Art Break

See three of the most fascinating exhibits the city has to offer.

March is a big transition month in New York City, as the last gray days of winter gradually give way to spring warmth and sunshine. With temperatures veering unpredictably between chilly and balmy, it’s a great time to visit the city’s many fantastic museums, a safe bet for a satisfying dose of art and culture. Here are a few current highlights.

Among several worthwhile exhibits at the Metropolitan Museum of Art is Thomas Hart Benton’s America Today Mural Rediscovered. Benton, the Missouri-born painter famous for his colorful, stylized murals depicting everyday Americans at work and play, was a major figure in the Regionalist art movement. Though best known for scenes of his native Midwest, Benton lived and taught in New York for many years. The magnificent America Today, finished in 1931, is one of his most significant works. The room-sized mural is comprised of 10 canvas panels showing a lively panorama of American life throughout the 1920s. Originally commissioned for a boardroom at the New School of Social Research in Greenwich Village, it is displayed in a space resembling the room in which it first hung. Various panels represent areas of the U.S. (South, West, Midwest, and New York City) in addition to themes such as modern industry (Instruments of Power) and the Great Depression (Outreaching Hands). A neighboring gallery includes character and compositional studies that Benton created for the figures and scenes that appear in the great mural. (Through 4/19, 1000 Fifth Avenue at 82nd Street, Manhattan)

The Brooklyn Museum excels at presenting art in fascinating new contexts and its long-term exhibit Double Take: African Innovations is no exception. This experimental installation, a phase in the ongoing expansion of the museum’s African collection, celebrates the continent’s long tradition of artistic creativity by exploring themes that link seemingly disparate works. The main gallery features nearly 40 objects — many of them recent acquisitions — arranged in pairs or small groups, highlighting similarities in subject or technique, and creating new ways of looking at African art. For instance, the symbol-heavy 2008 painting Looking Back Into the Future, by Ghaniaian artist Owusu-Ankomah, is paired with an ancient hieroglyph-inscribed funerary figure of the Nubian king Senkamanisken. An adjacent annex containing 150 additional artworks invites visitor responses, including suggestions for themes that might be explored in future exhibits. It’s a collaborative experience on several levels. (Ongoing, 200 Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn)

So popular was Cervantes’ comic masterpiece Don Quixote after publication in the early 17th century, it inspired numerous manifestations of art, all across Europe. Most remarkable was the work of Charles Coypel, court painter to France’s Louis XV, who created 28 paintings depicting various scenes from the novel, later woven into tapestries by the renowned Parisian manufactory Gobelins. The Frick Collection’s splendid exhibit Don Quixote Tapestries: Illustrating a Spanish Novel in Eighteenth-Century France features five of those original paintings, on loan from the Palais Impérial de Compiègne and the Musée Jacquemart-André in Paris. Additionally, there are three Gobelins tapestry panels from the J. Paul Getty Museum, and two Flemish tapestries inspired by Coypel from the Frick’s permanent collection. Completing the exhibit are 18 books and prints from the Hispanic Society of America. (Through 5/17, 1 East 70th Street, Manhattan)