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Cultured: 10 Museum Exhibits You Must See Before They Close

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Looking to inject a little arts and culture into your fall travel plans? TPG Assistant Editor Melanie Wynne shares her picks for the museum exhibits to catch in various cities around the world – before they close. 

Jeff Koons' "Banality" (1988)
Jeff Koons’ gilt, porcelain and ironic “Banality” (1988)

New York

Jeff Koons: A Retrospective – Whitney Museum of American Art
Closing October 19, 2014

Famed American artist Jeff Koons has a talent for inspiring controversy, and his pieces consistently sell for exorbitant prices, making this largest-ever exhibition of his artwork one of the season’s biggest blockbusters. Koons specializes in reinterpreting pop culture as fine art, as well as turning everyday objects like toys and household appliances into enormous, whimsical designs that are generally assembled by other artists under strict supervision by Koons himself. Showcasing 150 of his huge, bright and lurid paintings, inflatables, posters and statues created between 1978 and the present, this splashy exhibition features some of his most iconic works, including a pair of huge, shiny balloon-animal dogs, hyper-realistic paintings of Koons engaged in sexual acts with his former wife, Italian-Hungarian porn-star-turned-politician Cicciolina, and a white porcelain likeness of Michael Jackson and his chimp companion, Bubbles. Koons’ show will be the last one staged in the Whitney’s Upper East Side location, as in Spring 2015, the museum is moving into new digs (including an 8,500-square-foot outdoor plaza) adjacent to the High Line in the Meatpacking District.

Andrew Wyeth's tempera painting, "Wind from the Sea" (1947)
Andrew Wyeth’s tempera-on-hardboard “Wind from the Sea” (1947)

Washington, D.C.

Andrew Wyeth: Looking Out, Looking In – The National Gallery of Art
Closing November 30, 2014

The National Gallery is the only museum where you’ll ever see this special exhibit of Andrew Wyeth’s evocative window paintings, a collection inspired by their acquisition of “Wind From the Sea” (seen above) shortly after the painter’s death in 2009. One of the mid-20th century’s America’s most popular and harshly criticized artists, Wyeth’s unblinking focus on rural, often bleak American scenes and characters sparked dissent within the traditional art world of the 1940s and ’50s. He remains best known for “Christina’s World,” his iconic depiction of a paralyzed woman in a pink dress crawling across a field of tall grass toward a far-off house. In this exhibition, his window paintings are at once abstract and realistic, many of them detailed watercolors that illustrate Wyeth’s masterful skill as a draftsman, and all representing quiet, spare landscapes of Pennsylvania’s Brandywine River Valley and Maine’s central coast, the regions closest to this notoriously reclusive artist’s heart.

Jamie Wyeth's oil painting, "Kleberg" (1984)
Detail from “Kleberg,” Jamie Wyeth’s oil painting of one of his former dogs (1984)

Boston

Jamie WyethMuseum of Fine Arts Boston
Closing December 28, 2014

This first major retrospective of American artist Jamie Wyeth’s moody, quiet artwork features 100 paintings, illustrations and assemblages inspired by real people, animals, places and objects dear to Wyeth. A member of the famous Wyeth family of artists (which includes his grandfather, N.C., and his father, Andrew [see Washington, D.C., above]), Jamie, who is now in his 60s, had an unusual art education that involved studying anatomy in a New York City morgue and hanging around Andy Warhol’s studio, The Factory. This exhibition includes Wyeth’s portrait of John F. Kennedy, which was commissioned by family members after the former president’s death, and landscapes of the artist’s (as well as his father’s) two most beloved locales – the Brandywine River Valley and the central coast of Maine.

Rene Magritte's "Time Transfixed" (19
Rene Magritte’s surreal “Time Transfixed” (1938)

Chicago

Magritte: The Mystery of the Ordinary, 1926-1938The Art Institute of Chicago
Closing October 13, 2014

One of the 20th century’s most famous artists, Belgian Surrealist René Magritte created some of the most enduring and bizarre images ever committed to canvas, paper and more. Designed to illustrate the artist’s most inventive period, when he was heavily influenced by fellow Surrealists like Salvador Dalí and Joan Miró, this exhibition includes more than 100 of Magritte’s strange and arresting paintings, collages, drawings and objects, as well as personal photos and illuminating examples of his early commercial work.

John Constable's Salisbury Cathedral from the Bishop’s Ground, 1823, oil on canvas
John Constable’s oil-on-canvas “Salisbury Cathedral from the Bishop’s Ground” (1823)

London

Constable: The Making of a Master – Victoria & Albert Museum
Closing January 11, 2015

Though he was far from a commercial success in his own time, the modern legacy of 19th-century oil painter John Constable is that of Britain’s best loved artist. This rare and major retrospective of Constable’s work features 250 of his most accomplished sketches, oil studies and landscape paintings presented alongside works by the Old Masters who inspired him, such as Rubens and Rembrandt. Since Constable focused largely on the bucolic beauty of the northern English countryside, this exhibition would be a good substitute for a side trip to the Lake District if you won’t have time to leave the Big Smoke.

Marsden Hartley's "The Iron Cross" (1915)
Marsden Hartley’s “The Iron Cross” (1915)

Los Angeles

Marsden Hartley: The German Paintings 1913-1915Los Angeles County Museum of Art
Closing November 30, 2014

An influential American modernist painter in the first half of the 20th century, Marsden Hartley made an impression on New York art promoter and photographer Alfred Stieglitz (who gave Marsden his first major show) before making a splash in Berlin between 1913 and 1915. This LACMA exhibition of Marsden’s pieces, the first Southern California has seen in over 30 years, is composed of 25 of his colorful, dynamic oil paintings from this period, which feature interpretations of World War I military symbols and Native American motifs. Marsden would later become known as a proponent of America’s locally-focused Regionalism art movement, but his German-made pieces represent an overall spiritual and political shift in his bold body of work.

See also: 10 New Things to See in L.A. This Fall

Beatriz Milhazes' 72 x 75 accrylic painting, "Santo Antonio, Albuquerque" (1994)
Beatriz Milhazes’ hyper-detailed acrylic painting, “Santo Antonio, Albuquerque” (1994)

Miami

Beatriz Milhazes: Jardim Bôtanico – Peréz Art Museum Miami
Closing January 11, 2015

This is America’s first major US retrospective of the famed Brazilian artist’s dazzling, abstract and large-scale acrylic paintings, a body of work inspired by pop culture, a Baroque exaggeration of motion, and the colors and decorations of Brazil’s Carnival. Beatriz Milhazes’ unusual painting technique involves creating separate images of flowers, arabesques, lace patterns, etc. that she then adheres onto huge canvases and embellishes with further layers of hand-painted designs; the result is a bright, complex and textured combination of collage and graffiti.

See also: 10 New Things to See in Miami This Fall

Sir Edward Burne-Jones' medieval-inspired oil painting, "The Love Song" (1868–77)
Sir Edward Burne-Jones’ medieval-inspired oil painting, “The Love Song” (1868–77)

New York

The Pre-Raphaelite Legacy: British Art and Design
Dan Graham’s Hedge Two-Way Mirror Walkabout rooftop installation
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Closing October 26 and November 2, 2014

Originally a tight-knit group of young, inexperienced male painters, the Pre-Raphaelites took the British art world by storm in the second half of the 19th century, and were eventually joined by some of England’s most influential female artists. The romantic, classical and religious subject matter of artists like Sir Edward Burne-Jones and Dante Gabriel Rosetti was inspired by art from the medieval and early Renaissance (pre-dating the High Renaissance era of Italian painter Raphael) and resulted in a wide range of works, all of which are represented in this exhibition: paintings, drawings, furniture, ceramics, stained glass, textiles, and book illustrations. While you’re at the Met, be sure to head to the roof garden to get a last glimpse of architectural sculptor Dan Graham’s modern, glassy installation, “Hedge Two-Way Mirror Walkabout,” which will be dismantled and stored in the museum’s vaults after November 2, 2014.

See also: 10 New Things to See in New York This Fall

Tamara de Lempicka's oil painting, "Young Lady in Green" (1927)
Tamara de Lempicka’s oil-on-plywood “Young Lady in Green” (1927)

Paris

Plural Modernities from 1905 to 1970 – Centre Pompidou
Closing January 26, 2015

One of the most comprehensive exhibits of modern art ever presented, this show brings together over 1,000 works by 400 artists from 47 countries. Almost every conceivable medium is represented, from plastic to photography, film, architecture and design, and extends to fringe and “outsider” art from the 20th century. In addition to stars like Matisse, Mondrian and Picasso, the exhibition highlights little-known pioneers of art and design from the U.S., Africa, India, Latin America and the Middle East, as well as women who made their mark in the male-dominated art world of the 1920s, ’30s and ’40s, such as Frida Kahlo, Sonia Delaunay and Tamara de Lempicka.

Madrasa Al Attarine, Fez, Morocco
Madrasa Al Attarine, Fez, Morocco – inspiration for a huge exhibit this fall/winter at The Louvre

Paris

Medieval Morocco: An Empire from Africa to Spain – The Louvre
Opening October 21st, 2014 and closing January 19, 2015 

With 300 works ranging from architectural decoration to textiles, ivory carvings and calligraphy, this exhibition showcases the period from the 11th to 15th centuries, when Morocco’s surprisingly modern royal dynasties unified the western Islamic world and their political, commercial and cultural influence spread across several continents. Though the French capital has large Algerian and Moroccan immigrant communities, the art and architecture of the ancient Muslim world doesn’t get much coverage in Parisian museums, so this extensive exhibit has great potential to be popular; try to arrive near the Louvre’s opening hour of 9 a.m. (except Tuesday, when the museum is closed) to avoid the biggest crowds.

TPG Tips: Many museums offer free or discounted entry during certain hours and days of the week. The Chase Sapphire Preferred (my personal favorite credit card) is always a good bet for earning points during travel.

What art exhibition are you dying to catch this fall? What have you seen that really impressed you?
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