History, art and culture

Fall Review: 5 Must-See Art Exhibitions in NYC

New York City is an art mecca, home to some of the most prestigious art museums in the world. Although the Metropolitan and the Museum of Modern Art are great -- the city is chock-full of smaller galleries and lesser-known museums which house hidden gems. By compiling a list of unmissable exhibitions currently or about to be on display, we hope to provide an insider's guide to the best contemporary art exhibitions NYC has to offer.


Where: Swiss Institute, currently showing through Dec. 29

Who: Jill Mulleady

What: A conceptual exploration of the building itself, Fight-or-Flight is a multi-media exhibition by Los Angeles artist, Jill Mulleady. It features a fictional narrative of the land the Swiss Institute stands upon. Beyond the art, the space itself is a must-see. Originally built to house a bank in 1954, the structure has been converted into a multi-floor gallery. Situated right in the heart of the once-punk, now-trendy East Village, the Swiss Institute is the kind of noncommercial space (entry is always free) that rarely exists today. The gallery remains relatively unknown so therefore it is a must-see for contemporary art lovers. Specifically, Mulleady's show evokes questions of what New York was and what it will become.


Where: David Zwirner Gallery, Nov. 9 - Dec. 14

Who: Yayoi Kusama

What: Yayoi Kusama is a globally renowned artist. She is best known for her use of polka-dots and her forever Instagram-able Infinity Mirror Rooms. A product of a difficult childhood, Kusama has suffered from hallucinations from an early age. What does she see? You guessed it, lots of dots. She rose the ranks of the contemporary art world in the 1960s. Her work is deeply personal; she's gone on record stating that creating art has kept her from committing suicide. EVERY DAY I PRAY FOR LOVE will debut new installations, paintings, and sculptures by the 90-year-old artist, and of course - a new room. Her exhibitions are always a huge draw (the gallery told ArtNews they're suspecting over 100,000 visitors) and space is limited; so be sure to get there early before the line gets too long.

You'll feel very local standing in line in Chelsea, New York's art district - we promise.

Basquiat's "Defacement": The Untold Story

Where: Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, currently showing until Nov. 6

Who: Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring, Andy Warhol, and more.

What: Even after his death, Basquiat remained one of the most famous artists in the world. Born and raised in New York, he's become synonymous with the city itself. Basquiat's rags to riches story captivated the art world. He ran away from home at the age of fifteen, sleeping in local parks. But by the mid-1980s, he was one of the most popular artists alive. This exhibit specifically focuses on how social injustice shaped the artist's life. The centerpiece of the exhibition is The Death of Michael Stewart, a painting that commemorates and protests the killing of a graffiti artist by NYPD officers.

Also on display is work by the late artist's contemporaries (and other distinct New York personalities), Keith Haring and Andy Warhol. The exhibition serves as a portal into the Downtown art scene of yesterday; however, with its theme of social justice, it also feels chillingly current.

Additionally, the Guggenheim Museum is an iconic building. Because of its circular, Frank Lloyd Wright design, the art house is one of the most famous buildings in the world.

Nobody Promised You Tomorrow: Art 50 Years After Stonewall

Where: Brooklyn Museum, currently showing through Dec.9

Who: Mark Aguhar, Felipe Baeza, Morgan Bassichis, Anna Betbeze, David Antonio Cruz, and more.

What: This year marked the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, which took place at the Downtown gay bar of the same name. A police raid of the local drinkery turned into a protest and marked the beginning of the modern gay liberation movement. A few months ago, New York hosted the World Pride Parade to commemorate how far the community has come. Now it's the art world's turn.

Featuring work from over twenty post-Stonewall artists who identify as LGBTQ+, this multi-media exhibition provides an exciting glimpse into contemporary queer art. Looking forward as opposed to looking backwards, No Promised You Tomorrow is a bold testament to collective resilience and required viewing for straight and gay folks, alike.

Partial View of the Whitney Biennial 2019

Where: Whitney Museum of American Art, currently on display until Oct. 27

Who: Selected artists from the previous Biennial.

What: As the title suggests, the Whitney Biennial comes once every two years and provides a snapshot of what's going on in the contemporary art world. Taking over four of the museum's six floors, the massive exhibition is arguably the most important art event in America, because it introduces curators and audiences to lesser-known artists. Being featured in the Whitney Biennial can make or break your career. Sadly, the 2019 Biennial has officially closed. But the museum has left a smaller distillation of the art extravaganza up for display on the sixth floor. We couldn't think of a better way to close the year than looking at the future of American art.

As a bonus, the museum is also located at the foot of the Highline. The once above-ground subway line has since been converted into a public park, and provides a beautiful view of the Chelsea neighborhood. And if you're hungry, you're not far from the Chelsea Market, a massive indoor food court.

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