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September 2020

New York’s Fall Art Scene

By Natasha Schlesinger, Artmuse

Some of the hottest museum exhibits are great alone or with kids. And a few are closing soon. Don’t miss our top picks.


Watteau, Music and Theater, through November 29 Metropolitan Museum of Art

This exhibit is a rare opportunity to see so many of Watteau’s works together. The subtlety of Watteau’s drawings; his use of three-colored chalks; and his observation of human form and expression translate into magical paintings. Watteau loved music and theater, the most popular entertainment in the 18th century. Whether his paintings depict specific actors or just models is not clear, but I suspect that Watteau is expressing his own longing, human frailty and desire.

For more information: Metropolitan Museum of Art


The Milkmaid by Vermeer, through November 29 Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Milkmaid hasn’t traveled to the United States since 1939, so seize this opportunity. Vermeer is a master of light’s effects on ordinary objects. And while the milkmaid seems to be a model of virtue and hard work, questions remain. What is she making and thinking? Is the pitcher, and the act of pouring, symbolic? I leave it to you to discover, along with the Met’s five Vermeers and several other Dutch paintings by his contemporaries. The show is small but exciting—and not to be missed!

For more information: Metropolitan Museum of Art


Design for a Living World, through January 4, 2010

Design USA, through April 4, 2010 Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum

Design USA celebrates design and product development over the past decade—from fashion to industrial design to architecture. The show, though, is a bit of a hodge-podge and might be confusing for younger children. A more visually interesting show for families is Design for a Living World, which focuses on familiar objects made with unusual materials. Have you ever seen beautiful jewelry made from vegetable ivory? Or salmon-leather shoes designed by none other than Isaac Mizrahi? This show displays the wealth of the natural world and our responsibility to both preserve it and use it intelligently.

For more information: Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum


Georgia O’Keeffe: Abstraction, through January 17, 2010 Whitney Museum of American Art

The Georgia O’Keeffe you know: sculls, flowers, images of the natural world and still-life. Now, head to the Whitney for the other side of O’Keeffe: abstraction and color. Images have been put under a magnifying glass, enlarged to be merely forms and lines and colors. Children will want to guess what they were originally. Adults should not miss the photographs by Alfred Stieglitz, her lover and later husband. He abstracted her body, yet the passion that ignited their relationship and inspired her painting is unmistakable.

For more information: Whitney Museum of American Art


Kandinsky, through January 13, 2010 Guggenheim Museum

The Russian-born Kandinsky was inspired by music to explore color and form. As you ascend the museum’s spiraling ramps, the works progress from colorful but somewhat amorphous figures rooted in his Russian background to delicately combined color forms that dance and congregate on his canvases. Look for Picture with an Archer (1909), a painting that harks back to the folktales of his native land. And Several Circles (1926) is one of my favorites. Here, Kandinsky reduced the imagery to circular forms, taking us into an alternate universe of colors against a black background. There was optimism in how he portrayed the world even as tragic events unfolded around him.

For more information: Guggenheim Museum


American Stories: Paintings of Everyday Life 1765–1915, through January 24, 2010 Metropolitan Museum of Art

This is an involved and remarkably entertaining look at American life from the late 18th to the early 20th centuries. Kids will be thrilled to find works brimming with stories they can decipher. Don’t miss The Young Mechanic by Allen Smith Jr. about the resourcefulness of children and the reality of their existence at the time of Tom Sawyer. Be warned: the exhibit engulfs 9 rooms and takes an adult up to two hours. So with the kids in tow, pick and choose wisely.

For more information: Metropolitan Museum of Art


Voces y Visiones, Permanent Collection

NEXUS NEW YORK: Latin/American Artists in the Modern Metropolis, through February 28, 2010 El Museo del Barrio

El Museo is re-energized with its renovation, including a cool café and museum shop. Grab your kids and head to Voces y Visiones. Learn about the early Taino culture from the Caribbean islands and Puerto Rico through ancient objects such as a vomiting stick carved for special ceremonial use hundreds of years ago. La Cama (The Bed) by Pepon Osorio is covered with glued objects; a giraffe is made with sequins; and sculpture is made from dominoes. Nexus New York showcases Latino artists living in New York in the first half of the 20th century, including David Alfaro Siqueiros, Joaquín Torres-García, Alice Neel and Frida Kahlo, among others.

For more information: El Museo del Barrio

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