10 Must-See Art Exhibitions Across the U.S. This Spring
From Alex Katz in Cleveland to Irving Penn in New York, these museum exhibitions are not to be missed
“Daniel Arsham: Hourglass”
High Museum of Art, Atlanta
Through May 21
Arsham has created three distinct environments that, through their blend of architecture, sculpture, and audio, reference history and the passage of time. The first room is a dimly lit, crushed amethyst cave lined with crumbling basketballs and soccer balls—everyday objects that have been transformed into archaeological relics. The second is a bright blue Japanese tea house and Zen garden, whose sand is meticulously raked each day by a performer. The final room is filled with hourglasses of crushed blue calcite crystals. Contrasting with Arsham’s familiar monochromatic palette, this exhibition marks a compellingly colorful turn in his work.
“Merce Cunningham: Common Time”
Walker Art Center, Minneapolis
Through July 30
This survey of the life and work of the American choreographer and dancer spotlights how he pushed the traditional boundaries of dance through his experimental collaborations with artists. On display are film projections, stage sets, and costumes (the Walker Art Center owns the complete archive of the Merce Cunningham Dance Company) as well as artworks by the likes of Bruce Nauman, Isamu Noguchi, Nam June Paik, Yvonne Rainer, Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, and Andy Warhol.
“Brand-New & Terrific: Alex Katz in the 1950s”
The Cleveland Museum of Art
April 30–August 6
Featuring 70 of Katz’s paintings, this exhibition takes a rare in-depth look at the portraits, landscapes, and still lifes he created during the 1950s, a period dominated by Abstract Expressionism. The curator notes how Katz’s pared-down compositions were a precursor to the subsequent development of Pop Art in the ’60s. Also on display are his inventive collages made from watercolored paper.
The Broad, L.A.
April 29–September 3
Globalization and its impact take center stage in the Broad’s latest show featuring works by El Anatsui, Sterling Ruby, Andreas Gursky, Jenny Holzer, Julie Mehretu, Mark Bradford, and Shirin Neshat. Highlights include Neshat’s moving film, Rapture, 1999, a two-screen, black-and-white video projection in which an allegorical narrative about the stark divide between Muslim men and women plays out on opposing walls. Another highlight is a massive wall hanging by Ghanian artist El Anatsui woven from recycled bits of aluminum and copper wire.
“American Watercolor in the Age of Homer and Sargent”
Philadelphia Museum of Art
Through May 14
This sprawling exhibition features more than 180 masterpieces of American watercolor from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Once widely considered the domain of amateurs and commercial artists (or a suitable hobby for “ladies”), the medium’s reputation changed with the creation of the American Watercolor Society in 1866, and the exhibition aims to trace that important moment in U.S. art history. On view are pieces by the medium’s biggest American stars, Winslow Homer and John Singer Sargent, as well as less-expected watercolorists such as Georgia O’Keeffe, Max Brenner, and Man Ray.
“Irving Penn: Centennial”
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
April 24–July 30
Marking the centennial of Penn’s birth, this retrospective is the most comprehensive exhibition of the photographer’s work to date. On display are a whopping 200 pictures created over his celebrated, six-decade career, from fashion studies of his wife, Lisa Fonssagrives, and a wide range of still-lifes to female nudes and portraits of South American Quechua people—mostly shot in his studio. Highlights also include portraits of cultural icons like film director Ingmar Bergman and fashion designer Issey Miyake.
“Frédéric Bazille and the Birth of Impressionism”
National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
April 9–July 9
This show marks the first major U.S. exhibition devoted to the French painter in more than 25 years. Bazille, who died in combat in the Franco-Prussian war at the age of 28, was a key contributor to the Impressionist movement yet remained relatively unrecognized in art history. On view are 75 works by Bazille along with a selection of pieces by better-known contemporaries such as Claude Monet and August Renoir.
“Matisse in the Studio”
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
April 9–July 9
This exhibition pairs 76 artworks that have rarely been seen outside of France with a selection of objects that inspired Matisse’s studio practice. The variety of textiles, pitchers, masks, and furniture reveals a fascination with Asian and African cultures. On display are familiar works like the 1906–07 painting Standing Nude, borrowed from the Tate Modern, along with many lesser-known works borrowed from private collections in France.
“Lynette Yiadom-Boakye: Under-Song for a Cipher”
New Museum, New York
May 3–September 3
A finalist for Britain’s Turner Prize in 2013, Yiadom-Boakye is known for her paintings of black fictional characters that play on conventions of European portraiture, drawing attention to inequities in representation throughout art history. The imagined figures are depicted in raw, muted colors in unidentifiable places allowing for a range of possible interpretations.
“Zhang Peili: Record. Repeat.”
The Art Institute of Chicago
Through July 9
This is the first major U.S. survey of the groundbreaking work of contemporary Chinese artist Zhang Peili. Considered a father of video art, he has used the medium as a form of protest against his country’s authoritarian leadership. Visitors can see the trajectory of the artist’s career from his early experimental videos like 30×30 where he repeatedly breaks and mends a mirror, through to today.