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10 U.S. Art Exhibitions Worth Traveling for This Fall

By Allison C. Meier

Aug 27, 2019

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“Afternoon” (1969) by Norman Lewis, a Harlem-born painter and teacher known for his abstract expressionist artworks focused on black urban life.

Courtesy of the Art Institute of Chicago ((The Joyner/Giuffrida Collection, © Estate of Norman W. Lewis)

“Afternoon” (1969) by Norman Lewis, a Harlem-born painter and teacher known for his abstract expressionist artworks focused on black urban life.

The season is filled with thought-provoking displays that you won’t want to miss.

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Some of the most notable museum exhibitions in the United States this fall examine timely issues such as displacement and migration, the role of black artists in major art movements, and the promise and peril of the future. The season also features the debut of a new contemporary art museum in San Antonio, Texas, as well as the most comprehensive Monet exhibition in the United States in 20 years. Here are 10 U.S. art exhibitions during fall 2019 to add to your upcoming travel plans.

“Generations: A History of Black Abstract Art”

September 29, 2019–January 19, 2020; Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore, Maryland

While exhibitions on abstraction in American art have overwhelmingly centered white artists, Generations: A History of Black Abstract Art shifts the narrative to black artists who have contributed to this form of visual expression. The exhibition celebrates the ways that African American artists have used gestural painting, shapes, and colors to convey personal and political statements, with works by prominent contemporary artists such as Kevin Beasley, Mark Bradford, Martin Puryear, and Lorna Simpson joined by pioneering artists dating back to the 1940s, including Norman Lewis, Alma W. Thomas, and Jack Whitten (who have often been overlooked in explorations of postwar abstraction). The Baltimore Museum of Art display expands on Solidary & Solitary, a touring exhibition that has previously visited institutions, including New Orleans’s Ogden Museum of Southern Art and the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. Over 80 paintings, sculptures, and other objects have been added for the Baltimore stop.

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An original work by French architect Jean-Jacques Lequeu titled “The Tomb of Isocrates, Athenian Orator (Tombeau D’Isocrates, orateur athénien)” (1789).

“Jean-Jacques Lequeu: Visionary Architect, Drawings from the Bibliothèque nationale de France”

October 4, 2019–January 5, 2020; Menil Drawing Institute, Houston, Texas

French architect Jean-Jacques Lequeu (1757-1826) envisioned fantastic architecture, such as a monumental stable shaped like a cow and an erotic garden folly, which he meticulously drafted on paper. The strange structures were never realized in 18th-century France, where Lequeu’s decadent designs did not fit into more austere post-revolutionary tastes (and were also frequently too complicated to build). After his death, Lequeu’s speculative architecture fell into obscurity until his drawings were rediscovered in the Bibliothèque nationale de France during the mid-20th century. The October exhibition at Houston’s recently opened Menil Drawing Institute is co-organized by the Petit Palais in Paris, the museum where the show debuted in 2018. It features 50 of Lequeu’s detailed drawings, revealing the French architectural draftsman as one of the most imaginative artists of his time.

In 2017, French artist JR created a large-scale picnic table that temporarily crossed the U.S.-Mexico border.

“JR: Chronicles”

October 4, 2019–May 3, 2020; Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, New York


The French-born artist JR uses street art to bring an empathy-inducing human presence to public and private spaces, often sites with complicated histories or at the center of contemporary conflicts. (In 2014, the artist created an installation featuring archival photographs of immigrants in New York’s abandoned Ellis Island hospital; in 2017, he created a picnic table with a large-scale print of a DREAMer’s eyes across its surface, which temporarily crossed the U.S.-Mexico border.) JR: Chronicles, the first major North American exhibition of the artist’s workfeatures a huge multimedia exploration of JR’s career, beginning with his early street art days in Paris up to his more recent architectural interventions. The centerpiece of the Brooklyn Museum exhibit will be a new mural called The Chronicles of New York City, a sprawling tableau of thousands of New Yorkers accompanied by audio of their individual stories.

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The inaugural exhibition at Ruby City in San Antonio, Texas, will include works by international artists, such as Korean installation artist Do Ho Suh (whose work is pictured above).

“Waking Dream”

October 13, 2019–2022; Ruby City, San Antonio, Texas

Before her death in 2007, art collector and philanthropist Linda Pace dreamed of a rose-hued city, which she then illustrated and shared with British architect David Adjaye (years ahead of his high-profile commissions like the National Museum of African American History in Washington, D.C.). This October, Ruby City—a free to the public contemporary art center designed by Adjaye to house Pace’s collection—opens as the realization of that dream. The museum’s inaugural exhibition, Waking Dream, responds to ideas of home, vulnerability, and resilience through works by an international group of leading contemporary artists, including Do Ho Suh, Rachel Whiteread, Cornelia Parker, Teresita Fernández, Wangechi Mutu, and Marina Abramović. The exhibition also features numerous local artists, among them Ana Fernandez, Cruz Ortiz, Chuck Ramirez, and Ethel Shipton, as a representation of San Antonio’s contemporary art scene.

Moroccan multimedia visual artist Yto Barrada’s artwork will be part of the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA)’s fall 2019 exhibition. Pictured above: “Palissade de chantier (Building Site Wall)” (2009/2011)

“The Shape of the Future”

October 19, 2019–April 5, 2020; Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) Chicago, Chicago, Illinois

Coinciding with the Chicago Architecture Bienniala citywide event that involves exhibitions, talks, and installations from international architects, artists, and designers (scheduled from September 19, 2019, through January 5, 2020)—The Shape of the Future at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) Chicago contemplates whether a universal design language is possible. Drawing on the MCA’s permanent collection with works by architectural thinkers and artists such as Buckminster Fuller, Bodys Isek Kingelez, Alice Aycock, and Mary Brogger, the exhibit investigates how modernist projects around the world have succeeded and failed in attempting to create utopia—and whether a singular vision for the future may be impossible amid political and cultural conflicts.

Iranian artist Shirin Neshat’s visual work explores the realities of living through political turmoil. Her above piece, “Bonding” (1995), features ink drawings on a photograph taken by Kyong Park.

“Shirin Neshat: I Will Greet the Sun Again”

October 19, 2019–February 16, 2020; The Broad, Los Angeles, California

In this major solo show from Shirin Neshat, the Iranian artist draws on her exile from her home country to engage with the wider impact political revolutions have on individuals. I Will Greet the Sun Again features 230 photographs and eight immersive video installations created by Neshat over the span of 25 years. They include earlier works such as Women of Allah, a series involving images of veiled women whose bodies have been decorated with calligraphic Farsi writings. The Los Angeles exhibition also features newer works from Neshat, such as a video installation called Land of Dreams, her first piece focused on U.S. society. Neshat’s solo show at The Broad engages with the turbulent recent history of the Middle East and the United States; her work serves as a compelling reflection on the realities of living through turmoil.

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Around 120 paintings by Claude Monet come to the Denver Art Museum this October, among them “The Strada Romana at Bordighera” from 1884 (pictured above).

“Claude Monet: The Truth of Nature”

October 21, 2019–February 2, 2020; Denver Art Museum, Denver, Colorado


In 1858, Claude Monet exhibited his first painting, View from Rouelles, at the age of 18. The rustic scene—which depicts Le Havre, France—illustrates detailed wisps of clouds in a bright blue sky above verdant grass and trees. The French Impressionist sustained this fascination with nature through the end of his life, painting the flourishing garden at his Giverny home in The House Seen through the Roses just before his death in 1926. When Claude Monet: The Truth of Nature arrives at the Denver Art Museum, the exhibit will include these two works in addition to some 120 paintings spanning the artist’s career. The collection—dubbed the most comprehensive U.S. Monet exhibition in two decades—demonstrates how Monet drew daily inspiration from the natural world, such as the coast of Normandy and the sunlight of the Mediterranean.

An installation from “Raising Robotic Natives” by German designers Stephen Bogner, Philipp Schmitt, and Jonas Voigt, which will be on display at the Philadelphia Museum of Art

“Designs for Different Futures”

October 22, 2019–March 8, 2020; Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

The design objects, installations, and architectural pieces in Designs for Different Futures predict the potential directions of our future world, both optimistic and apocalyptic. Works on display include urban think tank Terreform ONE’s modular Cricket Shelter—anticipating the need for insects as nourishment in a future food crisis—as well as a model of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in Norway, which protects a seed bank for crops in case of catastrophe. Other pieces consider how current questions of identity and communication will evolve in the coming years, like Lisa Moura’s Alien Nations—an ongoing mixed media exploration of what it means to be “alien”—and Andrés Jaque’s Intimate Strangers, a multimedia installation that meditates on dating apps. Following its debut in Philadelphia, the exhibition will travel to the Walker Art Center (from September 2020) and the Art Institute of Chicago (from February 2021).

British installation artist Isaac Julien creates multi-screen installations that explore themes related migration and identity. His 2007 work, “Western Union Series No. 1 (Cast No Shadow),” is pictured above.

“When Home Won’t Let You Stay: Migration through Contemporary Art”

October 23, 2019–January 26, 2020; Institute of Contemporary Art / Boston, Boston, Massachusetts

Presenting the work of artists from such countries as Cuba, Iraq, Mexico, Palestine, Colombia, and the United States, When Home Won’t Let You Stay: Migration through Contemporary Art reveals how issues of displacement, migration, and immigration are global concerns. A video installation by British filmmaker Isaac Julien considers the Italian island of Lampedusa, which since the early 2000s has become a central point in dangerous migrations between Africa and Europe, and a large-scale piece by Indian artist Reena Saini Kallat tracks routes of mass movements of people with barbed wires. Other exhibition highlights include British-Nigerian artist Yinka Shonibare CBE’s The American Library—a colossal installation of over 6,000 books, each colorfully bound in Dutch wax cloth and labeled with the name of an immigrant who contributed to American culture. French artist Kader Attia similarly uses vibrant textiles—here blue clothing—to remind viewers of migrants and refugees who have died at sea.

“Untitled” (1971) by Barbara Jones-Hogu, a Chicago-born artist known for her work with the Organization of Black American Culture and for cofounding the AfriCOBRA artists’ collective.

“Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power 1963–1983”

November 9, 2019–March 15, 2020; de Young Museum, San Francisco, California

Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power 1963–1983 features around 150 works by 60 black artists who were active during pivotal eras in U.S. history, such as the Civil Rights and Black Power movements. The exhibition—which was organized by the Tate Modern in London and has since traveled to U.S. museums (among them the Broad and the Brooklyn Museum)—includes the works of influential American artists like Romare Bearden, David Hammons, Noah Purifoy, Barkley Hendricks, Charles White, and Roy DeCarava. For its stop at San Francisco’s de Young Museum, the exhibition is joined by pieces from artists who have been based in the Bay Area, among them Emory Douglas, known for his illustrations for The Black Panther newspaper, and painter Wadsworth Jarrell, who has drawn inspiration from working life and jazz music.

>> Next: Tim Burton’s Original Art Is Coming to the Neon Museum in Las Vegas—and Tickets Are Now Available

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