Spring Arts Preview: Top 10 Museum Shows

Between the recent release of The Monuments Men and the ongoing saga surrounding Munich art hoarder Cornelius Gurlitt, Nazi looting and restitution are hot topics these days. The Neue Galerie is staging the first U.S. exhibition in more than 20 years to examine the notorious Nazi show of so-called degenerate art, including works by Max Beckmann, George Grosz and Paul Klee that were exhibited in Munich shortly before World War II. These will be juxtaposed with examples of art endorsed by the Third Reich, including a triptych by painter and politician Adolf Ziegler that belonged to Adolf Hitler.

Lasar Segall, 'Eternal Wanderers,' 1919 (Courtesy Neue Galerie, Lasar Segall Museum, IBRAM/Ministry of Culture. Photo: Jorge Bastos)
In 1966, the Jewish Museum’s groundbreaking show "Primary Structures: Younger American and British Sculptors" was the first U.S. exhibition to showcase Minimalist art, introducing audiences to Dan Flavin, Donald Judd and Sol LeWitt, among many other artists. Jewish Museum Deputy Director Jens Hoffman is now re-examining the rise of Minimalism with an eye toward other parts of the world. His two-part exhibition features work by African, Asian, Eastern European, Middle Eastern and Latin American artists. The first installment will focus on the years 1960–1967, while the second segment, which opens in May on the heels of “Mel Bochner: Strong Language,” also at the Jewish Museum, will cover 1967–1970.

Oscar Bony, 'Sinusoide or Structure,' 1967. (Courtesy The Jewish Museum)
Following the fantastic "Radical Presence: Black Performance in Contemporary Art," here comes another strong-looking group show at the Studio Museum. Works by art stars David Hammons, Jacolby Satterwhite, Carrie Mae Weems, Kara Walker, Theaster Gates and others will appear alongside pieces by obscure, outsider and incarcerated artists.

Ralph Lemon, 'Untitled,' 2013-14. Courtesy the artist/The Studio Museum in Harlem)
Artist and dissident Ai Weiwei’s monumental installation S.A.C.R.E.D., a set of six highly detailed dioramas recreating his 81 days in solitary confinement, was one of the most discussed works at the Venice Biennale last summer. Now the piece is coming to Brooklyn on the final stop of a traveling retrospective devoted to the highly political artist. The show is the first North American survey of Mr. Ai’s work and will feature site-specific bicycle installations as well as a new piece about Ye Haiyan, a fellow Chinese activist. Also making its debut is Stay Home!, the artist’s documentary about Liu Ximei, a Chinese woman who was given HIV-infected blood at a rural hospital.

'Ai Weiwei: According to What?' installation view Pérez Art Museum Miami. (Courtesy Pérez Art Museum Miami. Photo: Daniel Azoulay)
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Though the late Sigmar Polke is one of the most important German artists to emerge during the postwar period, he has never before been the subject of a retrospective. The Museum of Modern Art’s mega exhibition encompasses painting, photography, film, drawing, printmaking and sculpture. Many of the pieces, including a suite of soot on glass works, have not been previously exhibited in the United States. The show is the first from Kathy Halbreich, MoMA’s associate director, who has been working on it for the past six years.

Sigmar Polke, 'Untitled (Quetta, Pakistan),' 1974/78. (Photo Alex Jamison. ©2014 Estate of Sigmar Polke/ Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn)
It’s been more than 40 years since Carl Andre, a titan of Minimalist sculpture, has had a one-man show at a New York museum. Now, visitors to Dia:Beacon will be able to reassess his legacy via 50 sculptures, 200 poems and works on paper and an ephemeral earthwork made of hay, among other pieces.

Carl Andre 'Uncarved Blocks,' Vancouver, 1975 (Courtesy Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg. Photo: Helge Mundt, Hamburg. © Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg. Art © Carl Andre/Licensed by VAGA, New York, N.Y.)
Icelandic artist Ragnar Kjartansson doesn’t just make you look. He makes you listen. This is the guy who arranged for six horn players to perform for four hours every day at the last Venice Biennale, who got the band The National to play the same song for six hours at MoMA PS1 and who made 11 actors and an orchestra perform the final aria of Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro for 12 hours at Performa 11. For his show at the New Museum, Mr. Kjartansson will test the endurance of his performers again by asking ten guitarists to play continuously throughout the duration of the exhibition.

(Courtesy the New Museum)
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The self-taught dressmaker is the subject of the Costume Institute’s annual high profile exhibition, which will be split this year between the newly christened Anna Wintour Costume Center and special exhibition galleries on the museum’s first floor. Half the fun will be watching celebs channel James in their outfits for the institute’s splashy spring gala. Expect sculptural, spiral-cut confections, elegant capes and wrap-over trousers.

Charles James Ball Gowns, 1948. (Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Photograph by Cecil Beaton / Vogue / Condé Nast Archive. Copyright © Condé Nast)
A month after the Whitney Biennial finishes its run, the museum will present an even more headline-grabbing exhibition: the first retrospective for Jeff Koons, the Pennsylvania-born art star whose Balloon Dog (Orange) nabbed him the record for most expensive living artist at auction last year, fetching $58.4 million. The exhibition will include every significant series by Mr. Koons. Despite being a first on several fronts, the show is also a last: the Whitney is moving downtown, and this will be the final presentation in the Marcel Breuer–designed building it has called home since 1966.

Jeff Koons, 'New! New Too!,' 1983. Lithograph billboard mounted on cotton; 123 x 272 in. (312.4 x 690.9 cm). Collection of the artist. ©Jeff Koons.

From ball gowns at the Met to balloon animals at the Whitney, from Minimalism at Dia to music at the New Museum, it’s going to be a busy spring at the museums. Here are the shows we’re looking forward to most.

‘Degenerate Art: The Attack on Modern Art in Nazi Germany, 1937’ at The Neue Galerie
March 13–June 30
Between the recent release of The Monuments Men and the ongoing saga surrounding Munich art hoarder Cornelius Gurlitt, Nazi looting and restitution are hot topics these days. The Neue Galerie is staging the first U.S. exhibition in more than 20 years to examine the notorious Nazi show of so-called degenerate art, including works by Max Beckmann, George Grosz and Paul Klee that were exhibited in Munich shortly before World War II. These will be juxtaposed with examples of art endorsed by the Third Reich, including a triptych by painter and politician Adolf Ziegler that belonged to Adolf Hitler.

‘Other Primary Structures’ at The Jewish Museum
March 14–May 18; May 25–Aug. 3
In 1966, the Jewish Museum’s groundbreaking show “Primary Structures: Younger American and British Sculptors” was the first U.S. exhibition to showcase Minimalist art, introducing audiences to Dan Flavin, Donald Judd and Sol LeWitt, among many other artists. Jewish Museum Deputy Director Jens Hoffman is now re-examining the rise of Minimalism with an eye toward other parts of the world. His two-part exhibition features work by African, Asian, Eastern European, Middle Eastern and Latin American artists. The first installment will focus on the years 1960–1967, while the second segment, which opens in May on the heels of “Mel Bochner: Strong Language,” also at the Jewish Museum, will cover 1967–1970.

‘When the Stars Begin to Fall: Imagination and the American South’ at The Studio Museum in Harlem
March 27–June 29
Following the fantastic “Radical Presence: Black Performance in Contemporary Art,” here comes another strong-looking group show at the Studio Museum. Works by art stars David Hammons, Jacolby Satterwhite, Carrie Mae Weems, Kara Walker, Theaster Gates and others will appear alongside pieces by obscure, outsider and incarcerated artists.

‘Ai Weiwei: According to What?’ at the Brooklyn Museum
April 18–Aug. 10
Artist and dissident Ai Weiwei’s monumental installation S.A.C.R.E.D., a set of six highly detailed dioramas recreating his 81 days in solitary confinement, was one of the most discussed works at the Venice Biennale last summer. Now the piece is coming to Brooklyn on the final stop of a traveling retrospective devoted to the political artist. The show is the first North American survey of Mr. Ai’s work and will feature site-specific bicycle installations as well as a new piece about Ye Haiyan, a fellow Chinese activist. Also making its debut is Stay Home!, the artist’s documentary about Liu Ximei, a Chinese woman who was given HIV-infected blood at a rural hospital.

‘Alibis: Sigmar Polke 1963–2010’ at MoMA
April 19–Aug. 3
Though the late Sigmar Polke is one of the most important German artists to emerge during the postwar period, he has never before been the subject of a retrospective. The Museum of Modern Art’s mega exhibition encompasses painting, photography, film, drawing, printmaking and sculpture. Many of the pieces, including a suite of soot on glass works, have not been previously exhibited in the United States. The show is the first from Kathy Halbreich, MoMA’s associate director, who has been working on it for the past six years.

‘Andy Warhol’s 13 Most Wanted Men and the 1964 World’s Fair’ at the Queens Museum
April 27–Sept. 7
Before you balk at the prospect of yet another show devoted to the king of Pop art, consider why this one couldn’t happen anywhere else. Just 200 yards from the Queens Museum, Andy Warhol once installed a series of enlarged head shots of the country’s 13 most wanted criminals on the facade of the Philip Johnson–designed New York State Pavilion for the 1964 World’s Fair. Authorities painted over the mural, leaving a large silver swatch on the building’s exterior. This exhibition will feature paintings produced from the screens Warhol used to make the notorious portraits, as well as related works.

‘Carl Andre: Sculpture as Place, 1958–2010’ at The Dia Art Foundation
May 5–March 2, 2015
It’s been more than 40 years since Carl Andre, a titan of Minimalist sculpture, has had a one-man show at a New York museum. Now, visitors to Dia:Beacon will be able to reassess his legacy via 50 sculptures, 200 poems and works on paper and an ephemeral earthwork made of hay, among other pieces.

‘Ragnar Kjartansson: Me, My Mother, My Father, and I’ at the New Museum of Contemporary Art
May 7–June 29
Icelandic artist Ragnar Kjartansson doesn’t just make you look. He makes you listen. This is the guy who arranged for six horn players to perform for four hours every day at the last Venice Biennale, who got the band The National to play the same song for six hours at MoMA PS1 and who made 11 actors and an orchestra perform the final aria of Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro for 12 hours at Performa 11. For his show at the New Museum, Mr. Kjartansson will test the endurance of his performers again by asking ten guitarists to play continuously throughout the duration of the exhibition.

‘Charles James: Beyond Fashion’ at The Metropolitan Museum of Art
May 8–Aug. 10
The self-taught dressmaker is the subject of the Costume Institute’s annual high profile exhibition, which will be split this year between the newly christened Anna Wintour Costume Center and special exhibition galleries on the museum’s first floor. Half the fun will be watching celebs channel James in their outfits for the institute’s splashy spring gala. Expect sculptural, spiral-cut confections, elegant capes and wrap-over trousers.

‘Jeff Koons: A Retrospective’ at the Whitney Museum of American Art
June 27–Oct. 19
A month after the Whitney Biennial finishes its run, the museum will present an even more headline-grabbing exhibition: the first retrospective for Jeff Koons, the Pennsylvania-born art star whose Balloon Dog (Orange) nabbed him the record for most expensive living artist at auction last year, fetching $58.4 million. The exhibition will include every significant series by Mr. Koons. Despite being a first on several fronts, the show is also a last: the Whitney is moving downtown, and this will be the final presentation in the Marcel Breuer–designed building it has called home since 1966.

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