Must-See Fall Exhibitions

New York museums bring depth and dazzle

| 31 Aug 2021 | 10:02

From outdoor art to in-depth explorations, the season’s exhibitions span millennia and cross continents all while seeming to speak specifically to our time. It’s the magic of art reaching out to us, once again.

Etel Adnan: Light’s New Measure

Guggenheim Museum, October 8 – January 10, 2022

96 year-old polymath, polyglot Etel Adnan is a playwright, poet, novelist and artist. The Lebanese-born, Arab-American artist’s seven-decade journey in art is explored through paintings, tapestry, film, and handmade books. Her intimately scaled paintings are abstract reactions to and readings of nature. Their apparent simplicity belies their depth; they’re intensely grounded works. Adnan describes them as “a reflection of my immense love for the world, the happiness to just be.” The exhibition is part of a group anchored by “Kandinsky: Around the Circle,” a major exhibition of paintings, watercolors, and woodcuts by Vasily Kandinsky. Together the shows celebrate the innovation, inspiration, evolution and spiritual roots of abstraction.

Jasper Johns: Mind/Mirror

Whitney Museum of American Art and Philadelphia Museum of Art, September 29, 2021 – February 13, 2022

“I tend to focus upon a relationship between oneself and a thing that is flexible, that can be one thing at one time and something else at another time,” Jasper Johns once said. When we think of Johns’ work, laden with symbols – flags, targets, maps, numbers and more – it’s impossible to pin down which of their myriad readings them the artist had in mind when he set them down. Nearly 500 works simultaneously presented at the Whitney and the Philadelphia Museum of Art, many of which have never been shown publicly before, will offer new ways to see, ponder, and possibly decipher Johns’ monumental oeuvre.

Gillian Laub: Family Matters and Diana Markosian: Santa Barbara

International Center of Photography, September 24 – January 10, 2022

New York photographer Gillian Laub turns an attentive, sometimes critical, but empathetic lens towards her own in “Family Matters.” According to the old adage, the more specific art is, the more universal. Echoes of eccentricity, flamboyancy, psychology, discord, togetherness and joy come through in 60 images made in the past two decades.

The immigrant experience, the American dream, family realities, inflated expectations and everyday challenges are explored “Diana Markosian: Santa Barbara.” Using family photos, film, staged images and more, Markosian conjures a narrative of her mother’s journey from Russia to America. Look for a potential happy ending; “Road Trip to Palm Springs,” from 2019 presents generations of smiling faces.

Afterlives: Recovering the Lost Stories of Looted Art

The Jewish Museum, through January 9, 2022

They say every picture tells a story, but some have been secret for too long. The Jewish Museum reveals the history of artworks that were taken from their rightful Jewish owners during World War II. Over a million works have been recovered, but the search continues. The exhibition includes paintings by Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Pierre Bonnard, Marc Chagall, Paul Cézanne, Gustave Courbet, Paul Klee, Franz Marc, and Camille Pissarro looted from private Jewish collections. Find out how they were hidden, where they went and how they made it back through the efforts of families and restitution organizations.

Gillian Wearing: Diane Arbus

Public Art Fund, Doris C. Freedman Plaza, October 20, 2021 - August 14, 2022

It might not seem worth it to head to Doris Freedman Plaza to check out another bronze statue. But then again, it might, if it’s a statue of the great, groundbreaking New York photographer Diane Arbus. Through next summer, British artist Gillian Wearing pays homage to Arbus, who captured so much of the city’s toughness, tenderness, outlandishness, grit and goodness photographing just a few steps away, inside Central Park.

Women artists are taking the Fifth. From the life-sized portrait of Arbus with camera in hand, you can glance up Fifth Avenue, past Carol Bove’s Met façade installation, “The séances aren’t helping” to “Gillian Wearing: Wearing Masks,” a major retrospective at the Guggenheim that opens in November.

Sophie Taeuber-Arp: Living Abstraction

The Museum of Modern Art, November 21–March 12, 2022

Arriving on waves of raves after showing at the Kunstmuseum Basel the Tate Modern in London is a once-in-a-generation major exhibition of the pioneering, long overlooked interdisciplinary artist, Sophie Taeuber-Arp. Some 300 works, held together by abstraction while being spread across media like wearable art, architectural design, puppetry, and paintings attest to Taeuber-Arp’s irrepressible curiosity, creativity and love of beauty. You’ll leave smiling.

Spain, 1000–1200: Art at the Frontiers of Faith

The Met Cloisters, through January 30, 2022

Some 40 rare objects including sumptuous silk textiles, exquisitely illuminated manuscripts, sculptures and frescoes display the rich, interconnected traditions in medieval Spain. The era was one which saw communities of Christians, Muslims, and Jews coexisting and sharing vibrant artistic traditions that crossed religious boundaries.

“Finding moments of connection and exchange in our collective cultural heritage is at the heart of The Met’s mission,” said Met dirctor Max Hollein.

Companions in Solitude: Reclusion and Communion in Chinese Art

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, through August 14, 2022

Alone while not alone. It’s something New Yorkers have come to understand in new ways recently. The ideas of solitude and togetherness are explored in this selection of paintings, calligraphy and decorative arts from the Met’s Chinese collections. Look for tiny figures in vast landscapes, meditative monks, and works of art that express thoughts of mental cultivation to transcend worldly challenges. Sometimes the path leads to solitude, and at others it brings people together as seen in works that span from the 11th to the 21st centuries.