Enthralling Exhibits

Three of NYC’s most fascinating spring museum shows


Flowers aren’t the only things in full bloom this season in New York. The city’s museums currently host an array of intriguing exhibits that will fire your imagination and instigate stimulating discussions. For a burst of creative inspiration, look no further than these recommendations.

Not many musicians rate major museum retrospectives, but Björk, the innovative Icelandic composer and singer, is a truly worthy subject. The Museum of Modern Art’s multimedia exhibit, simply called Björk, draws from over 20 years of the artist’s work and eight albums, chronicling her career through sound, film, instruments, costumes, and other objects. The fun begins in MoMA’s lobby, where instruments used on Björk’s 2011 album Biophilia play songs throughout the day. On the second floor, one space contains a sound and video installation for the song “Black Lake” from the new album Vulnicura, while another room screens a retrospective of the artist’s legendary music videos. It all leads to Songlines, an interactive audio tour of Bjork’s career on the third floor, featuring highlights such as the dress, slippers and music box designed by Matthew Barney and Alexander McQueen for the “Pagan Poetry” video; the robots featured in the Chris Cunningham-directed “All Is Full of Love” video, and, yes, the infamous Swan Dress, designed by Marjan Pejoski. (Through 6/7, 11 W. 53rd St., Manhattan)

This month you can still catch Kehinde Wiley: A New Republic, the first-ever survey of the artist’s 14-year career, at The Brooklyn Museum. Wiley’s bright, bold depictions of contemporary African American men and women, presented in the style of formal, traditional portraiture, challenge ideas of race, history, gender and the politics of representation. The paintings are visually stunning, with intricately patterned floral backgrounds providing unexpectedly harmonious contexts for Wiley’s aristocratically posed subjects. These works are the result of a partnership between the artist and his models, many of them strangers he recruited on the street. In each case, the model chose a reproduction of a portrait from a book and reenacted the original subject’s pose. Some, like Willem van Heythuysen in which a young man in a tracksuit stands imperiously, hand on hip, are an outright homage to historical portraits of European pillars of society. The exhibit includes 60 paintings and sculptures including works from Wiley’s ongoing World Stage collection, for which he conducts his street casting in other countries, making for a global collaborative process. (Through 5/24, 200 Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn)

May marks the reopening of the Whitney Museum of American Art in its swanky new Renzo Piano-designed home in the Meatpacking District, and its inaugural exhibit is basically a celebration of everything the museum represents and is renowned for. America Is Hard to See is an unprecedented selection of works from the Whitney’s permanent collection, comprising approximately 650 pieces by some 400 artists, dating from about 1900 to the present. Purposely challenging the way art is traditionally presented, the show displays all artists and mediums without hierarchy, with rarely shown pieces side by side with familiar icons by Hopper, O’Keeffe, and Calder, among others. The resulting mix of eras, styles and ideas offers a fresh perspective on how American art has evolved over the past 115 years. Visitors will undoubtedly delight in rediscovering the old and encountering the new, not to mention exploring the fabulous new building and its sweeping views of the Hudson River. (Through 9/27, 99 Gansevoort Street, Manhattan)

(Photo Credit: Jason Wyche / Kehinde Wiley)