To Each, Their Own Exhibit

This fall’s best museum exhibitions come in different shapes and sizes

There are nearly as many different types of museum exhibitions as there are categories of art they display. Some delve into the art of a certain era or culture, some explore the breadth of a certain medium or style, some celebrate the body of work produced by a single person. Some exhibitions are permanent, some travel, some require a day’s commitment, some stay short and sweet. This fall, the options are varied enough that all museum-goers can all find something that suits both their schedules and tastes.

Pay what you wish at the Metropolitan Museum of Art to see Eighteenth Century Pastels, a display of some of the most important portraits and landscapes created by the likes of Mary Cassatt, Edgar Degas and Édouard Manet. Enormously popular in the 18th century Europe and Britain, the velvety substance was beloved for the intense vibrancy of its colors, which makes the portraits seem alive, even in this small Met gallery kept dim to prevent fading. The Met was gifted a batch of pastels in 1929, but works in the medium are a fairly new focus for the museum, which didn’t start seriously working to acquire a broader collection until 2002. The best of their current holdings are on display here through the end of December. (Through Dec. 29, 82nd St. at 5th Ave.)

Ten blocks down from the Met at the Frick Collection, a mere 15 paintings compose one of the most anticipated exhibitions of the year. On tour from The Hague, Vermeer, Rembrandt, and Hals: Masterpieces of Dutch Paintings from the Mauritshuis brings masterpieces from 17th century Holland, none of which have been displayed in the U.S. in a decade or more. Although small in number, the paintings vary in subject matter, bouncing between still lifes, portraits and landscapes and comprise a set of some of the most valued pieces from the Mauritshuis, one of the world’s most renowned pictorial art museums. The main attraction here is Johannes Vermeer’s “Girl With a Pearl Earring,” a haunting portrait of a young girl whose mysterious allure prompted the acclaimed novel as well as the 2003 film starring Scarlett Johansson. In the formal, European-style galleries of the Frick, this succinct but powerful exhibit will feel right at home. (Through Jan. 19, 70th St. at 5th Ave.)

Art is often notoriously reflects its surrounding culture, a purpose embodied in Behind Closed Doors: Art in the Spanish American Home, 1492-1989 at the Brooklyn Museum. The first exhibit of its kind in the U.S., it arranges approximately 160 paintings, sculptures, textiles and art objects into a visual time machine back to the Spanish colonies in America. Using art from the five centuries, the exhibit examines the society of creoles, indigenous peoples and New World elite societies of the time and all the social, political and religious hierarchies therein. A powerful disparity between the opulence of the wealthy, powerful colonists the exploitative horrors suffered by those they colonized surfaces quickly – a part of our nation’s birth that often sits quietly overlooked in the back of our historical knowledge. Allot more time than a quick jaunt (à la Frick) for this one, but as the museum backs up to Prospect Park and the Brooklyn Botanical Garden, a perfect fall day can easily be constructed around this art lesson in cultural consciousness. (Through Jan. 12, 200 Eastern Pkwy., Brooklyn)