11 Museum Exhibitions to See in 2019

Andy Warhol (1928–1987), "Ethel Scull 36 Times," 1963. Silkscreen ink and acrylic on linen, thirty-six panels: 80 × 144 in. (203.2 × 365.8 cm) overall. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; jointly owned by the Whitney Museum of American Art and The Metropolitan Museum of Art; gift of Ethel Redner Scull 86.61a‒jj © The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Artists Rights Society (ARS) New York.

After the December holiday season passes, it can seem like ages before warmer weather brings a new slate of festive occasions like barbecues, beach days, and fireworks. Though winter is not quite behind us yet, with the new year comes a new lineup of museum exhibitions to entertain and educate us as we move closer to springtime. From Paris to Los Angeles, whether you live near one of these major metropolises or will pass through for business or personal travel, be sure to take in these world-class exhibitions.

New York

Andy Warhol: From A to B to and Back Again

Where: The Whitney Museum of American Art
When: Through March 31, 2019

A much-anticipated Andy Warhol retrospective is on view at the Whitney Museum through March. The sweeping show includes over 350 works by the Pop art master, including an off-site display of the multi-panel work “Shadows” at Dia, that span the entirety of his career – from early drawings by Pittsburgh youth Andrew Warhola to his Brillo boxes to his iconic depictions of Marilyn Monroe.

Reviews of the show have been positive; many critics have remarked on the continued relevance of Warhol to the contemporary psyche more than 30 years after his death. “Almost everything on display feels, even now, definitively new,” says Peter Schjeldahl for The New Yorker. Holland Cotter writes for The New York Times, “The Whitney show vividly restores [Warhol] to full, commanding view, and reasserts his importance for a new generation, but does so in a carefully shaped and edited way.”

Lucio Fontana: On the Threshold

Where: The Metropolitan Museum of Art
When: January 23April 14, 2019

The Met’s highly anticipated Lucio Fontana survey is the first major exhibition of the Argentine-Italian artist in the United States in over 40 years. The exhibition is divided between two locations: The Met Breuer and The Met Fifth Avenue.

Though Fontana is best known as a painter, he spent a significant amount of time devoted to sculpture and ceramic art. The exhibition will present iconic canvases from Fontana’s Cuts (Tagli) series recontextualized among his sculpture and ceramic works. It also includes two immersive installations never before presented in the United States: Spatial Environment “Utopias,” at the Thirteen Milan Triennial (1964) and Spatial Environment in Red Light (1967).

Implicit Tensions: Mapplethorpe Now

Where: Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
When: January 25July 10, 2019

The Guggenheim is commemorating the legacy of Robert Mapplethorpe with a year-long, two-part exhibition on view sequentially in 2019, the year that marks the 30th anniversary of the influential photographer’s death. The first phase, on view starting January 25th, will showcase the Guggenheim’s holdings of Mapplethorpe works – the core of which is a 1993 gift from the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation of 200 photographs and unique objects.

Phase two, on view from July 24th through 2019, will address the artist’s impact on portraiture and self-representation. That show will highlight contemporary artists from the Guggenheim’s collection that parallel or develop ideas found in Mapplethorpe’s work.

Los Angeles

Laura Owens

Where: The Museum of Contemporary Art
When: Through March 25, 2019

LA-based artist Laura Owens’s work comes home during the MoCA leg of this traveling show, which was organized by the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York. This mid-career survey charts a dramatic transformation in the artist’s practice, exhibiting early abstract canvases that laid the groundwork for her more recent large-scale paintings.

“Owens’ range of invention, material and conceptual, is absorbing,” says Los Angeles Times critic Christopher Knight, who included the show on a rundown of the best art in LA in 2018.

Maryam Jafri: I Drank the Kool-Aid But I Didn’t Inhale

Where: The Institute of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles
When: February 10June 23, 2019

Maryam Jafri works across media: video, sculpture, photography and performance. Her upcoming show at the ICA is Jafri’s first solo institutional presentation in the United States.

This exhibition presents a new staging of the work Product Recall: An Index of Innovation (2014–15), which combines framed texts and still life photography related to unsuccessful food products from the private archives of anonymous food industry figures. The work explores how agribusiness and laboratory science are implicated in mass consumption.

Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power

Where: The Broad
When: March 23September 1, 2019

Last summer, The Broad announced it would be the West Coast venue for the blockbuster exhibition Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power 1963-1983. The exhibition celebrates the work of Black artists, with individual galleries devoted to groups of artists working in particular cities. Featured works include figurative and abstract paintings, collage, assemblage, photography, sculpture and performance.

This exhibition was developed by the Tate Modern and has traveled to Crystal Bridges and the Brooklyn Museum. “How could black consciousness be expressed in art?” asks Jonathan Jones of The Guardian in his glowing review of the Tate Modern staging. He adds, “That question turns out to open dazzling new vistas on a brilliant epoch in art history.”


Bill Viola/Michelangelo: Life Death Rebirth

Where: Royal Academy
When: January 26March 31, 2019

This January, the Royal Academy asserts similarities between two artists from widely different times: Renaissance master Michelangelo Buonarroti and pioneering video artist Bill Viola. Though working in a thoroughly modern medium, Viola grapples with themes evident in Michelangelo’s oeuvre: birth, life, death, and the symbolic power of spiritual art.

The exhibition is conceived as a journey through the cycle of life; a selection of Michelangelo’s works will be on view along with twelve major installations spanning Viola’s entire career.

Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams

Where: The Victoria & Albert Museum
When: February 2July 14, 2019

This February the V&A Museum will stage their most comprehensive fashion exhibition since Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty in 2015. Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams will highlight the fashion designer’s vision in its totality: garments, accessories, fragrances and the inspiration behind them all. It also includes a section that explores the designer’s fascination with British culture and highlights Dior’s collaborations with British manufacturers and clients.

Oriole Cullen, the Fashion and Textiles Curator at the V&A, says, “The influence of Christian Dior’s design was all-pervasive and helped to define an era. In their own individual ways, each of the House’s successive artistic directors have referenced and reinterpreted Dior’s own designs and continued the legacy of the founder, ensuring that the House of Christian Dior is at the forefront of fashion today.”

Dorothea Tanning

Where: Tate Modern
When: February 27June 9, 2019

Among the Tate’s roster of 2019 shows is the first UK retrospective of surrealist Dorothea Tanning since her death in 2012. The exhibition was on view in the fall of 2018 at La Reina Sofia in Madrid, Spain.

According to the museum, the exhibition will explore “how her dreamlike paintings and eerie soft sculptures challenged ideas about the body and identity over a career spanning seven decades.” Works on view will include early paintings like Birthday (1942), a self-portrait of the artist in exotic costume, and a room-sized installation of soft sculpture from later in her career entitled Hôtel du Pavot, Chambre 202 (1970-1973), which features contorted and intertwined bodies connected to Tanning’s longtime fascination with dance.


Victor Vasarely: The Sharing of Forms

Where: Centre Pompidou
When: February 6May 6, 2019

This spring the Centre Pompidou presents Victor Vasarely: The Sharing of Forms, the first French retrospective devoted to the Op art figurehead in more than 50 years. Vasarely’s varied works – paintings, multiples, commercial and architectural projects – play with shapes and colors to create optical illusions.

The exhibition chronologically follows Vasarely’s career, grounded in socioeconomic context and addressing the major stages of the artist’s life, from his foundation in Bauhaus to formal innovations involving the fourth dimension.

Black Models – From Géricault to Matisse

Where: Musée d’Orsay
When: March 26July 21, 2019

The Wallach Art Gallery at Columbia University and the Musée d’Orsay have partnered for a two-part presentation that examines how black models crucially contributed to the development of modern art. In Paris, the exhibition will begin with portraits by Marie-Guillemine Benoist and Jean-Louis André Théodore Géricault at the start of the 19th century.

Black Models – From Géricault to Matisse explores the work of the Impressionists on, including the portraiture of the Harlem Renaissance and works by Post-War and Contemporary artists. The exhibition is based on Dr. Denise Murrell’s 2013 dissertation for Columbia University’s department of art history and archaeology. The Musée d’Orsay, which is home to Édouard Manet’s Olympia, states in The New York Times that they hope the exhibition will attract “new audiences that might feel excluded from places like Orsay.”

Looking for more cultural gems in New York, London and Paris? Click here to explore our travel guides for art lovers.