Here we are again. It’s 2023, and you’re looking for a list of the most important, must-see exhibitions of the year. And you have come to the right place! Here’s a round-up of the U.S. museum shows you’ll definitely want to keep an eye on, through May.
“Sam Falls: We Are Dust and Shadow,” at the Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland
January 27–June 11, 2023
A series of new paintings and sculptures highlight the first major solo museum show for Sam Falls, an artist who makes work about nature with nature. Printed with plant stains and ghostly images of the landscape, Falls’s output can approach the sublimity of Abstract Expressionism and Color Field painting. But implied in his art are heavy, non-aesthetic ideas too: the cycles of life, say, or the toll humankind takes on the planet.
“Projects: Ming Smith,” at the Studio Museum in Harlem at MoMA
February 4–May 29, 2022
Ming Smith has been prolifically photographing New York City since the 1970s, and 50 years into that project, curator Thelma Golden is putting a serious look into the artist’s oeuvre. Smith is the first Black woman to have a photograph acquired by the Museum of Modern Art, so it’s fitting the display takes place in that museum’s street-level galleries.
“Coded: Art Enters the Computer Age, 1952–1982,” at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art
February 12–July 2, 2023
This year, as A.I.-enabled programs like Midjourney and DALL-E-2 dominated discourses—and social media feeds—much ink was spilled pondering a supposedly not-so-distant future where artists are replaced by algorithms. But fear not, fatalists! Artists were working harmoniously with computers long before your boyfriend changed his profile picture to an uncanny Lensa illustration. LACMA’s upcoming “Coded” exhibition purports to explore this rich history of digital and computer-generated art, going all the way back to the 1950s. Beep boop.
“María Berrío: The Children’s Crusade,” at the ICA Boston
February 16–August 6, 2023
The incredible collages of Colombian-born New York-based artist María Berrío, made from torn Japanese paper and watercolors, get a museum showcase. Her series “The Children’s Crusade” draws on Medieval history, comparing the legend of children sent to the Holy Land to convert Muslims in the year 1212 to the child migrants of the 21st century, crossing international borders, often unaccompanied. Though a feeling of loss pervades the works, they are also imbued with childlike wonder and a sense of magic—some of Berrío’s figures are animal-human hybrids.
“Wangechi Mutu: Intertwined,” at the New Museum, New York
March 2–June 4, 2023
The New Museum brings together over 100 works by the Kenyan artist Wangechi Mutu, who over the past 25 years has expanded her practice from jewel-like collages to paintings, film, performance, and large-scale sculpture. Throughout, she’s dealt with themes of globalization, the African diaspora, and the legacies of colonialism, creating Afrofuturist figures that are proudly feminist.
“Simone Leigh,” at the ICA Boston
April 6 – September 4, 2023
Fresh off her Golden Lion win as the U.S. representative at the 2022 Venice Biennale, Simone Leigh will head to Beantown for what is being billed as the artist’s “first comprehensive survey.” Accompanied by a weighty monograph, the ICA show promises to look back at roughly two decades’ worth of ceramics, sculptures, and other work by Leigh, who has quickly emerged as one of the defining artists of our current era.
“Bruce Onobrakpeya: The Mask and the Cross,” at the High Museum of Art, Atlanta
April 7–July 30, 2023
Lauded as the father of Nigerian Modernism, Bruce Onobrakpeya will have his first solo exhibition at an American museum open this spring. The artist’s work explores religious imagery as well as Nigerian folklore, themes which came to define postcolonial art and culture in Nigeria.
“Georgia O’Keeffe: To See Takes Time,” at MoMA, New York
April 9–August 12, 2023
The Modernist artist is mainly known for her pastoral paintings of desert flowers and cow skulls, but a new show at MoMA focuses on her abstract works on paper, made with hushed tones in watercolor. The works, viewed as a series, highlight the artist’s compositional sensibilities and penchant for natural shapes.
“Josh Kline: Project for a New American Century” at the Whitney Museum of American Art
April 19–August 2023
Few artists have contended with the anxieties of the last decade as shrewdly—and humorously—as Josh Kline. Across the artist’s relatively short career, he has imagined commutes in a flooded New York; decked out Teletubbies in riot gear; and used deepfake video technology to depict Bush, Cheney and other War on Terror–era leaders pleading for forgiveness. Many of these works, as well as several new ones, will be included in “Project for a New American Century,” Kline’s first museum survey in the U.S.
“Karl Lagerfeld: A Line of Beauty,” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
May 5–July 16, 2023
Three years after the legendary designer’s passing, his legacy lives on as one of fashion’s most important figures. But did you know that Lagerfeld was also a prolific draftsman? The Met is set to host a dedicated survey of his designs for fashion houses including Balmain, Patou, Chloé, Fendi, and Chanel, accompanied with original sketches made by Lagerfeld’s own hand.
“Van Gogh and the Avant-Garde: The Modern Landscape,” at the Art Institute of Chicago
May 14–September 4, 2023
In yet another angle on the career of the famed Dutch artist, the Art Institute of Chicago takes a look at Vincent van Gogh’s time on the outskirts of Paris, a hot spot for Post-Impressionist artists including Georges Seurat, Paul Signac, Emile Bernard, and Charles Angrand from 1882 to 1890. Increasingly industrialized, these suburbs became fertile ground for experimentation using the exaggerated colors and dramatic brushstrokes that came to characterize the movement.
“Keith Haring: Art is for Everybody,” at The Broad, Los Angeles
May 27–October 8, 2023
Believe it or not, Keith Haring has never had a museum show in Los Angeles. The Broad looks to rectify that with this exhibition spanning nearly the full arc of the street artist’s career, from his studies at New York’s School of Visual Arts to 1988, two years before Haring’s death from AIDS at age 31. Inspired in large part by Haring’s personal journals, the show will highlight his engagement with pressing social issues, such as nuclear disarmament, Apartheid, and the AIDS crisis. But there will also be interactive elements, like a gallery illuminated it black light and set to the sounds of one of Haring’s own playlists.