07/23/2011 11:50 pm ET Updated Sep 22, 2011

Best of the Big Apple: 2011 New York Summer Highlights (PHOTOS)

(Via Mutual Art)

In keeping with tradition, the art world has taken its usual late-summer vacation, with many venues and events on hiatus in July and August. Major auctions houses close their doors until September, while gallery openings and exhibits tend to cool off until the fall frenzy.

Unless of course, you live in New York, where the art world (like the city itself) never sleeps.

And certainly, New York is where it’s at this summer. If you happen to be in NYC, consider yourself lucky, as there are a variety of art events to keep you both cool and entertained. To escape the sweltering heat, why not buck tradition and head to one of the city’s many spectacular summer shows?

As self-professed art enthusiasts, we rounded up a list of our favorite exhibits happening in the Big Apple this summer. From the cutting-edge new media works of Ryan Trecartin to the vast collection of modern masterpieces owned by the Cone sisters, New York shows have something for everyone, guaranteed to please any art-lover’s palette. Many of the exhibitions on our radar pay homage to the city that continues to inspire the artists that inhabit this bustling metropolis. Ai Weiwei’s exhibit and Anthony Caro’s sculpture show are two prime examples - both highlight the attributes of the city in very different ways, celebrating what makes New York the place to be for art and culture.

Here’s MutualArt’s prized summer picks: what to see and where to be in the city that never sleeps.

Continue reading after the slideshow.

Ryan Trecartin: Any Ever
at P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center
June 19, 2011 - September 3, 2011
He’s the golden boy of new media, making innovations in the often coinciding disciplines of art and cinema, and he continues to make waves after his 21st century debut. Ryan Trecartin’s Any Ever is now appearing at P.S.1. Contemporary Art Center, officially marking the New York premiere of the artist’s 2007-2010 works, produced in Miami with collaborator Lizzie Fitch.

Featured in the venue’s main gallery on the 1st floor are the non-chronological series of seven movies, structurally conceived in two parts that feature a trilogy (Trill-ogy Comp (2009)) and a quartet (Re'Search Wait'S (2009-10), video still pictured above). The films are intertwined both literally - through the showrooms - and figuratively - by recurring themes, motifs, and characters in the movies themselves. In the tradition of his other works, Any Ever exemplifies themes of identity, narrative and language through Trecartin’s darkly humorous interpretations of visual culture in media.

at the New Museum
July 6, 2011 - September 25, 2011
Bringing together the work of over fifty artists from twenty countries across Eastern Europe, Ostalgia is a show about reflections, wistfulness, and of course, nostalgia. The title of the show is derived from the German word ‘ostalgie’, a term that emerged in the 1990s after the collapse of the Communist Bloc. ‘Ostalgie’ refers to a sense of longing and nostalgia for the era preceding the fall of communism, which saw many countries dissolved, their pasts essentially erased as their constitutions and histories were rewritten. (Below (left): U.F.O-NAUT J.K. a (U.F.O.), by Julius Koller, 1987; (right) Untitled, from the "Ogonyok" series, by Sergey Zarva, 2001).

The exhibit mixes the private and public aspects of this transition, and examines the conflict between self and community in a post-communist society. The artists exhibiting in this unique show exemplify the unique position of art in cultures that have been forced, quite literally, to continuously redefine and recreate themselves. “Ostalgia” celebrates art as a transforming and healing power in the reconstruction of a nation’s identity, and how the individual - as artist - can utilize this discipline as a platform for change.

Ai Weiwei: New York Photographs
at Asia Society and Museum
June 29, 2011 - August 14, 2011
Between 1983 and 1993, controversial Chinese artist Ai Weiwei lived in New York’s East Village, where he used his camera to capture his surroundings. The Asia Society and Museum presents rarely-seen photographs shot by the artist during the first decade of his prolific career, depicting his life amongst Chinese artists and intellectuals in the flourishing art scene. “These photographs are a poignant and powerful chronicle of Ai’s artistic vision and emerging political consciousness during his time in New York,” museum Director Melissa Chiu says. “Ai Weiwei is one of the most provocative and influential conceptual artists from China today, and in recent years he has become an increasingly iconic figure... As an artist, his work has stood for individual expression and we hope his recent release, following nearly three months in detention in China, has delivered a new promise of creative potential for him and other artists there.”

The exhibition presents 227 photographs which the artist selected from his archive of 10,000 stills. These works capture the history, culture and atmosphere of 1980's New York from Ai Weiwei’s unique perspective. Notably, this show marks the first time Ai Weiwei’s New York Photographs series is being shown outside of China.

El Museo's Bienal: The (S) Files 2011
at El Museo del Barrio
June 14, 2011 - January 8, 2012
Now back for its 6th year, the El Museo Bienal showcases the innovative art of Latino, Caribbean and Latin American contemporary artists working in the New York area. Curated by Elvis Fuentes, Rocío Aranda-Alvarado, and Trinidad Fombella with guest curator, Juanita Bermúdez, this year’s Bienal features a record 75 rising artists whose works are dispersed throughout seven different venues.

The title of this edition of the Bienal is The (S) Files 2011, which focuses on the culture and environment of the street - from street art to graffiti and mural work as well as non-traditional art pieces - and incorporates other disciplines within this theme, including fashion and music. This topic explores how the conflict between public and private sectors is influenced by street culture, depicting how the early New York art movements had an impact on urban life. The artists featured in this cutting-edge exhibit utilize these social factors in their work, blurring the boundaries between the individual and the community while analyzing urban life - and the street - as a catalyst for change in mainstream society. Addressing issues from daily life interactions to economic problems and social issues, this show represents how urban style has developed as a platform for artists to creatively express their reactions to modern conflicts.

Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty
at The Metropolitan Museum of Art
May 4, 2011 - August 7, 2011
Alexander McQueen was more than just a fashion designer - he was an artist. And The Met wholeheartedly agrees: Organized by the Costume Institute, the current exhibit Savage Beauty pays tribute to the late designer’s remarkable contributions to the fashion world. This innovative artist revolutionized the fashion industry, incorporating art, history and culture into his designs. The exhibition features an array of the designer’s most celebrated works (approx. 100 samples), stemming from his 1992 post-graduate collection to the pieces from his final runway show, held shortly after his death in February 2010.

McQueen's designs are unique reflections of past eras, glamorized and transformed to fit seamlessly in a modern context, while challenging traditional ideas of gender, culture and politics. His pieces emphasize the exaggerated silhouettes of the Victorian era and the 1950s, which he crafted into contemporary silhouettes that transmit romantic narratives. The exhibit highlights the reason McQueen’s fashion continues to be celebrated as wearable art: The technical ingenuity imbued his creations with an innovative sensibility that keeps his designs at fashion's vanguard. As curator Andrew Bolton elaborates, “McQueen was a remarkable craftsman. He was able to channel the skills of his craft, but also to use fashion as a vehicle to express very complex ideas and concepts. And I think in this particular exhibition, and in this gallery in particular, you see how McQueen would master the crafts of his trade and subvert them.”

Otherworldly: Optical Delusions and Small Realities
at the Museum of Arts and Design
June 7, 2011 - September 18, 2011
“Magic Realism” is the term that best encapsulates the theme behind this very unusual show, now running through September 18th at MAD. This one-of-a-kind exhibit highlights the extraordinary resurgence amongst artists of interest in creating small-scale representations of alternate realities and environments. Using a variety of media, such as sculpture, photography and video, the works are tiny worlds presented as models, dioramas, and small-scale site-specific installations. There is an incredible attention to detail, illustrating the intense interaction these contemporary “creators” must have experienced when constructing these other realities.

Collecting Matisse and Modern Masters: The Cone Sisters of Baltimore
at The Jewish Museum
May 6, 2011 - Sept 25, 2011
Featuring 51 stellar modern masterpieces by artists such as Matisse, Picasso, Renoir, and Gauguin, the Cone Sisters’ collection showcases paintings, sculptures, works on paper and more on loan from the Baltimore Museum of Art. Also featured in the museum galleries is an interactive virtual tour of the sisters adjoining Baltimore apartments, showing their remarkable collection as it was displayed in their home, displaying the artworks, objects, and textiles produced by some of the most celebrated modern artists.

Claribel and Etta Cone of Baltimore traveled to Paris in the early 1900s, where they visited the studios of Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso. At the time, critics were largely disdainful of Matisse’s work, a fact that did little to influence Etta’s opinion: upon meeting the artist in 1906, Etta became one of his first patrons, having developed a passion for his paintings. Henri Matisse fondly called Dr. Claribel and Miss Etta Cone “my two Baltimore ladies,” and in addition to a lifelong friendship, the sisters continued collecting Matisse’s work throughout his career. In the years to come, Claribel and Etta frequently traveled to Paris and became immersed in the avante-garde circle of artists and writers, many of whom later became famous, including writers Gertrude Stein and Ernest Hemmingway, as well as artists Pablo Picasso, Auguste Renoir, and Paul Gauguin. The Cone sisters continued avidly collecting the works of Matisse, Picasso and their compatriots, assembling what is considered to be one of the most important French Modern Art collections in the United States.

Frans Hals in the Metropolitan Museum
at The Metropolitan Museum of Art
July 26, 2011 - October 10, 2011
From July 26th, The Met is showcasing the museum’s most impressive collection by celebrated artist Frans Hals, long hailed as the most important group of paintings in the United States by the Dutch master. Hals’ portrait and genre paintings were renown during his lifetime for their splendid brushwork and likeness, and this exhibition highlights 13 of the artist’s most memorable works, including Merrymakers at Shrovetide (pictured below) and Yonker Ramp and His Sweetheart.

Also included in the exhibition will be two loans from private collections in New York—the small, stunning Portrait of Samuel Ampzing (1630), on copper, as well as the celebrated Fisher Girl (1630-32). A selection of other Dutch paintings from the museum's collection and a few engravings will place Hals' work in the context of his native Haarlem and will reinforce the extraordinary mastery at that time of his animated poses and virtuoso brushwork. The effect of Hals’ work extended past the artist’s lifetime, as demonstrated via the Impressionist painter Manet, whose Hals-inspired portrait will also be featured in the exhibit.

Anthony Caro on the Roof
at The Metropolitan Museum of Art
April 26, 2011 - October 30, 2011
This exhibition displays the unique creations of British sculptor Anthony Caro in an equally innovative setting: outside of the museum, in The Met’s Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Roof Garden, harmonizing the architectural elements of Caro’s work. Caro has been hailed by critics as one of the most influential and visionary sculptors of his generation, playing an integral role in the development of modernist sculpture. 2011 marks the 50th anniversary of the artist’s first steel sculpture exhibition, and his pieces continue to have the same dramatic affect on viewers in the 21st century. The installation features various painted and unpainted steel sculptures selected from the artist’s long and prolific career, highlighting key themes of his oeuvre: engagement with form in space, dialogue between sculpture and architecture, and creation of new, abstract analogies for the human figure and landscape. Against the backdrop of the New York City skyline, this exhibition offers up a veritable feast for the eyes, with unparalleled views of both the city and the artist’s cutting-edge creations.

If you're in upstate New York, don't miss this event:

Norman Rockwell: Behind the Camera
at George Eastman House - International Museum of Photography and Film
Jun 25, 2011 - Sept 18, 2011
As American as apple pie: The iconic illustrations of Norman Rockwell captured the essence of American culture in the mid 20th century. Now showcasing at the George Eastman house is a collection of works by the artist, with the photographs he orchestrated that inspired his memorable paintings and illustrations. The artist created over 4,000 works during his prolific career, many notably gracing the cover of the Saturday Evening Post for four decades.

From the 1930s onward, Rockwell used photography to realize his artistic concepts in the studio. He directed the photo sessions, painstakingly selecting models, props, and locations, and created a multitude of photographs for each new subject. Rockwell was as meticulous with his photographs as he was with his paintings; his illustrations appear as alternate representations of the photographs he used to create them. From a stockpile of over 20,000 negatives, this one-of-a-kind exhibit showcases these study photographs for the first time, offering visitors a glimpse at the scenes which inspired the artist’s uniquely American art.

Written by Staff