Top 10 Shows to See In New York City

08/05/2010 10:46 am 10:46:57 | Updated May 25, 2011

As usual, the dog days of August have cleared the city of all but its most devoted gallerists, leaving behind summer shows on reduced hours and a more or less dead event schedule. However, there are more than enough shows -- some of them of historic caliber -- on view in the city's museums, as well as one must-see exhibition spread out between the hearty galleries of the Lower East Side (whose lack of air conditioning doesn't deter them from keeping generous summer hours). Below, ARTINFO shares its top ten picks for where to while away the hours before September kicks the next art season into gear.


"Original Copy" at the Museum of Modern Art, Photo by Scott Rudd

"Matisse: Radical Invention, 1913-1917" at the Museum of Modern Art, 11 West 53rd Street, through January 24,

During this tumultuous period, when the artist's friends -- including Andre Derain and the poet Apollinaire -- were fighting in the front lines of the first World War, Matisse was working in the south of France on what would become the hardened core of his later oeuvre. These decisive paintings and sculpture, gathered together by a partnership between MoMA and the Art Institute of Chicago, show the artist at his most raw and experimental, stepping into new aesthetic territory not even he could define.

"Christian Marclay: Festival" at the Whitney Museum of American Art, 945 Madison Avenue, through September 26,

The master of turntablism and author of creative musical notation (such as the 60-foot, 2010 "Manga Scroll" on which Marclay composed a score of booms and bangs and other noises culled from the pages of Manga comic books) is presenting work in almost every conceivable medium for this exhibition. Audiences, moreover, can enjoy an evolving lineup of concerts, and a continually changing chalkboard musical score, to which anyone can add -- performances of which will be staged during the show's run. For a museum-going experience, it will be noisy, but it will also offer a refreshing change from hearing only one's quickening heartbeat in the presence of compelling art.

"Picasso in the Metropolitan Museum of Art," at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1000 Fifth Avenue, through August 15,

Gathering together all 300 of the museum's works by Picasso, this eye-ravishing exhibition spans the great Modern artist's career, from his early drawings and paintings -- including one long-secret erotic 1903 self-portrait showing the painter being, ahem, serviced by a compliant brunette -- to his experiments with linoleum cuts and his libidinous late prints. Also featuring the Rose Period painting "The Actor," which the museum immaculately restored after it suffered a nasty gash earlier this year, the show thrums with visual invention of an Olympian order -- and renders MoMA's comparatively tiny show of the artist's prints redundant.

"Andy Warhol: The Last Decade," at the Brooklyn Museum, 200 Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn, through September 12,

Of the bevy of renowned artists whose overlooked late work has been
championed these past few months -- Picasso and Renoir among them -- Warhol is perhaps the most surprising. His religious works, large-scale camouflage canvases, urine paintings, and quick-buck commissions have been so dismissed by art history that the latest biography of the artist ends with his shooting in 1968 by Valerie Solanas -- nearly two decades before his actual death stopped his production. The Brooklyn show not only proves how grievous a mistake this condescension has been, it displays some of the most powerful work from the past half-decade on view in New York.

"Retro/Active: The Work of Rafael Ferrer," at El Museo Del Barrio, 1230 Fifth Avenue, through August 22,

Rafael Ferrer made his name in the 1960s and 1970s with radical art interventions, sitting on the Philadelphia Museum of Art's fountain in honor of Marcel Duchamp and scattering leaves in shows at the Castelli Gallery. Later, he shifted to making paintings, as big, bold, and beautiful as his earlier, ephemeral events. In the artist's large museum survey, El Museo Del Barrio presents a breathtaking, comprehensive account of his complete career.

"The Original Copy: Photography of Sculpture, 1839 to Today," at the Museum of Modern Art, 11 West 53rd Street, through November 1,

This stunner, organized by MoMA photography curator Roxana Marcoci, may be the surprise star of the summer, assembling dozens of works that document other pieces, from Lee Friedlander's snapshots of public monuments to Robert Mapplethorpe's iconic portrait of the late Louise Bourgeois with a large sculptural phallus tucked under her arm. Other photographs document artists -- like Bruce Nauman, Robin Rhode, and Dennis Oppenheim -- who turned bodily action into sculpture. The greatest treasure here is not a photograph but a piece of luggage: Marcel Duchamp's "Boite-en-valise," miniature reproductions covering most of Duchamp's career, slipped elegantly into an attache case.

"Lush Life" at various galleries on the Lower East Side (Sue Scott, On Stellar Rays, Invisible Exports, Lehmann Maupin, Y Gallery, Collette Blanchard, Salon 94, Scaramouche, and Eleven Rivington), through varying dates stretching through August. [See ARTINFO's interview with "Lush Life" author Richard Price]

There was a time when New York's Lower East Side was synonymous with crime, drug-fueled desperation, and a clashing mosaic of put-upon immigrant communities -- a heady climate that provided the fodder for author Richard Price's novel "Lush Life." That book, and the cultural farrago of a neighborhood that inspired it, form the spiritual armature of this multi-gallery exhibition featuring some of the best young galleries and rising artists in the city.

"Brion Gysin: Dream Machine" at the New Museum, 235 Bowery, through October 3,

A stroboscopic dream machine sounds about as intriguing as can be, especially when its maker served as mentor (and allegedly pot-smoking companion) to the likes of David Bowie, Keith Haring, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Patti Smith at his artistic-subculture outpost in 222 Bowery -- just across the street from where the New Museum now stands. Gysin invented the Cut-Up Method for rearranging language that became so integral to the practice of his better-known friend, author William S. Burroughs. But at last, Gysin is getting his due with this show, his first retrospective in the U.S., which features drawings, books, collages, films, and sound works, as well as the wonderful "Dreamachine."

Zwelethu Mthethwa, "Inner Views," at the Studio Museum in Harlem, 144 West 125th Street, through October 24,

Three series by South African photographer Zwelethu Mthethwa are combined in this smart mid-career survey, which focuses on his images of domestic life in areas of poverty and disaster. Migrant workers in Johannesburg are the subjects of two of the series here; in "Interiors," Mthethwa photographs them inside their meticulously decorated homes, while "Empty Beds" portrays just that, tinged with a hint of melancholy. The final series, "Common Ground," has a wider geographic reach, depicting homes in areas hit by disasters in Cape Town and New Orleans.

"Greater New York," at P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center, 22-25 Jackson Avenue in Long Island City, Queens, through October 18,

Styles sometimes jangle dissonantly, sometimes cohere in this third iteration of the renowned quincennial exhibition, which has had a remarkable knack in the past for identifying emerging young talents in New York's five boroughs who later went on to big careers. It's a rough-and-ready show, but there are finds to be had, and, where there aren't, it makes a case for the clarifying and productive virtues of bad art.


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