NYC Spring  Summer Museum Guide 2023 The Costume Institute  Beyond
David Heald/Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation
News & Advice

The New York City Art Exhibits to Hit This Spring & Summer

Starring a Yayoi Kusama installation, Karl Lagerfeld retrospective, and multiple Picasso spotlights.

Get thee to New York’s museums and get thee to them now. Life in the Big Apple begins anew in springtime and arriving with it is a bounty of new exhibitions and goings-on at the city’s many museums and cultural institutions. The first Monday in May heralds the start of the most anticipated of them all—a new installation at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute, christened by the annual Met Gala extravaganza. But aside from this, the Met and its peers are just as busy with a myriad of other exhibits to cater to every type of museum-goer—find our guide below.

David Zwirner Gallery, 19th Street

Spanning three of David Zwirner’s gallery spaces—located side-by-side at 519, 525, and 533 West 19th Street—and running from May 11-July 21, I Spend Each Day Embracing Flowers is one of the most ambitious gallery displays of the beloved Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama’s work to date. It’s also all new—new sculptures next to new paintings next to a brand new infinity mirror installation. The exhibition is free and operates on a first-come, first-served basis, and each visitor’s time within the Infinity Mirrored Room is clocked to ensure that everyone who shows up will get a chance to see it for themselves. 

At David Zwirner, Yayoi Kusama's I Spend Each Day Embracing Flowers includes three new sculptures featuring one of the artist's recurring motifs, pumpkins. 

Installation view, Yayoi Kusama: I Spend Each Day Embracing Flowers
YAYOI KUSAMA/Courtesy of David Zwirner

Senior editor Megan Spurrell checked it out: “You're going to wait in a long line to get into the infinity room—it was at least 50-75-people deep when I dropped by at lunchtime on a Tuesday—though you can subscribe to David Zwirner's email list for a chance to cut the queue. Inside, it is pretty amazing—and a lot more colorful than most of her other infinity rooms. The good news: It's totally free, and you can just walk in off the street, zero wait, to the hangar-style space housing her massive flower sculptures."

Knockdown Center

If you’ve heard of Knockdown Center in Maspeth, Queens, it’s probably in its context as a music venue. Indeed, the multipurpose space will, per usual, host a bevy of exciting programming in the summer months—Wire Festival, an unofficial summer kick-off, is a celebration of international electronic music that runs from May 19-20 and brings DJs, art installations, panel discussions, and more to the Center’s enormous atrium. All the while, Knockdown’s sprawling industrial campus houses temporary art exhibitions that are worth checking out. Artists are encouraged, at present and on a rolling basis, to submit self-designed flags to the Philip von Zweck project Temporary Allegiance—selected flags will fly for two weeks each from the 40-foot flagpole that greets visitors at Knockdown Center’s entrance. In collaboration with Queens gallery Mrs., there’s also the new mural Vessels by Mark Mulroney, which is on display in the East Corridor through September 4.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Following the Met Gala festivities, the Costume Institute’s 2023 exhibition opens to the public on May 5. A dedicated love letter to the career of the late Karl Lagerfeld—the creative director that made Chanel, Fendi, and Chloé the brands they are today—Karl Lagerfeld: A Line of Beauty collages some 150 pieces of clothing from the aforementioned houses (ranging from his first creative expressions in the 1950’s to his final 2019 Chanel collection) with the designer’s sketches and other juxtaposed multimedia footage.

A dress from Chanel's Spring/Summer Haute Couture 2019 collection, Lagerfeld's penultimate showing with the brand, on display at the Met's Costume Institute.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art/Julia Hetta

A sketch of the same Chanel dress, also on display at the Costume Institute.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

The exhibition presupposes that most modern designers (read: anyone designing clothes in a post-Lagerfeld world) strive to take on Lagerfeld’s legacy in one way or another. His artistic pursuits—meticulous sketching, namely, and an obsession with modernity—are only part of this. Lagerfeld-as-impresario—the discerning, collecting, black-and-white uniform-donning personality—some would say almost eclipsed his work. Each room presents contrasting lines of interest for Lagerfeld; artisanal versus mechanical, floral versus geometric, rococo versus classical. But things get interesting when they drop that approach in the final room and focus on the satirical—this room is full of tongue-in-cheek references to Lagerfeld’s own celebrity as well as some unexpected acts of kitsch, camp, and whimsy (think a dress embroidered with a candlestick so that the wearer’s head pops out of the wick).

If you find yourself at the Met on or after May 22, you’d be remiss to miss out on Van Gogh’s Cypresses, which will run through August 27.

Museum of the Moving Image

Astoria’s fabulous Museum of the Moving Image launched Cinema of Sensations: The Never-Ending Screen of Val del Omar in March—this is the first major stateside exhibition of Spanish photographer José Val del Omar’s immersive cinematic works. Open through October 1, this exhibit functions almost as a deconstructed film—museumgoers effectively step through the camera and into scenes, moving amid Val del Omar’s photographs, archival materials, films, and inventions. International contemporary artists—everyone from Sally Golding and Matt Spendlove to Basque filmmaking pair Duo Prismáticas (comprised of Aitziber Olaskoaga and Pilar Monsell)—have supplied pieces to further augment the experience. 

Elsewhere at MoMI, The Jim Henson Exhibition is an ongoing tribute to its namesake’s work on shows like The Muppets, Sesame Street, The Dark Crystal, Labyrinth, and more. Be sure to say hello to Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, Elmo, Big Bird, and all of their friends (47 puppets are included in a collection of some 300 total artifacts).

The American Museum of Natural History

Across Central Park on the Upper West Side, a whole new building at the American Museum of Natural History makes its debut. The Richard Gilder Center for Science, Education, and Innovation opened May 4 and, among many other things, brings all kinds of bugs to NYC. Manhattan’s newest residents live in the Gilder Center’s vast and impressive insectarium and vivarium, which between them account for all sorts of butterflies and some 500,000 leafcutter ants, among others. There’s also Invisible Worlds, an immersive experience that will have even skeptics of such installations (that have swept through cities the world over since Van Gogh’s swirls starred in an episode of Emily in Paris a few years back) darting around guiding water through root systems with their feet. The true highlight, whether or not you're a fan of architectural wizardry, is the Jeanne Gang-designed building itself. Swirling upward with no dead ends and an artfully-incorporated Collections Core, this Derinkuyu-esque beauty fills the viewer with a wonder so childlike that this writer may or may not have teared up a bit at the sheer joy of getting to walk around in it.

Brooklyn Museum's Africa Fashion is a multimedia project featuring, among many other things, photography from artists like Sanlé Sory (born Burkina Faso, 1943), whose work Je Vais Décoller is seen here. 

Sanlé Sory/Tezeta/Courtesy David Hill Gallery

Brooklyn Museum

Manhattan is not the only borough with an exceptional fashion exhibition in the coming months. The Brooklyn Museum, located a few blocks east from Grand Army Plaza and the mouth of Prospect Park, is preparing to open Africa Fashion on June 23. This will be the largest-ever presentation of its kind in North America, highlighting the continent’s creativity and global impact from the independence era’s beginning to today. With an eye towards the future, the exhibit will feature fashions from contemporary designers including Thebe Magugu (South Africa), Lafalaise Dion (Côte d’Ivoire), and Gouled Ahmed (Djibouti), as well as some very exciting names that have yet to be announced. If last autumn’s fabulous Mugler exhibit is any indication, this will be very special. 

The Brooklyn Museum is also bracing for the opening of the city’s buzziest Picasso retrospective (there will be more to come as part of the global Picasso celebrations to mark 50 years since the iconic painter’s death). It’s Pablo-matic: Picasso According to Hannah Gadsby opens June 2—do not let the pun of the title, nor questions around comedian Gadsby serving as curator, deter you from attending. This exhibition promises prominent Picasso pieces from the Musée Picasso, Museum of Modern Art, and the museum’s own as well as private collections for your viewing pleasure, along with conversation with twentieth- and twenty-first century feminist artists such as Cindy Sherman and Laurie Simmons. 

Whitney Museum of American Art

Now through August, the Whitney is presenting Jaune Quick-to-See Smith: Memory Map, the first New York retrospective on the long-undersung Confederated Salish and Kootenai Nation artist. On display here are Smith’s drawings, prints, paintings, and sculptures, fine examples of American Pop art and Neo-Expressionism. Within the same window, the museum has Josh Kline: Project for a New American Century—a collection of moving image, science-fiction works examining the potential futures on our horizon with an eye towards the climate crisis.

Installation view of Georgia O’Keeffe: To See Takes Time, on view at MoMA from April 9 through August 12, 2023

Jonathan Dorado

Museum of Modern Art

The folks at MoMa’s main headquarters are busy as ever, with five major exhibitions on the docket for the spring and summer season. Already underway through August 12, Georgia O’Keeffe: To See Takes Time showcases over 120 pieces from four decades of O’Keeffe’s portfolio—expect works on paper and key paintings sorted by their key motifs for a better appreciation of the ideas O’Keeffe would return to time and time again.

Coming soon to Midtown is The Encounter: Barbara Chase-Riboud/Alberto Giacometti (May 5-October 9), a collection inspired by the Paris meeting of two expatriate sculptors in 1962. Then, American Barbara Chase-Riboud paid the first of several visits to Swiss sculptor Alberto Giacometti’s Montparsse studio. Now, their sculptures will share a gallery at MoMA in celebration of what became a shared visual language. MoMA’s New Photography exhibition series also returns on May 28, this time featuring seven artists from Lagos’s art community.


Over in Long Island City, MoMA PS1 has no less on offer than its sister institution. The highlight here is Standing on the Corner: Seven Prepared Pianos for the Seven African Powers (June 1–October 9), where avant-garde musical ensemble Standing on the Corner will unveil an exciting audiovisual exhibition concerned with the African and Puerto Rico diasporic communities in New York City. Plan your visit around set performance dates, to be announced, for live accompaniment, but even if you wind up wandering through during off-hours, you’ll still be able to enjoy the installation.

Installation view of Sarah Sze: Timelapse, Slice, 2023 on view at the Guggenheim from March 31—September 10, 2023

David Heald/Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation

 Artist Sarah Sze at work on the installation.

Deborah Feingold

Soloman R. Guggenheim Museum

A more romantic take on Picasso can be found at the Guggenheim, where Young Picasso in Paris will open May 12 and run through August 6. With just 10 works, all created within a single year of the artist’s stay in the French capital, this is an intense yet lovely look at a lesser-known period of Picasso’s career with the Guggenheim collection’s own Le Moulin de la Galette (1900) as the star. Guggenheim’s other two exhibitions Sarah Sze: Timelapse and Gego: Measuring Infinity opened on March 31 and run through September 10—the former, full of Sze’s site-specific interventions meditating on the digital age; the latter, a stimulating collection of sculpture and textile from one of the great twentieth-century artists. 

The Morgan Library & Museum

Utterly austere and always educational, a visit to Murray Hill’s Morgan Library would be worthwhile even if the built-in bookshelves and paneled walls inside were totally barren. This historic site, once the private library of financier J. Pierpont Morgan, is beautiful for its architecture old and new (Renzo Piano oversaw an expansion of the site in 2006). Joining the already impressive permanent collection—an original copy of the Declaration of Independence, a handwritten Mozart score, et cetera et cetera—this summer are a bevy of temporary exhibitions. Most eye-catching is Blaise Cendrars (1887–1961): Poetry Is Everything, which runs May 26 through September 24 and features the poetics of the globetrotting Cendrars, who in his life called Switzerland, St. Petersburg, New York City, São Paulo, and Paris home. The installation fuses Cendrars’s work with visual arts—expect to see juxtaposed work from Jean Cocteau, Igor Stravinsky, and more.