The Biggest Art Shows and Exhibitions You Can’t Miss in 2024

It’s only mid January, yet the arts calendar for the year is already positively stacked. There’s “The Harlem Renaissance and Transatlantic Modernism” at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, an exhibition showcasing paintings, sculptures, and photographs to chronicle the famous artistic and social movement; the de Young’s show with Taiwanese-American artist Lee Mingwei, who is known for his installations that call for audience participation; and “O’Keeffe and Moore,” a celebration (and juxtaposition) of two major modernist artists at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. And that’s just in Q1. It’s a lot to keep track of, but fear not: we’ve put together a list of the highlights of this year in New York City, Los Angeles, and beyond. Consider this your grab-bag guide to the can’t-miss exhibitions of the season, and check back often—we’ll be updating this list as more events roll in throughout the year.

Kikuo Saito, ‘Color Codes,’ at James Fuentes Gallery

Kikuo Saito, Copper Table, 1993.

Courtesy of the artist and James Fuentes Gallery

To celebrate the opening of James Fuentes Gallery’s new space in New York City’s Tribeca neighborhood, the Lower East Side hub for contemporary art is mounting an exhibition fitting of such a watershed moment. From March 8 through April 20, the gallery will host the largest presentation to date of the Japanese-American artist Kikuo Saito. Dubbed Color Codes, the show centers Saito’s “Monochromatic” works—large-scale paintings he created during 1990-93 in his Tribeca studio (located just six blocks from the gallery’s new home at 52 White Street). This isn’t the first time James Fuentes has opened an exhibition featuring Saito’s works; in 2021, the gallery organized a presentation of Saito’s landmark pieces, all done in black. But this time, Color Codes focuses on a riot of bright and deep hues peppered with scribbled text and tacked-on lettering. Organized by former Whitney Museum and MoMA PS1 curator Christopher Y. Lew, the show epitomizes downtown art culture in New York City.

‘Patrick Martinez: Histories’ at Dallas Contemporary

Patrick Martinenz, fleeting bougainvillea landscape 1 stucco, 2023.

Photograph by Joshua White

Beginning April 3, Dallas Contemporary is bringing the largest show of painter Patrick Martinez’s inside its walls. ‘Histories,’ which opens April 3 and runs through September 1, will feature brand-new pieces as well as a hefty bite of Martinez’s past works—all of which aim to spotlight marginalized Latinx and BIPOC communities. The multimedia artist, who was born and raised in L.A., specializes in painting, but his approach calls for myriad materials and forms. The show, therefore, will include installations, neon works, and, of course, huge painted pieces. Curated by Rafael Barrientos Martínez, the exhibition’s location plays a special part. “With California and Texas both having the largest Latinx populations in the United States, DC is an ideal platform for showcasing Martinez’s powerful works, which unify immigrant and BIPOC communities through a strong, shared visual language,” said Dallas Contemporary’s executive director, Carolina Alvarez-Mathies.

‘Olivia Erlanger: If Today Were Tomorrow’ at CAMH

Olivia Erlanger, Ida (installation view) at Mother Culture, Los Angeles, 2018.

Image and work courtesy of the artist. Photo by Ilia Ovechkin

Meanwhile, farther south in Texas, the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston is mounting its newest exhibition, ‘Olivia Erlanger: If Today Were Tomorrow,’ which opens on April 20 and will be on view through October 28. Marking the artist’s first solo museum show in the United States, ‘If Today Were Tomorrow’ will include installation works, short film, and sculptures—all of which are brand-new. Erlanger’s practice in particular seeks to define what “home” means; these themes have absorbed her work for the past decade or so. For ‘ITWT’ specifically, Erlanger mulled “closed worlds,” what she defines as human-made, climate-controlled environments. And in a full-circle moment, the show will take place in Contemporary Arts Museum Houston’s cool subterranean space, the Nina and Michael Zilkha Gallery.

‘The Harlem Renaissance and Transatlantic Modernism’ at The Metropolitan Museum of Art

William Henry Johnson, Woman in Blue.

Courtesy of The Met

One of the most important Afro-American movements of the interwar period took place fewer than 25 blocks away from The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Now, The Met is paying homage to the Harlem Renaissance with a sprawling exhibition opening from February 25 to July 28. “The Harlem Renaissance and Transatlantic Modernism” features over 160 photographs, paintings, and sculptures from artists who were integral to the artistic and social movement, including Augusta Savage, Aaron Douglas, Charles Alston, William Henry Johnson, and many more. Additionally, there is some juxtaposition at play in “Harlem Renaissance”—some of the pieces are mounted next to European works by Henri Matisse and Edvard Munch that depict their ideas of the African diaspora.

‘Crafting Modernity: Design in Latin America’ at the MoMA

Roberto Burle Marx, Ibirapuera Park, Quadricentennial Gardens, project, São Paulo, Brazil (Plan, detail five ). 1953.

Courtesy of The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Inter-American Fund

From March 8 to September 22, 2024 the Museum of Modern Art will open its main exhibition of the year: an exploration of the birth and evolution of modern design in Latin America. “Crafting Modernity” features more than 300 pieces—including ceramics, textiles, furniture, and posters—from all kinds of 20th century design movements, including modernism and folkloric. The exhibition aims to demonstrate how Latin American designers (including pioneering artists like Clara Porset and Lina Bo Bardi, whose works are featured in the show) fused their local traditions, indigenous techniques, and industriousness to make objects that are beautiful, useful, and reflective of their cultures.

Lee Mingwei, ‘Rituals of Care’ at the de Young Museum

Lee Ming wei, Guernica in Sand, 2006-present.

Photo courtesy of Taipei Fine Arts Museum

Lee Mingwei’s installations hinge upon audience participation; the Taiwanese-American contemporary artist often creates works that contemplate human relationships. He likes to bring viewers into the fold, urging them to interact with him and his ideas (in one exhibition, titled “The Sleeping Project,” Mingwei invited visitors to sleep in a bed with him). Beginning in February, the de Young Museum in San Francisco is opening an exhibition that focuses on—and celebrates—Mingwei’s installations. On view at the show: “The Letter Writing Project,” in which museum-goers can write a note to a person who’s been on their mind, along with “Guernica in Sand,” where one of Picasso’s most famous artworks is redone in sand—then slowly erased.

Cauleen Smith, ‘The Wanda Coleman Songbook’ at 52 Walker

Cauleen Smith, Work in progress, 2023.

© Cauleen Smith. Courtesy the artist and 52 Walker, New York

For its tenth exhibition, the David Zwirner-backed NYC gallery 52 Walker is celebrating the work of the Los Angeles-based artist Cauleen Smith in an exhibition titled “The Wanda Coleman Songbook.” Smith—who is known for her 1998 feature film Drylongso, along with scores of other multimedia works—has created an immersive video installation for this show, one which explores the poems of Coleman through sight, sound, and even scent. Coleman, who passed away nine years ago and was largely viewed as the unofficial poet laureate of L.A., was a major source of inspiration for Smith, who looked to the writer’s work as a way to reconnect with Los Angeles after she moved away from the city for 16 years. Along with “Songbook,” there is a limited-edition EP featuring the likes of Kelsey Lu, Jamila Woods, and Standing on the Corner—all of whom created original songs for this exhibition specifically.

Cindy Sherman at Hauser & Wirth

Cindy Sherman, Untitled #659, 2023.

© Cindy Sherman. Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth

When you see a Cindy Sherman piece, there’s never a question as to which artist could have possibly made such a surreal, utterly captivating work (Sherman herself has confirmed as much about her mind-bending photographs: “When I’m shooting, I’m trying to get to a point where I’m not recognizing myself,” she has said). And on January 18, Hauser & Wirth’s downtown location in New York City will feature a solo show that celebrates 30 brand-new works. The area is a special one for Sherman in particular—in SoHo, during the late 1970s, she debuted “Untitled Film Stills” at the nonprofit Artists Space, launching her decades-long career that has cemented her as one of the most influential artists of this century.

Jamian Juliano-Villani, ‘It’ at Gagosian

Jamian Juliano-Villani, Spaghettios.

© Jamian Juliano-Villani. Photo by Rob McKeever, courtesy of Gagosian.

The New York City painter Jamian Juliano-Villani is known to draw from memes and fashion photography as sources of inspiration for her cheeky, hyperreal works. Beginning in March, she will be showing a range of new paintings at Gagosian Gallery surrounding the hero image, Spaghettios (2023), pictured above. Additionally, the show will feature the very first major publication encompassing Juliano-Villani’s oeuvre from 2013 to 2023.

Madeline Donahue, ‘Present Tense’ at Nina Johnson

Madeline Donahue, Floor Is Lava.

Photo courtesy of Nina Johnson and the artist

Madeline Donahue’s colorful paintings evoke both a lightness and a brutal honesty of the realities of motherhood. Come January 18, the Houston native, now based in New York City, will mount never-before-seen works at Nina Johnson gallery in Miami. Running through February 17, 2024, “Present Tense” will explore even more themes of intimacy, motherhood, and taking ownership of one’s life through 25 drawings and 12 paintings, including Red Studio—a piece that illustrates Donahue painting and her children playing in the downstairs studio of her new house. It was inspired by a Matisse work of the same name.

‘Georgia O’Keeffe and Henry Moore: Giants of Modern Art’ at MMFA

Henry Moore, Modèle de travail pour « Ovale avec pointes », 1968-1969.

Reproduced with authorization from the Henry Moore Foundation, photograph by Errol Jackson.

Georgia O’Keeffe, Série I – formes florales blanches et bleues, 1919.

© Georgia O’Keeffe Museum / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / CARCC Ottawa 2023

Meanwhile, in Montreal, the Canadian city’s Museum of Fine Arts is opening a large-scale exhibition that considers the works of two 20th-century artistic icons—the British sculptor Henry Moore and American painter Georgia O’Keeffe. Opening February 10, “Giants of Modern Art” juxtaposes their lives and artworks in parallel, and features over 120 of their most well-known works—all of which consider human beings’s place in, and connection to, the natural world.

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