If you’re anything like me, one of the first things you Google when researching a destination is what the best museums are in town and what exhibitions are currently showing.
Much like the rest of the arts and culture (and travel) industry, museums are bouncing back after years of pandemic lockdowns curtailed admission numbers: There are now bigger, better, and more creative exhibitions than ever, exploring everything from what it would be like if one of the most successful anime franchises of all time was integrated into the works of one of the world’s most famous artists to a deep dive into the (filthy) mind of one of Hollywood’s quirkiest and most irreverent directors.
These are seven of the most exciting art exhibits worth traveling for right now:
1. John Waters: Pope of Trash at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures
- Location: 6067 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, California, United States | Find on Google Maps
- Running until: August 4, 2024
- Tickets: $25 per person | Buy now
John Waters, who directed films such as Pink Flamingos, Female Trouble, Cry-Baby, and Hairspray, rose to fame in the 1970s and ‘80s for his wildly transgressive but popular cult films which pushed the limits of what independent cinema could be. When John Waters: Pope of Trash completely takes over the fourth floor of the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, it will be the first comprehensive exhibit solely dedicated to the auteur’s films and movie-making process. Items on display include costumes, archival photos, props, and handwritten scripts. Keep an eye out for Debbie Harry’s exploding wig from Hairspray as well as the original Pink Flamingos script.
2. Spike Lee: Creative Sources at the Brooklyn Museum
- Location: 200 Eastern Pkwy., Brooklyn, New York, United States | Find on Google Maps
- Running until: February 4, 2024
- Tickets: $25 per person | Buy now
Meanwhile, across the country, New York City’s Brooklyn Museum has devoted a massive exhibition—with over 400 artifacts—to director Spike Lee, known for movies like Get on the Bus, BlacKkKlansman, and Mo’ Better Blues, which explore issues of race, contemporary social issues, and Black identity. Spike Lee: Creative Sources explores the Atlanta-born, New York–raised director’s rise to becoming one of the country’s most well-known filmmakers. Inside, visitors will find ephemera from Lee’s life, posters of and props from his award-winning movies, and a room devoted completely to the Knicks, his favorite basketball team. “This exhibition is going to give you a very different point of view of Spike Lee as a preserver of culture presented from a Black diaspora lens,” curator Kimberli Gant said in an interview with Gothamist. “You’re going to see themes that echo from these objects into what you see in his films.”
3. Mark Rothko at the Fondation Louis Vuitton
- Location: 8 Avenue du Mahatma Gandhi, 75116 Paris, France| Find on Google Maps
- Running until: April 2, 2024
- Tickets: $17 per person | Buy now
Artist Mark Rothko is best known for his color field paintings—large swaths of vibrant pigment that seem to envelop viewers wholly and completely within them. Mark Rothko at the Fondation Louis Vuitton will encompass four stories of the Frank Gehry–designed building and feature 115 works from the largest international, institutional, and private collections. The pieces will be displayed chronologically and run the breadth of the painter’s career, from his earliest figurative paintings to his later, more abstract works that he’s now known for. Mark Rothko is the first retrospective in France devoted entirely to the Latvian-born American.
4. Pokémon x Van Gogh Museum at the Van Gogh Museum
- Location: Museumplein 6, 1071 DJ Amsterdam, Netherlands | Find on Google Maps
- Running until: January 7, 2024
- Tickets: $21 per person | Buy now
I know, I know. The last place you thought you’d see Pikachu is at the Van Gogh Museum. But, in an effort to get younger audiences interested in art, the museum has partnered with the Pokémon Company to bring six paintings inspired by Pokémon and Vincent Van Gogh to life—and really, the partnership is not that far-fetched given the Dutch artist’s own obsession with Japanese art and woodblock prints. At Pokémon x Van Gogh Museum, visitors can expect to see Munchlax and Snorlax relaxing inside of Vincent van Gogh’s Bedroom in Arles as well as Sunflora smiling among his still-life paintings of sunflowers. Don’t forget to grab some cute Pokémon x Van Gogh Museum merch at the gift shop on your way out.
5. Yayoi Kusama at SFMOMA
- Location: 151 3rd St, San Francisco, California, United States | Find on Google Maps
- Running until: September 7, 2024
- Tickets: $30 per person | Buy now
Two of Yayoi Kusama’s most spectacular Infinity Rooms are now on display at San Francisco’s SFMOMA. The exhibition is composed of two of Kusama’s signature Infinity Rooms: Love is Calling and Dreaming of Earth’s Sphericity, I Would Offer My Love, which is brand new and was previously only shown at New York’s David Zwirner Gallery. Dreaming of Earth’s Sphericity, I Would Offer My Love, includes round, colored windows lit by both natural and artificial light traveling through the lenses of a dizzying array of green, red, yellow, and blue dots. The second Infinity Room, Love is Calling, is one of the artist’s largest works and features a darkened room that’s lit only by the light of inflatable forms hanging from the ceiling. As visitors travel through the exhibit, Kusama can be heard on a background track reciting a poem about love. But use your time wisely—visitors are only allowed to step inside each Infinity Room once per visit, for one minute.
6. Field of Light at Freedom Plaza
- Location: East River Esplanade, New York, New York, United States | Find on Google Maps
- Running until: December 15, 2024
- Tickets: Free, but reservations are required | Reserve now
British-Australian artist Bruce Munro is best known for his large-scale, immersive, and site-specific exhibitions. Arguably his most famous art series is his Field of Light installations, which have been displayed everywhere from Austin, Texas to Uluru in Australia. On December 15, 2023 a Field of Light will debut in Manhattan and will run for exactly one year. The installation will consist of 17,000 solar-powered, flower-like fiber optic stems lit up in a variety of colors. The exhibit will be completely free and open to the public, but visitors will need to reserve a time slot in order to see the Field of Light.
7. Picasso in Fontainebleau at MoMA
- Location: 11 West 53rd St., New York, New York, United States | Find on Google Maps
- Running until: February 17, 2024
- Tickets: $28 per person | Buy now
Pablo Picasso famously reinvented himself and his artistic practice dozens of times over his career. At Picasso in Fontainebleau at New York City’s Museum of Modern Art, Picasso fans will be able to view the large and varied amount of work he created during the three months in 1921 that he lived in Fontainebleau, a town about 40 miles southeast of Paris. It was a deeply transformative time for the artist; a period when he was beginning to explore cubism more deeply. The exhibition will be the first time four monumental pieces—both versions of Picasso’s Three Musicians and Three Women at the Spring—will reunite since they were first created in the painter’s makeshift studio.