As museums spring back to life, here are the exhibitions to check out

That Old/New Familiar Feeling

As museums spring back to life, here are the exhibitions to check out

Exterior of The Broad, a contemporary art museum in downtown Los Angeles. It is set to reopen May 26. (Gnawme/Flickr/CC BY 2.0)

After over a year of museums keeping audiences engaged and enlightened via virtual programming and digital shows and tours, the concept of attending a new museum exhibition in the flesh may seem weirdly novel. But as many—but not at all—art and design museums large and small begin to reopen their doors (if they haven’t already) as COVID restrictions ease, the distinct sensation of stepping into a gallery among other patrons is about to become familiar again for scores of museum-goers.

Below, we’ve rounded up a modest handful of new and upcoming indoor exhibitions showing at recently reopened or soon-to-reopen museums across the country. (Some of these still-shuttered institutions have yet to announce firm reopen dates.) Ranging from surveys of bicycle design to sprawling group shows showcasing newly acquired works from modern art masters, there’s a little something for everyone. It goes without saying that even though the below museums will soon welcome back guests or are doing so already, IRL museum-going remains a vastly affair than during pre-pandemic times. Be sure to visit the websites of each respective institution as many, if not most, require the advance purchase of timed tickets to prevent overcrowding and are operating with adjusted hours and limited services. (It’s imperative to plan ahead.) All also have varying health and safety protocols in place, including mask requirements, worth getting to know before heading out.

And for those who would rather wait it out a bit longer before heading back indoors, many museums, including several below, offer outdoor art experiences perfect for safe, warm(er) weather excursions.

The Broad — Los Angeles (reopening May 26)

Shuttered for more than a year, The Broad in downtown Los Angeles is reopening to the public on May 26 with new, single-artist presentations held in the Diller Scofidio + Renfro-designed museum’s third-floor galleries and a special group exhibition in the first-floor galleries. The former will include all of the 13 works by Jean-Michel Basquiat in the museum’s collection including three on view for the first time; a mini-survey of Roy Lichtenstein with roughly half of the works on display for the first time; ten works by Kara Walker including three new acquisitions, and a 26-work mini-survey of Andy Warhol featuring a major new acquisition. In the first floor galleries will be Invisible Sun, a special exhibition featuring works (including El Anatsui, Alexander Calder, Keith Haring, Jenny Holzer, Julie Mehretu, Nathaniel Mary Quinn, and Cindy Sherman) in The Broad collection that “resonate with our unprecedented period of rupture and collective desire for healing and recovery.” Leading up to the May 26 reopening, the museum will host two preview weekends for health care workers and community organizers. And worth noting: The Yayoi Kusama Infinity Mirror Rooms will remain temporarily closed.

The Getty Center and Getty Villa Museum — Los Angeles (reopening anticipated in late May; reopens April 21)

While the Getty Villa Museum in Pacific Palisades, home to a trove of Roman and Greek antiquities, is set to reopen tomorrow, April 21, no clear reopening date has been established as of writing for the Getty Museum’s beloved (and in normal times, highly trafficked) flagship hilltop campus, the Getty Center. However, the museum anticipates that it will “likely” reopen in late May with limited capacity and other health and safety protocols in place. When it does reopen, planned future exhibitions include Power, Justice, and Tyranny in the Middle Ages, Photo Flux Unshuttering LA, Artists as Collectors, and Silk & Swan Feathers: A Luxurious 18th-Century Armchair. At the Getty Villa, Mesopotamia: Civilization Begins is a new exhibition opening on April 21; it runs through August 16.

Glenstone Potomac, Maryland (Pavilions reopen May 6)

Although the main gallery building at Maryland’s Glenstone contemporary art museum has been open on a limited capacity basis since April 8 for an international traveling exhibition of the works of Faith Ringgold (with the museum’s idyllic grounds reopening before that in early March), the Thomas Phifer-designed Pavilions have remained closed to the public throughout the pandemic save for a several-month stretch in early July. They’re set to welcome visitors again starting May 6 as part of a phased reopening plan with a large-scale hanging neon work by Glenn Ligon, Warm Broad Glow II, 2011, and monumental chalkboard drawings by Tacita Dean, which were installed just before the museum closed in November. Works by Cy Twombly, Lorna Simpson, Roni Horn, On Kawara, Robert Gober, and others will once again be on view as part of the May 6 reopening of the Pavilions. 

The Museum of Design Atlanta (reopens April 22)

The Museum of Design Atlanta (MODA) swings back into action for “private, socially distanced, safe” visits on April 22 with a brand new exhibition titled Bike to the Future. Jointly developed by Design Museum Gent and the IMF Foundation, the new exhibition showcases the latest in bicycle design from across the world. It also notably includes examples of forward-thinking international bike infrastructure including, per the museum, 15 projects that were part of the 2019-2020 Bicycle Architecture Biennale along with local initiatives such as City Studio’s Peachtree Shared Street, Midtown Alliance’s bicycle infrastructure projects, and Peachtree Creek Greenway. A virtual exhibition will launch in the weeks following its physical debut; MODA also has a slew of complementary programming lined up through May and June that’s sure to please both design lovers, cycling enthusiasts, and proponents of people-powered transportation.

National Building Museum — Washington, D.C. (reopened April 9) 

After shuttering for planned renovations in December 2019, the National Building Museum remained closed throughout the duration of the pandemic, reopening its doors for the first time in well over a year on April 9 with a handful of special new exhibitions in addition to its ongoing exhibitions. Justice is Beauty: The Work of MASS Design Group, a showcase of the human dignity-improving output of the Boston nonprofit architecture firm MASS Design Group; the D.C. debut of the Gun Memorial Project, a tribute to the thousands of lives claimed by gun violence in the U.S. every year, designed by MASS Design Group with Hank Willis Thomas that will be shown in conjunction with Justice is Beauty and be free to all visitors, and Alan Karchmer: The Architects’ Photographer, an examination of the celebrated photographer as well as the practice of architectural photography writ large. Justice is Beauty and the Gun Memorial Project will be on display through September 22 while the Karchmer exhibition will run through June 22. Keep an eye out for AN’s upcoming review of the Gun Memorial Project.

It is worth noting that while the National Building Museum and numerous other private D.C. museums have reopened in recent weeks at a limited capacity, museums operated by the Smithsonian Institution (and the National Zoo) have yet to announce a reopening date although late May or early Jone are reportedly being considered. The Smithsonian closed its doors to the public on March 14, 2020, and reopened in phases beginning in July before closing again in late November due to a spike in infections.

Philadelphia Museum of Art (Frank Gehry-led interior expansion/renovation opens May 7)

The Philadelphia Museum of Art reopened to the public with health and safety precautions firmly in place in January. However, those who have been holding off on visiting should mark May 7 on their calendars, the date when a sizable swath of the landmark main museum building will reopen to the public following a four-year construction period. (You can see our preview of the dramatic Frank Gehry-led revamp here.) To coincide with the unveiling, the museum will debut Senga Nengudi: Topologies, the first major special exhibition to be presented at the institution in over a year. What’s more, two new gallery suites will be accessible as part of the museum’s makeover: the Robert L. McNeil, Jr. Galleries, will tell a “broader and more inclusive narrative of the development of early American art” from 1650­­­­–1850 with an emphasis on the “prominent role played by Philadelphia in this story,” according to the museum. The other, the Daniel W. Dietrich II Galleries, will zero in on the “creative spirit of Philadelphia today” and open with New Grit: Art & Philly Nowan exhibition of 25 contemporary artists with links to the City of Brotherly Love.

Walker Art Center – Minneapolis (reopened early February)

Although the galleries at the Walker Art Center reopened to a limited number of timed ticket-holding guests on February 4, there’s still a noteworthy major new exhibition opening on the near horizon. Opening May 15 and running through August 8, The Paradox of Stillness: Art, Object, and Performance showcases more than 100 works by some 60 international artists from the 20th century to today (Marina Abramović, Jordan Wolfson, Charles Ray, and Dennis Oppenheim are among them). The exhibition, which “examines the notion of stillness as both a performative and visual gesture,” also features up to 15 live performances to be activated in the Walker’s galleries or public spaces. Also set to debut at the Walker over the coming months is a new installation by Beirut-based artist Rayyane Tabet in his first commission by a U.S. museum. It will be on view starting June 12.