The Best Places for Art Lovers This Fall

Oct 30, 2019

Attention, esthetes: The world's got an eyeful for you this season—and the art game's especially strong in these nine cities. From their major museums to their tucked-away galleries, there's so much happening, it's worth planning a trip around (or—we're looking at you, binge viewers—several trips).

Paris (because of course)

The visual equivalent of surround sound, Van Gogh, Starry Night at the Atelier des Lumières digital museum envelopes you in projections of the Dutch master's most iconic works (through Jan. 5)—and why not go full immersion to kick off your Parisian art wander? Meanwhile, the Musée d’Orsay’s Degas at the Opera offers a unique look into the artist's relationship with the Opéra de Paris. He painted the stage, dressing rooms, audience…oh yeah, and those ballet dancers you recognize instantly (through Jan 19). Over at the Picasso Museum, Picasso: Magic Paintings explores one of the artist’s most emotional periods (through Feb. 23). And if you're a design enthusiast, don't miss Inventing a New World at Fondation Louis Vuitton, where you can see furniture and objets of Charlotte Perriand, as well as full-size replicas of some of her interiors (through Feb. 24). For its part, the Louvre has staged a monumental Leonardo da Vinci exhibition to mark the 500th anniversary of the his death. Make a reservation—you won’t be the only ones angling to get in (through Feb. 24). Don’t bid adieu before hitting the historic Grand Palais for the El Greco retrospective, the first major exhibit of his work in France (through Feb. 10) and a rare opportunity to see more than 75 of his works gathered from around the world. The bonus? The Toulouse-Lautrec retrospective that's also in the house (okay, palais) through Jan. 27.

Boston

It’s easy to get lost at the expansive Museum of Fine Arts. But this fall, all you have to do is step off the elevator to see one of MFA’s major triumphs: the all-female Women Take the Floor exhibit now commands the entire third level of the museum (through May 3, 2021). On your way back to street level, stop and marvel at Mural: Jackson Pollock|Katharina Grosse, a pairing of Pollack's largest painting (and one of his most pivotal) with a commission by contemporary superstar Grosse (through Jan. 27). Or for a taste of artistry from days (or rather, 3,000 years) gone by, see the Museum’s Ancient Nubia Now (through Jan. 20). Over at the Harvard Art Museums, Crossing Lines, Constructing Home: Displacement and Belonging in Contemporary Art compellingly upends the notion of “home” (through Jan. 5). And at the beloved Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, take a look at Raphael and the Pope’s Librarian (through Jan. 30), another gorgeous commemoration of the 500th anniversary of an Old Master's death (between Da Vinci and Raphael, 1519-1520 dealt some colossal blows to the art world). Make a quick 10 million bucks while you're at the Gardner by providing info that leads to the recovery of 13 works infamously stolen in 1990—the highest-value private property theft in history. But even if you don't have a useful tip, check out the empty frames that still hang expectantly among various galleries, and watch for the movie version of the heist.

Mexico City

Mexico City’s art scene is en fuego. Make your first stop the Museo de Arte Moderno, in the city’s historic (as in, everyone from Moctezuma to Cortés has preceded you here) Chapultepec Park. Today, the park is known as the lungs of Mexico City. Inhale all the fresh air you can, because the shows you're about to see will take your breath away. Until Jan., The Two Fridas: History of Two Cities, anchored by Kahlo’s wrenching double self-portrait, gives you a glimpse into her transition from New York to Paris—and from being married to Diego Rivera and then… not. Two more must-sees while you’re at the museum are Cuba: The Uniqueness of Design (through Mar. 8) and the photography exhibit Confines, Confluences and Conformities (through Nov. 24). If you can, plan your trip to catch the Gran Salón Fair (Nov. 8–10), which puts contemporary Mexican illustration on a deserved pedestal. More the famous masterpieces type? Head to Museo Soumaya, where the European Old Masters and the Art of New Spain collection (think: El Greco, Bruegel and other bigs) is on view until August. 

New York City

After a four-month, 450-million-dollar revamp, NYC's iconic Museum of Modern Art is open and going for the wow factor. Among the delirious wealth of special shows is Projects 110: Michael Armitage (through Jan. 20), a stellar exhibition of eight paintings that mix African materials and classical European influences (not a coincidence: the artist was Nairobi-born and London-trained). To say nothing of the inventive new curations of the museum’s permanent collection. Thirty blocks uptown, the Bard Graduate Center Gallery tackles clothing and gender politics with French Fashion, Women, and the First World War, a can’t-miss exhibit for fashionistas and feminists (through Jan. 5). Sculpture lovers should detour to the Frick Collection to catch Bertoldo di Giovanni: The Renaissance of Sculpture in Medici Florence (through Jan. 12). And at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, you don’t even have to walk through the door to see some of the most compelling pieces. Kenyan-American artist Wangechi Mutu’s bold bronzes—woke re-imaginations of traditional caryatids—are the first sculptures to occupy the niches on the building’s Fifth Avenue facade (The NewOnes, will free Us is on view through Jan. 12). In keeping with the thought-provoking theme, The Drawing Center downtown is exhibiting The Pencil Is a Key—proof, in the form of drawings by incarcerated artists (not least, Gustave Courbet) from across the world and centuries, that creativity persists (through Jan. 15). 

Toronto

If you’re looking for art that takes on pressing 21st-century issues, Toronto’s Biennial of Art is here for you (through Dec. 1). One work getting tons of attention is The Drowned World, a collection of apocalyptic films shown on an Imax screen inside a geodesic dome. But wait, there’s more: The biennial is staged at more than 15 sites, so the city is like an art lover’s amusement park (if you like your amusements on the serious side). If all that has you needing to rewind, visit the Art Gallery of Ontario—and the 16th century—for Early Rubens, where you'll find some of the Flemish master’s most important works (through Jan. 5). Or if you'd rather fast-forward, pick another exhibit at the same gallery: Hito Steyerl: This is the Future, presenting the acclaimed German artist’s strangely compelling blend of video, sculpture, computer animation and more (through Feb. 23). Bonus for Frank Gehry fans: The gallery itself is a work of art. Meanwhile, the Textile Museum of Canada is showing Wild, an exhibit of material-made flora and fauna by Canadian artists (through Mar.). Street art lovers (and Insta junkies): Stroll down the iconic Graffiti Alley while you’re in town.

Johannesburg

In South Africa’s largest city, hit the small-but-mighty Joburg Fringe festival (through Nov. 30) at the vibrant Art Room gallery, where you’ll see eight emerging artists' works (all of them affordable, too, if collecting is your jam). While you're in town, head to the contemporary Gallery MOMO for the War of the Roses show of rich, often moody paintings by acclaimed artist and art history professor Raél Jero Salley (through Dec. 13). Then there's the first of its kind in South Africa—The Art of Comics—at the Johannesburg Art Gallery, where you'll find South African comics and graphic novels and expert-led workshops (through Nov. 17). And as of Nov. 5, University of the Witwatersrand is hosting David Koloane: Chronicles of a Resilient Visionary a show that celebrates one of South Africa’s most important Apartheid-era activist-artists, who died earlier this year. 

Tel Aviv

It’s “Night at the Museum” at the city’s famed Museum of Art—open until midnight every day except Friday and Sunday throughout November—for Tamar Hirschfeld: Neuland, a multi-themed, tragi-comic video installation. Or channel your inner mystic with the museum’s slightly psychedelic A New Age: The Spiritual in Art, with artists like Marina Abramovic and Hilma af Klint (through Feb. 2). Two terrific festivals overlap at the end of November: Photography enthusiasts, make your way to the International Photography Festival (Nov. 28–Dec. 7), where the work of more than 250 pros will be displayed. And Tel Aviv’s 2019 Illustration Week (Nov. 21–30) celebrates Israeli artists and designers in venues all around the city. (The exhibit map itself is a whimsically illustrated keeper.)

Miami

Immerse yourself in art and maybe even the ocean—totally a thing here in December. The beginning of the month brings Miami Art Week (Dec. 5-8), when there's so much happening, you don't know where to look first. But good options include the mind-blowing digital installations of the Contemporary Digital Art Fair (Dec. 5-8), the Art Labs and Meet the Artist sessions of Spectrum Miami (Dec. 4-8)—and the modern and contemporary riches of Red Dot Miami (Dec. 4-8). Then there's the 30th anniversary edition of Art Miami (Dec. 3-8), the renowned contemporary and modern art fair where serious collectors should go at their own risk (or rather, at the risk of any remaining blank space at in their homes). Collector or not, you can't miss the massive Art Basel (Dec. 5–8), where more than 4000 artists will display their works. What’s hot this year? More Latin American artists than ever before, plus the brand-new, 60,000-square-foot Meridian Sector to showcase large-scale works. And if you haven't entered a state of sensory overload, spin by Artechouse, an immersive digital gallery, for a look at Infinite Space, a Refik Anadol retrospective that includes his mind-bending Infinity Room installation (through Jan.). Also worth a trip: the Nina Johnson Gallery where the can't-miss (in every sense) is the 300-pound, hand-polished marble cherry in the courtyard—part of the stunning Nevine Mahmoud: Bella donna sculpture exhibit (through Jan. 4).

Tokyo

Shibuya, Ginza and Harajuku may get all the glory, but one of Tokyo's artiest neighborhoods is Ueno, where the November lineup is intense: The International Artist Invitation program has staged the Reminding Future: Metal Silence 2019 in a historic subway station turned...well, deeply affecting art space. There you'll find Unending Lighting by Cristina Lucas, who's reinterpreted Guernica's themes in an epic video installation, and Tutor by Fernando Sánchez Castillo, who's created a bronze tree that “survives even though it is about to break" (Fridays and weekends through Nov. 17). Also in the neighborhood—more specifically, in the fountain square of iconic Ueno Park—Floating Nomad is an interactive, multidisciplinary event that involves everything from a Silk Road photo exhibit to a Yoshikazu Yamagata fashion show (Nov. 9–10). Conveniently, the park is also home to the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, where you'll find Masterpieces of Impressionism: The Courtauld Collection, some 60 paintings and sculptures that include Manet’s A Bar at the Folies-Bergère and Modigliani’s Female Nude. As you'll likely notice, there are five more museums in Ueno Park, so you could well spend your entire trip in one place. But that would mean missing one of the most quintessentially Japanese museum experiences ever: the Nezu Mueum's The Tea Ceremony in Edo (Nov. 16–Dec. 23)a deep dive (via paintings, calligraphies and crafts) into the life of one of the nation's most renowned tea masters (totally a thing here), whose birth tricentennial is this year.

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