boundaries of what sculpture could be. This exhibition brings together a selection of works that highlight their shared visual language.
When: April 5–September 7
Where: MoMA PS1 (22-25 Jackson Avenue, Long Island City, Queens)
This sweeping survey show highlights Saint Phalle’s outdoor sculptures and architectural installations including her otherworldly “Tarot Garden,” an architectural park in Italy with fantastical structures inspired by the Major Arcana of the tarot deck. Shockingly, this is the first New York museum exhibition dedicated to the French artist and activist.
When: April 5–August 23
Where: MoMA PS1 (22-25 Jackson Avenue, Long Island City, Queens)
This spring, MoMA PS1 guest curator Nicole R. Fleetwood will present a major exhibition exploring the deep roots of incarceration within contemporary US art and culture. It will feature artists both incarcerated and not, and present works “concerned with state repression, erasure, and imprisonment.”
When: April 5–August 16
Where: Queens Museum (New York City Building, Corona, Queens)
Coming not long after Amazon pulled its plans to build a second US headquarters in Queens, this group show explores real estate, property, and gentrification in New York City’s constantly changing landscape. The show is titled after the Plaster Foundation of Atlantis, the SoHo loft where avant-garde filmmaker and performer Jack Smith lived and worked until he was evicted.
When: April 8–September 6
Where: Bronx Museum of the Arts (1040 Grand Concourse, Concourse Village, Bronx)
For decades, Sanford Biggers has created artworks informed and inspired by Black-American traditions and visual culture. This exhibition is the first survey of his quilt-based works which reference sacred geometry, Black history, language, and the body.
When: April 10–May 17
Where: Martos Gallery (41 Elizabeth Street, Lower East Side, Manhattan)
Working at the intersections of painting and sculpture, Raque Ford’s practice embraces the “and” as opposed to the “or,” continually juxtaposing unlikely materials and subjects. For her first solo exhibition at Martos, Ford will present an installation that draws on pop culture and elements of the “modern female experience.”
When: April 15–26
Where: Various locations in Manhattan
Every April, lower Manhattan transforms, playing host to red carpets, buzzy screenings, and panels and events dedicated to engaging with some of the most exciting makers working in film today. Presenting new films from more emerging and established filmmakers alike, the annual festival offers an opportunity to experience innovations in storytelling from around the world.
When: April 23–May 30
Where: Susan Inglett Gallery (522 West 24th Street, Chelsea, Manhattan)
For her second solo exhibition at the gallery, Hassinger will present works that continue her career’s long exploration of themes such as the effects of consumerism, the vanishing state of nature, and community building through performance and sculpture.
When: May 29–September 13
Where: The Morgan Library & Museum (225 Madison Avenue, Midtown, Manhattan)
This spring, New Yorkers will be treated to another exciting and close look at the work of the influential LA-based artist, fresh on the heels of her solo show at MoMA. Conceived in close consultation with Saar herself, this exhibition, which originated at LACMA, will trace the relationship between her iconic works and her detailed preliminary sketches via a dozen of her travel sketchbooks.
When: May 21, 2020 – September 13, 2020
Where: Museum of Chinese in America (215 Centre Street, Chinatown, Manhattan)
Thirty years ago, curator Margo Machida and artists Bing Lee and Ken Chiu founded Godzilla: Asian American Art Network, launching a new generation of artists and curators into an art world still grappling with multiculturalism and the growing force of the decade’s culture wars. Taking its name from the sensational Japanese monster, Godzilla grew into a roving, mostly volunteer organization that produced exhibitions, critical writing, and collaborative projects that challenged institutional racism and foregrounded the importance and diversity of the Asian Diaspora. This exhibition will be the first to focus on the art and legacy of the influential collective.
Editor’s note: (2/25/20, 4:49pm) This article has been updated to reflect the new opening date for Godzilla vs. The Art World at the Museum of Chinese in America.
(2/18, 12:22pm): a previous version of this article misstated the edition of SculptureCenter’s In Practice program; this is the 18th year, not the 19th.
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