The 10 best must-see worldwide museum shows this season

AS the world’s major museums roll out an extraordinary lineup of shows this season, there’s a lot to be excited about.

Some of them are blockbusters that have already garnered significant (expected) attention —MoMA’s Picasso show has received almost uniformly gushing reviews — and others, like the Hammer Museum’s quiet but superb exhibition of jewel-like landscape paintings by the little-known artist Lawren Harris, promise to be the season’s sleeper hits.

Not everyone can be everywhere, of course, so we’ve compiled a list of some of the most exciting shows from around the globe.

Consider it your cultural passport for the coming season.

Lee Miller at the Museo de Arte Moderno, Mexico City until February 21

Lee Miller managed the remarkable feat of transitioning from surrealist photography to war photography, although she sometimes blurred the two, as in the photo taken of herself in Hitler’s bathtub in Munich.

Inarguably she’s one of the most accomplished photographers of the 20th century.

Lee Miller: Surrealist Photographer is comprised of a number of her earlier works, many of which were part of a trove of 60,000 negatives discovered in her attic after her death.

Picasso Sculpture at the MoMA, New York, until February 7 

Not always the case when it comes to exhibitions conceived and executed as “blockbusters,” the superlatives heaped upon Picasso Sculpture by the world’s critics (“a dumbfounding triumph”) are totally deserved.

More than 100 sculptures, large and small and in every conceivable medium — clay, bronze, steel, wood, even cardboard — are spread across the fourth-floor galleries.

The only downside to the show? The crowds, which have been (unsurprisingly) unrelenting.

The World Goes Pop at the Tate Modern, London,until January 24

Finally, a show about pop art where women are the artists and not the objects.

Sure, ‘The World Goes Pop’ isn’t exclusively about female artists but its mission — displaying pop art by under-represented practitioners of the genre — includes 25 women artists, and is stronger for it.

It’s always refreshing when a blockbuster show puts the record straight, and this one, which includes artists from around the globe, promises to correct, or at least amend, conventional narratives.

Who Interprets the World? at the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa, Japan, until December 13

Exhibitions grappling with The Contemporary always have the potential to be fraught or boring, or both.

But ‘Who Interprets the World?’, a group show that involves artists such as El Anatsui, Pedro Reyes, and Susanta Mandal, promises to be an interesting variation on the theme, and the Kanazawa museum building — a gorgeous, low-slung glass circle — is worth a visit no matter what’s inside.

MoMA, New York
MoMA, New York

Elisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun at the Grand Palais, Paris, until January 11

Unbelievably, France has never before held a retrospective for Le Brun, who rose from a relatively modest background to become a painter at the court of Marie Antoinette.

It would be a remarkable story in itself, but the fact that she was a woman makes her achievement even more astonishing.

Her massive portrait of Antoinette, surrounded by her three children, is arguably her most famous painting.

Elisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun, comprised of over 150 pictures, has been one of the most anticipated shows this season in Europe.

Jim Shaw at the New Museum, New York, until January 10

The New Museum has been on a roll recently, with exceptional solo exhibitions of Sarah Charlesworth and Albert Oehlen.

Now, they’ve organized the first New York retrospective of the LA-based artist Jim Shaw, whose cartoon-like drawings, paintings, videos, and room-size installations interrogate and occasionally subvert mainstream American culture.

Jim Shaw: The End is Here fills the second, third, and fourth floors of the museum.

Lawren Harris at the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, until January 24

Often, when a museum introduces someone from outside of the well-trodden western canon of modern art, it can feel like a novelty for novelty’s sake.

But the Hammer’s exhibition ‘The Idea of North: The Paintings of Lawren Harris’ has unearthed that rare gem — an astonishingly gifted painter with whom many people are unfamiliar.

Ancient Egypt Transformed: The Middle Kingdom at the Metropolitan Museum, New York, until January 24

It doesn’t matter if you’re an academic or a five-year-old: The wonderful thing about the Met’s Egyptian exhibitions is that the material is so superb, and so stunningly beautiful, that you can enjoy it no matter what.

A major international exhibition, ‘Ancient Egypt Transformed: The Middle Kingdom’ includes a total of 230 objects from the Met’s collection and from 37 lenders across the US and Europe.

Alfred Stieglitz and the 19th Century at the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, October 31–March 27

The Art Institute has one of the best photography collections in the United States, which is due in no small part to the Stieglitz Collection, which Georgia O’Keefe donated to the museum in 1949.

Drawing exclusively from this collection, ‘Alfred Stieglitz and the 19th Century, contains gems from masters including Julia Margaret Cameron and the Scottish duo David Octavius Hill and Robert Adamson.


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