Art & About: Summer Guide 2015

James Gaddy
Updated 08/05/2015

It's an event that's almost as rare as Halley's Comet: an entire museum picks up and moves downtown. But just in time for summer, the 85-year-old Whitney Museum, which has occupied the Breuer building on the Upper East Side since 1966, is opening its doors at the base of the High Line, not far from its original West Village brownstone. Now blessed with more than 50,000 square feet of light, airy gallery space (plus additional exhibition space outside) designed by Renzo Piano, the museum relaunches in style, pulling more than 600 works by around 400 artists from its 22,000-piece collection to provide one of the broadest, widest-ranging surveys of post-1900 American art imaginable. Entitled America Is Hard to See, the exhibition applies the label to an array of artists: Europeans who lived briefly in the US, such as George Grosz, coexist with era-defining painters like Keith Haring and Jackson Pollock, while works by contemporary artists Dana Schutz and Jordan Wolfson hang near those from icons like Robert Frank and Grant Wood.

A different kind of survey—one that pulls from all over the world—begins on May 14, as Frieze New York takes over part of Randall's Island with more than 190 contemporary art galleries (63 from New York City alone); it's one of the premier events on the City's art calendar this spring. But it's the interactive pieces that make it worth the ferry ride: Bangkok-born artist Korakrit Arunanondchai installs a series of massage chairs upholstered in bleached denim, and Japanese artist Aki Sasamoto will build a three-dimensional maze that doubles as a personality test, giving the weekend a truly fair-like quality.

Where Frieze's activity is highly concentrated, the events that make up NYCxDesign, which runs from May 8–19, sprout up all over the City. Kicking off with BKLYN Designs, at the Brooklyn Expo Center, the expo will comprise massive trade fairs such as ICFF, at the Javits Center, which will host around 700 brands exhibiting the latest in furniture, lighting and fabrics; talks and exhibitions at places like the Center for Architecture, Pratt Institute and Cooper-Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum; and small-scale affairs at studios around town. Don't miss the Collective Design Fair, at the Skylight Clarkson Square in West Soho, which will run from May 13–17. The fair's 30 galleries—from Madrid, Paris, Milan, Mexico City and NYC—are exhibiting some of the most intriguing design pieces in the world, from midcentury classics at R & Company to contemporary pop works repped by J. Lohmann.

New York City's original King of Pop, Andy Warhol, is the subject of an in-depth survey featuring what is arguably his most famous work, the Campbell's Soup Cans, at the Museum of Modern Art. Unveiled April 25, it's a rare opportunity to see the entire series of 32 paintings, painted in 1962, hung side by side rather than in grid formation. But the show also includes the artist's little-seen commercial work from the 1950s, before he became a defining figure of the 1960s and '70s. Meanwhile, on the sixth floor of the building, One Woman Show (opening May 17) traces the early work of Yoko Ono, from 1960–71. Though Ono may have achieved fame as the wife of John Lennon, the exhibition illustrates how she was already a pioneering artist by the time they met, and the show chronicles her early conceptual pieces like Painting to Be Stepped On and 1964's Cut Piece.

Other trailblazing women get their due in exhibitions throughout the summer. Opening at the New York Botanical Garden on May 16, Frida Kahlo: Art, Garden, Life will show 14 original paintings and drawings that illustrate the famed Mexican artist's lifelong fascination with plant life. But perhaps the best part is the museum's reimagining of the artist's garden and studio at La Casa Azul, her home in Mexico City, within the Haupt Conservatory. Meanwhile, uptown, the Museum of Arts and Design hosts Pathmakers: Women in Art, Crafts, and Design, Midcentury and Today, a sprawling, 100-piece show that tracks the careers of women who rose to prominence along with the museum itself, from insider favorites like Eva Zeisel and Ruth Asawa to ceramist Edith Heath and Sheila Hicks, known for her cascading fabrics.

Sun worshipers should head to Madison Square Park, which will host its largest-ever outdoor exhibition, Fata Morgana, beginning on June 1. Artist Teresíta Fernandez has fashioned a 500-foot-long sculpture of golden, mirror-polished discs that will create canopies above the central lawn. And until May 24, the Bronx's Wave Hill presents The Lightening,
a site-specific installation by artist Chris Doyle that will turn its pool into a reflective surface using three faceted structures that hang over the water with mirrored facades that glow and animate when night falls.


Agnes Denes: The Living Pyramid
Socrates Sculpture Park
Through August 30
A longtime earth artist before that term even existed, Agnes Denes still works out of a studio in SoHo. She is most remembered for planting—and maintaining—a wheat field in 1982 in what is now Battery Park City. Through the end of the month, you can see her latest work in Long Island City, Queens, in which she has constructed a pyramid filled with topsoil and planted with grasses and wildflowers.

Math Bass: Off the Clock
Through August 31
It's easy to fall in love with Math Bass' pictograms that are up now at MoMA PS1. Her abstract canvases and sculptures may look very simple on the surface, but in reality are complex, M. C. Escher–like systems of forms that playfully interact with the other shapes nearby. They're the closest thing the art world has to emojis. 

Russian Modernism: Cross-Currents of Russian and German Art, 1907–1917
Neue Galerie 
Through August 31
Of the 90 images on view at the Neue Galerie right now—some of them all-time classics from Kazimir Malevich and Vasily Kandinksy; others less-heralded works from the likes of Robert Falk and Natalia Goncharova—the clearest picture that emerges is that of two countries, Russia and Germany, caught in the looming shadow of World War I. 

One-Way Ticket: Jacob Lawrence's Migration Series
Museum of Modern Art
Through September 7
This hugely significant series of 60 paintings—completed by Harlem artist Jacob Lawrence in 1941—documents the mass movement of African-Americans from the rural South to the urban North after the Civil War and throughout the 20th century. The bright colors contrast with the sparse, sometimes desolate, imagery and are accompanied by captions that are by turns historical and poetic.

Albert Oehlen: Home and Garden
The New Museum 
Through September 13
Though he has usually been eclipsed by his friend and frequent collaborator Martin Kippenberger, German artist Albert Oehlen gets his moment to shine with one of his largest shows ever in New York City: a nonchronological, semi-retrospective of the artist's career, covering his early self-portraits through to his fully abstract canvases that incorporate inscrutable computer graphics, fragments of language and advertising motifs interlaced with paint by hand.

Revolution of the Eye: Modern Art and the Birth of American Television
The Jewish Museum
Through September 27
Did you know that Andy Warhol made an ad for Schrafft's ice cream? This exhibition explores that, and other strange facts, by examining the early days of television from the 1940s to the '70s, when TV shows bore the imprint of modern art—most famously, the surrealist influence that artists such as René Magritte and Salvador Dali had on shows like The Twilight Zone. Or how pop artists such as Roy Lichtenstein helped shape the campy appeal of Batman. The history of the CBS logo, in particular, is worth a closer look as well.

Sargent: Portraits of Artists and Friends
Metropolitan Museum of Art
Through October 4
It's rare enough to get a retrospective of some of John Singer Sargent's finest portraits done in the late 19th century—like that of the famous “Madame X,” which nearly destroyed both his and his subject's reputations, as well as of Isabella Stewart Gardner, one of the more eccentric yet stylish women in turn-of-the-century Boston. But it's rarer still to pair those with more intimate moments and lesser-known works from the artist's life: a portrait of the writer Robert Louis Stevenson, at home with his wife, or the painter Ambrogio Raffele, in his studio, among many others.

Alice: 150 Years of Wonderland
The Morgan Library
Through October 11
The tale is well-known: Alice goes down the rabbit hole and meets the Cheshire Cat, the Mad Hatter and the Queen of Hearts. But from the beginning, the illustrations of Lewis Carroll's fantastic world played a major role in capturing the public's imagination. Here, original drawings by Sir John Tenniel, who helped visualize the first edition in 1865, will be on view as well as rare editions, old letters and photographs, and Carroll’s original manuscript.

Pierre Huyghe: The Roof Garden Commission
Metropolitan Museum of Art
Through November 1
A massive fish tank on the roof of the Met is the big draw for this year's Roof Garden Commission. In it floats a boulder of lava, around which lampreys and tadpole shrimp swim. Elsewhere on the roof, paving stones have been upturned, as if under construction, and a boulder of Manhattan schist has been installed, an allusion to the rock on which the skyscrapers off in the distance are built. 

Life at the Limits: Stories of Amazing Species
American Museum of Natural History
Through January 3, 2016
Need a biological introduction to spring fever? Stop by the American Museum of Natural History for a peek at the strategies that animals and plants will resort to in order to fight off predators, find food and reproduce at the edges of the plant and animal kingdom.

Jeppe Hein: Please Touch the Art
Brooklyn Bridge Park
Through April 17, 2016
This cheeky series of three installations in Brooklyn Bridge Park play off their views of the City: an arrangement of mirrors mimics the shape of the Manhattan skyline across the river, while fire-engine-red benches and other assorted seating arrangements twist, cartoonishly, encouraging interaction. On warm days through September 28, join the packs of children in the fountain, a responsive water sculpture that, when you enter, sprays geysers of water upward—everywhere except where you're standing.  

Picasso's Le Tricorne
New-York Historical Society
Through Summer 2016
If you've never been to the Four Seasons restaurant (and, really, who hasn't?), you might have missed a chance to see one of Pablo Picasso's most interesting works: a theater curtain he painted in 1919 for the influential modernist dance company Ballets Russes. For 55 years, it hung in the Philip Johnson–designed power-lunch spot favored by the likes of Warren Buffett, until last year, when the owner of the building donated it to the Landmarks Conservancy, which then loaned it to the New-York Historical Society for public viewing. 

Saturday Night Live: The Exhibition
Fifth Avenue between 37th and 38th
The Wayne's World couch. Stefon's shirts. Justin Timberlake's you-know-what in a box. Currently on view in this show are many of the objects that Saturday Night Live has made part of the pop cultural landscape over the last 40 years. Tour recreations of show creator Lorne Michaels' office and the anchor desk from “Weekend Update,” or take an up-close look at the Conehead props and the cheerleader uniforms worn by Will Ferrell and Cheri Oteri. In other words, party on!


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