There’s never a shortage of things to see in New York City.
You could spend days (years, really) taking in the street life in its dynamic neighborhoods. Window shopping on Fifth Ave provides its own type of visual stimulation. Thanks to the colorful characters who make the city tick, the people-watching here is arguably the best in the world.
And a whole different other sort of looking is on offer at New York’s peerless museums. Filled with masterpieces ranging from ancient Egyptian mummies to Jeff Koons balloon dogs, their permanent collections are worth a trip in themselves. Yet it’s the ever-changing kaleidoscope of temporary exhibitions that make New York an essential repeat stop on the art-world circuit.
Here are 11 New York City exhibitions worth traveling for in 2023.
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1. Hip-Hop: Conscious, Unconscious
Fotografiska New York
On view: now through May 21, 2023
3Hip-hop permeates contemporary pop culture – from film to fashion to (naturally) music – and this show provides an interactive survey of just how. Curated by the team at of-the-moment media brand Mass Appeal and mounted at the New York outpost of the famed Stockholm photography museum Fotografiksa, Hip-Hop: Conscious, Unconscious presents images of stars past and present, from Notorious B.I.G. to Cardi B, as well as vintage documentary news photos and portraits from New York’s own South Bronx, where this now-global art form was born a half-century ago.
Planning tip: If hip-hop’s your thing, take the 6 train up to where it all started for more. Founded by music legends, the Universal Hip Hop Museum celebrates this made–in–New York phenomenon with an interactive exhibit at Bronx Terminal Market (while construction of the museum’s permanent home continues).
2. Wangechi Mutu: Intertwined
The New Museum of Contemporary Art
On view: March 2–June 4, 2023
Four years after her monumental sculptures graced the Metropolitan Museum of Art facade, this highly anticipated retrospective once again elevates the work of Kenyan-born artist Wangechi Mutu. The New Museum exhibition will showcase Mutu’s work in various media, from sculpture and collage to painting, performance and more – showing how her visually vibrant oeuvre explores themes of transformation, mutation, colonialism and African diasporic cultural traditions.
3. Sarah Sze: Timelapse
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
On view: March 31–September 12, 2023
The iconic rotunda of the Guggenheim will be transformed as never before when American multimedia artist Sarah Sze executes a series of site-specific commissions for this museum-wide show. Visitors will find themselves in an immersive environment – combining assemblages of found objects with sound and video – as they proceed up the spiral of galleries, taking in a series of discrete works that dynamically connect with one another, and spurring ruminations on the very nature of time. The exhibition continues outside, with flowing projections turning the white museum exterior into a canvas for Sze’s brilliant ideas.
4. Georgia O’Keeffe: To See Takes Time
The Museum of Modern Art
On view: April 9–August 12, 2023
You’ll want to linger at MoMA’s survey of Georgia O’Keeffe’s meticulous, revelatory drawings, which provide an uncommon glimpse into how she perceived the world. These works on paper explore how she worked in both figurative and abstract modes, sometimes processing the ideas that would take shape in her monumental portraits of flowers and desert landscapes – and sometimes just drawing for drawing’s sake.
5. Daniel Lind-Ramos
On view: April 20–September 4, 2023
Puerto Rican artist Daniel Lind-Ramos gets his biggest museum showing to date with this monographic exhibition. Subtitled “El Viejo Griot: Una historia de todos nosotros,” the presentation will fill MoMA PS1’s galleries with 10 large-scale works that transform found objects and everyday tools into transcendent art. Expect social commentary alongside all the visual beauty: Lind-Ramos’ practice celebrates the traditions and history of Afro-Caribbean communities – as well as the impact of such recent calamities as Hurricane Maria and the COVID-19 pandemic.
6. Aliza Nisenbaum: Queens, Lindo y Querido
On view: April 23–September 10, 2023
Aliza Nisenbaum truly sees the people she paints. And there might be no more appealing set of subjects than the residents of the New York City borough of Queens, said to be the most diverse place in the entire world. Her vibrant, figurative and brilliantly hued portraits lend gravitas and occasionally epic scope to members of the community adjacent to Queens Museum. Yet while they evoke the style of Mexican muralists Diego Rivera and David Alfaro Siqueiros, her paintings are clearly of real, profoundly individual people.
Planning tip: Nisenbaum picked her subjects from nearby Corona, one of Queens’ most appealing neighborhoods. Check out what fascinated her with a post-exhibition walk down bustling Roosevelt Ave, Latin fare at Paraiso Colombiano and a visit to the modest home occupied for decades by Louis Armstrong, today a museum.
7. Karl Lagerfeld: A Line of Beauty
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
On view: May 5–July 16, 2023
The Met’s 2023 Costume Institute exhibition (kicked off by the world-famous Met gala) promises to be one for the ages. The work of the late Karl Lagerfeld – a visionary designer, longtime Chanel creative director, legendary aesthete and deep thinker – profoundly influenced (and continues to influence) every corner of the fashion world. And this show will reveal the master in full, pairing some 150 Lagerfeld-designed dresses with sketches that document his creative and collaborative process – and the transcendent results.
Planning tip: Despite the high interest this exhibition is sure to generate, it’s on view for a brief period. Plan for crowds.
8. Nicholas Galanin: In every language there is Land / En cada idioma hay Tierra
Brooklyn Bridge Park, Empire Fulton Ferry Lawn
On view: from May 16, 2023
Thanks to the estimable Public Art Fund, a monumental sculpture by artist Nicholas Galanin will alight on a grassy lawn at Brooklyn Bridge Park for the summer. An Alaska Native, Galanin probes questions related to Indigenous culture through many media. His most recent work has involved using monumental steel letters spelling out texts that both provoke and invite serious contemplation. Part pop art, part activism, his message this summer is sure to be one that no New Yorker will miss.
Planning tip: Galanin’s piece will be visible from very far away. After seeing it up close, take a walk on the Brooklyn Bridge for another vantage point (and photo opp).
9. This Is New York: 100 Years of the City in Art and Pop Culture
Museum of the City of New York
On view: from May 19, 2023
The excellent Museum of the City of New York celebrates its 100th birthday with a new, semi-permanent exhibition spotlighting the Big Apple’s starring role in American pop culture. Visitors will encounter familiar favorites (think films by uber New Yorkers Spike Lee and Woody Allen), as well as unexpected rarities, as they take in video clips, posters, paintings and other objects illustrating how New York City has been a muse for creators for centuries.
10. Van Gogh’s Cypresses
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
On view: May 22–August 27, 2023
Leave it to Vincent van Gogh to make trees pulse with energy. In this summer presentation at the Met, some 40 canvases – including the world-famous Starry Night, on loan from MoMA, and the Met’s Wheat Field with Cypresses – will show how the tall, sinuous cypresses that grow all over the South of France provided irresistible inspiration for the Post-Impressionist master. Letters and drawings deepen the story, showing how Van Gogh’s ideas turned into the thickly painted, brilliantly colored canvases we can’t stop admiring.
Planning tip: If seeing all the natural beauty in two dimensions leaves you thirsting for more, head up Fifth Ave to Central Park’s Conservatory Garden, an oasis with beautifully planted formal gardens that invite contemplation.
11. Judy Chicago: Herstory
The New Museum of Contemporary Art
On view: October 12, 2023–January 14, 2024
Somehow, this New Museum show is the first-ever museum retrospective of the feminist trailblazer whose work has been confronting – and delighting – viewers for over 50 years. On view will be paintings, textiles, stained glass pieces, installations and works in other media that demonstrate not only Chicago’s artistic evolution, but her role in raising awareness around overlooked women artists throughout history.