10 Must-See Museum Exhibitions in the U.S. this Year

Retrospectives on pioneers to shows redefining traditional mediums.

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Embarking on a journey through the realm of contemporary art, 2024 promises a spectacular lineup of exhibitions stateside offering diverse narratives, perspectives, and artistic legacies. From retrospectives honoring the pioneers to groundbreaking showcases redefining traditional mediums, these exhibitions serve as portals into the essence of cultural evolution. From Paul Pfeiffer’s introspective unraveling of collective consciousness to Grace Wales Bonner’s nuanced exploration of Black cultural heritage, each exhibition invites audiences on a transformative odyssey. Giants, curated by Kimberli Gant, spotlights the exceptional collection of music icons Swizz Beatz and Alicia Keys, celebrating Black diasporic culture. Meanwhile, the Metropolitan Museum of Art beckons with a comprehensive portrayal of the Harlem Renaissance and Transatlantic Modernism, an exploration of pivotal moments in Black American art history.

These exhibitions, among others like the highly anticipated Whitney Biennial and retrospectives of artists revolving around masters such as Toshiko Takaezu and Jenny Holzer, collectively weave a web of creativity, history, and innovation, promising an awe-inspiring year for art enthusiasts worldwide. Read more below.

Paul Pfeiffer: Prologue to the Story of the Birth of Freedom

November 12, 2023 – June 16, 2024

Paul Pfeiffer: Prologue to the Story of the Birth of Freedom is a retrospective spanning twenty-five years of artist Paul Pfeiffer’s pioneering career. Known for his insightful exploration of spectacle, belonging, and identity, Pfeiffer’s work dissects our fascination with celebrity culture, drawing from televised sports and popular entertainment. Through expertly crafted edits of existing footage, he unravels how collective consciousness is influenced and manipulated. Across more than thirty pieces and the premiere of a new creation, this retrospective showcases Pfeiffer’s multi-disciplinary approach, mapping the global flow of images and unveiling the roles of desire, heroism, and adulation within art, religion, politics, and nationhood. This exhibition marks the first comprehensive overview of Pfeiffer’s diverse artistic practice.

The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles
250 S Grand Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90012

Artist’s Choice: Grace Wales Bonner —Spirit Movers

November 18, 2023 – April 07, 2024

Renowned for her eponymous label and collaborations with adidas, Grace Wales Bonner takes on the role of curator at MoMA for the exhibit Spirit Movers. In this showcase, hosted at MoMA’s street-level galleries, Bonner meticulously handpicks 50 artworks that delve into the aesthetics and cultural heritage of the African diaspora. Through her discerning eye, pieces by revered artists such as Terry Adkins and Betye Saar find their place within this collection, offering a nuanced exploration of Black cultural experiences and artistic expressions. Accompanying the exhibition is Bonner’s meticulously crafted publication, “Grace Wales Bonner: Dream in the Rhythm.” This catalog serves as an exploration of sensory connections within 80 carefully chosen works from MoMA’s archive. Through a blend of visuals, poetry, music, and movement, Bonner seeks to evoke a multi-dimensional experience, bridging the gaps between sight, touch, sound, and motion, offering a unique and immersive encounter with the artworks.

The Museum of Modern Art
11 W 53rd St.
New York, NY 10019

Giants

February 10–July 7, 2024

Giants marks the inaugural showcase of the esteemed art collection belonging to music icons Swizz Beatz (Kasseem Dean) and Alicia Keys. Known advocates for backing Black creatives and artists, the Deans have spent the last two decades assembling one of the world’s most significant compilations of artists of color, spotlighting and honoring Black diasporic culture. Curated by Kimberli Gant, the exhibition brings together a compelling selection of over 100 pieces by acclaimed artists like Lorna Simpson, Kehinde Wiley, Henry Taylor, Amy Sherald, Barkley L. Hendricks, Ernie Barnes, Derrick Adams, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and photographers Gordon Parks, Kwame Brathwaite, and Malick Sidibé. The title not only references the idea of standing upon the achievements of predecessors but also alludes to the sheer magnitude of some of the artworks themselves.

Brooklyn Museum
200 Eastern Pkwy
Brooklyn, NY 11238

The Harlem Renaissance and Transatlantic Modernism

February 25—July 28, 2024

One of the most anticipated exhibitions of the upcoming year is the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s opening in February titled The Harlem Renaissance and Transatlantic Modernism. With a collection exceeding 150 artworks spanning paintings, sculpture, photography, film, and more, the exhibit delves into the profound impact of Black artists capturing daily life in the emerging Black urban centers between the 1920s and 40s, particularly in Harlem but also across the nation. It explores the early phase of the Great Migration when African Americans began leaving the segregated South in large numbers. This showcase marks the first comprehensive exploration of this subject in New York City since 1987 and features renowned artists like Charles Alston, Aaron Douglas, Meta Warrick Fuller, William H. Johnson, Archibald Motley, Winold Reiss, Augusta Savage, James Van Der Zee, and Laura Wheeler Waring.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art
1000 5th Ave
New York, NY 10028

Whitney Biennial 2024: Even Better Than the Real Thing

Opens March 20, 2024
The Whitney Biennial has been an art world staple since 1932, leaving a lasting impact on viewers with its eclectic mix of reactions: some spellbound, others puzzled, a few leaving disgruntled, while many depart feeling inspired. Held biennially, the Whitney Museum of American Art hosts this exhibition, showcasing the current wave of American artists redefining contemporary art. It’s a melting pot of multimedia expressions and often, a canvas for art that delves into pressing political themes. This year’s Biennial, curated by Chrissie Iles and Meg Onli, is yet to unveil its lineup. Nevertheless, no matter the participating artists, their creations are anticipated to boldly articulate their messages.

Whitney Museum of American Art
99 Gansevoort St.
New York, NY 10014

Toshiko Takaezu: Worlds Within

March 20—July 28, 2024

To celebrate the 100th birthday of artist Toshiko Takaezu, the Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum revealed a significant retrospective and book spotlighting her life and art. It’s been two decades since her work was showcased nationally in this manner. Alongside the exhibition, the museum will release a new book, “Toshiko Takaezu: Worlds Within,” in collaboration with Yale University Press. This monograph stands as the most extensive book to date on an American ceramic artist. The retrospective aims to trace Takaezu’s artistic journey, presenting her as one of the most intriguing and innovative American artists of the past century. It explores the breadth and development of her work, focusing particularly on the intricate worlds she crafted within individual forms and breathtaking environmental installations.
The exhibition’s title, “Worlds Within,” captures the profound sense of meaningful space found in Takaezu’s art, referencing her belief that the hidden realms within her enclosed forms are their most significant aspect—the unseen depths within.

Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum
9-01 33rd Rd.
Queens, NY 11106

Kathe Kollwitz

March 31—July 20, 2024

This exhibit at MoMA is the first retrospective of Kathe Kollwitz’s art in New York City’s museums and the most extensive display of her work in the U.S. in over 30 years. Featuring over 100 rarely displayed drawings, prints, and sculptures borrowed from collections across the US and Europe, MoMA aims to delve deeply into the artist’s career. The exhibit will follow a chronological order, showcasing Kollwitz’s evolution from the 1890s to the 1930s, a time of significant upheaval in German history, encompassing industrialization and the devastating impacts of war.

The Museum of Modern Art
11 W 53rd St.
New York, NY 10019

Christina Ramberg: A Retrospective

April 20–August 11, 2024

Recognized for her distinct, alluring paintings portraying women’s body parts—hands, hair, and torsos, often fragmented or bound, Christina Ramberg emerged as a pivotal figure in Chicago’s 20th-century art scene. Over the years, Ramberg’s unique style has notably influenced contemporary artists like Julie Curtiss. This much-awaited retrospective marks the first major exhibition dedicated to Ramberg’s art in almost three decades. Showcasing nearly 100 pieces, the exhibit will assemble the artist’s iconic early compositions, balancing on the edge of abstraction, alongside lesser-known textile works from the 1980s and paintings from her later years in the 1990s.

Art Institute of Chicago
111 S Michigan Ave
Chicago, IL 60603

Jenny Holzer: Light Line

May 17–September 29, 2024

In May 2024, the Guggenheim New York will unveil a fresh take on Jenny Holzer‘s influential 1989 installation. This updated version of Holzer’s electronic display expands on her original concept, spanning all six ramps of the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed rotunda and reaching the building’s peak. This customized artwork will redefine the space by showcasing scrolling texts ranging from her earliest Truisms to newer experiments with language generated by artificial intelligence. Holzer’s lifelong use of written expression has consistently fascinated global audiences. Through this solo exhibit, viewers will engage with vital contemporary themes, experiencing the extraordinary, the political, the ordinary, and the thought-provoking via the artist’s groundbreaking use of language.

Guggenheim Museum
1071 5th Ave.
New York, NY 10128

Picasso and Paper

December 8, 2024–March 23, 2025

Because of the enduring appeal of Pablo Picasso, experts are continuously exploring fresh approaches to display his art. The Cleveland Museum of Art is taking a unique angle with their exhibition titled “Picasso and Paper,” focusing exclusively on his creations using paper. This showcase will feature his initial sketches, intricate collages crafted from various paper elements, sketchbooks, three-dimensional paper renditions of guitars, and a diverse array of other pieces. If you believe you’ve grasped the entirety of Picasso’s work, this exhibition promises to challenge and expand your understanding.

Cleveland Museum of Art
11150 East Blvd.
Cleveland, OH 44106

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