16 Art Museum Exhibits Worth Traveling for in 2023
From classic impressionism to creative takes on sculpture, there's something for everyone.
Art museums aren't stuffy institutions that leave you with lingering bad memories of grade-school field trips; they're places to appreciate beauty in culture, past and present. Like always, this year's exhibitions across the globe feature both new and exciting voices that reflect the changing nature of the art world, retrospectives of masters, collections of forgotten artists, and more. Below, you'll find 16 art exhibits that we think are worth making it to in 2023.
December 9, 2022 – May 14, 2023
Intuit: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art (Chicago)
Tarik Echols builds architecture from letters, symbols, and words like “home” and “mother.” He layers repeated elements one atop one another until the signs lose their meaning and morph into multidimensional environments resembling tornadoes or amusement parks. The crayon-on-paper drawings depict fireworks of language, multiplying exponentially before melting into pure form. Echols has worked for more than 15 years at art programs run by Little City, a nonprofit supporting people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in Palatine, Illinois.
December 18, 2022 – June 19, 2023
Los Angeles County Museum of Art
In New Mexico, in the late 1930s, nine artists including Emil Bisttram, Robert Gribbroek, and Florence Miller formed the Transcendental Painting Group, a collective devoted to painting spiritual concepts, subconscious symbols, and imaginary realms. “They believe that painting can be a means of expressing abstract elements and that through a relationship of spirit—feeling and non-representative or non-objective forms can be created,” the University of New Mexico wrote in 1939. The pieces in this collection depict spirals, orbs of light, crepuscular caves, and slanted rectangular shapes, illustrating an eternal topography of the human imagination. The colors range from gentle pastels to kaleidoscopic explosions of color. Fans of “Desert Transcendentalist,” a show of mystical landscapes that appeared at the Whitney in 2020, by Agnes Pelton”—who was voted into the group in absentia—will enjoy seeing her collaborators and friends.
January 14 – April 2
Whitney Museum (NYC)
Every Ocean Hughes’ “One Big Bag” is a performance film about a millennial death doula and her “corpse care” practices. On screen, the doula recites a monologue about how to tend to a body after death; cotton swabs, snacks, makeup palettes, and ritual bells dangle at various heights in the immersive exhibition space. With humor and confrontational physicality, Hughes invites viewers to consider their chosen approach to dying and reflect on the many inequities within our death-care system. Hughes’ upcoming exhibition at the Whitney features “One Big Bag,” as well as a new commission for the museum about a community with the ability to make crossings to and from the underworld. The artist continues her exploration of the end of life—and other thresholds—through a queer and urgent lens.
February 16 – August 6
Colombian-born, New York-based artist María Berrío collages torn pieces of Japanese paper with watercolor to create her large, textured paintings that exist in the intersection of poetry, politics, history, and fable. Her upcoming exhibition adapts the experiences of women and children at the border into a magical realist meditation on freedom and displacement. The show’s title – “The Children’s Crusade” – references the 1212 historical sensation in which, according to lore, children walked through France and Italy to convert Muslims to Christianity. Berrío merges the past with the present, the future, and a bit of make believe. In one painting, rows of girls in formal dresses tenderly cradle birds in their laps. In another, young boys ride goats and horses on a carousel, perhaps wishing their porcelain animals would break free and gallop away.
March 2 – June 4
New Museum (NYC)
Wangechi Mutu, a Kenyan-born multidisciplinary artist, uses mythic imagery and a collage mentality to address historical violence and imagine a more fertile future. More than 100 works of painting, collage, drawing, sculpture, and film made over the last quarter century will take over the entire New Museum. Expect lots of hybrid creatures at once glamorous and grotesque. “I’m interested in powerful images that strike chords embedded deep in the reservoirs of our unconscious,” Mutu told the Museum of Modern Art. On view will be Mutu’s 2003 diptych “Yo Mama,” a tribute collage to Funmilayo Anikulapo-Kuti, a feminist activist and Fela Kuti’s mother. Anikulapo-Kuti appears as an uncanny biblical Eve, cut and pasted from glamorous magazine clippings, stabbing a headless serpent with her stiletto heel.
March 4 – July 23
North Carolina Museum of Art
This will be Michael Richards’—a Costa Rican and Jamaican artist who died in the attacks on September 11, 2001—first museum retrospective. Richards was interested in aviation as a symbol of freedom, specifically as an escape from the violence and injustice facing Black Americans on the ground. His work frequently references the Tuskegee Airmen, the first African American pilots in United States military history to serve in World War II. In his 1999 sculpture “Tar Baby vs. St. Sebastian,” a life-sized bronze cast of an Airmen is pummeled by toy airplanes, alluding to the martyr Saint Sebastian.
March 16 – May 28
American Folk Art Museum (NYC)
“What That Quilt Knows About Me” is an exhibit comprised of around 40 quilts made between the 19th and 21st centuries. Constructed from a variety of materials, ranging from yarn to paint to plastic bags, the quilts are united in their ability to store and reflect an understanding of the people and places that made them. Though some of the quilts are traditional, many expand the notion of what materials and techniques even constitute a quilt. “Whig Rose and Swag Border Quilt,” a 19th-century piece with flattened red roses arranged in a grid, was likely made by sisters Ellen and Margaret Morton, who were enslaved at a Kentucky Plantation known as “The Knob.” A handwritten label pinned to the quilt identifies its makers.
March 24 – August 13
High Museum (Atlanta)
George Voronovsky was born in a small village in eastern Ukraine in 1903, and enjoyed a happy childhood before he was interned in a German concentration camp during World War II. After the war, he immigrated to the United States where he worked as a train car cleaner and upholsterer in Philadelphia. In the 1970s, Voronovsky retired in Miami Beach and promptly transformed the hotel room where he lived into an immersive altar to self expression. Voronovsky spent the final phase of his life creating “memory paintings” in the hopes of revisiting his idyllic youth. In these sunny depictions of Old World Ukraine, colorful fish, birds, boats, and humans coexist in a bustling and symbiotic dance. Though he had no intentions to exhibit or sell work, Voronovsky also crafted sculptures made from styrofoam ice chests, tin cans, washed up debris, and pizza boxes. He topped off his pieces with poetic titles like “My Brothers and Me, in the Forest Collecting Eggshells and Snakeskin to Have the Beauty of Nature II.”
April 20 – September 4
MoMA PS1 (NYC)
Daniel Lind-Ramos is a Puerto Rican artist who builds totemic figures from found materials such as basketballs, gardening tools, and hand sanitizer. The sculptures, which resemble religious icons, rehash personal memories, Afro-Caribbean cultural traditions, geopolitical narratives—and assume an otherworldly presence of their own. “María, María,” a 5-foot multimedia sculpture featured in the 2019 Whitney Biennial addressed the damage caused by Hurricane Maria, which devastated Puerto Rico in 2017, while toying with the promise of protection associated with the Virgin Mary. Made with coconuts and the trunk of a palm tree, the looming figure resembles a divine mother. She is dressed in royal blue robes, made from Federal Emergency Management Agency tarps.
April 20 – September 3
Tate Modern (London)
For centuries, French painter Piet Mondrian was the artist typically credited with inventing abstraction in the trajectory of Western art history. However, the Guggenheim’s groundbreaking Hilma af Klint exhibition threw this narrative into question, showcasing the Swedish artist’s overlooked abstract paintings created decades prior to Mondrian’s. An observational artist turned mystic, Klint identified as a medium visualizing unseen realms communicated to her by spirit guides or “High Masters.” She created towering and colorful canvases depicting snail shells, dancing flowers, coiling whorls, and a language of her own invention. Her work was so ahead of its time, it was never exhibited until 1986. This upcoming Tate Modern exhibition places Mondrian and Klint side-by-side, exploring the distinct ways the artists employed abstraction to better understand nature, spirit, and life.
April 21 – September 3
Menil Collection (Houston)
In 1957, Polish-born artist Si Lewen published “The Parade,” a wordless black-and-white graphic novel that examines the devastating, sometimes seductive, and all too predictable cycles of war. Lewen—a Jewish refugee from Nazi Germany—chronicles the celebratory aftermath of World War I and moves through the rise of Hitler, the terrors of World War II, and the celebrations after it ends. The exhibition includes the original drawings that comprise this groundbreaking and obscure book alongside additional sketches made during its preparation. In the shadowy, graphite drawings, human figures blur into geometric patterns, mirroring the way people become embroiled in the rituals of war. At one point, children wearing paper hats are play-fighting, but their make-believe weapons are replaced with real ones, and the cycle begins anew.
June 23 – September 3
St. Louis Museum of Art
In 2008, the Saint Louis Art Museum presented “Action/Abstraction: Pollock, de Kooning, and American Art, 1940–1976,” a glimpse into the post-World War II art movement that eschewed representation in favor of experimentation. Now, 15 years later, the museum expands upon the exhibition with a focus on the Native American artists who contributed to the tradition. “Action/Abstraction Redefined” features around 90 works of modern and contemporary Native art from artists including Fritz Scholder, Lloyd Kiva New, and Linda Lomahaftewa—a Hopi-Choctaw artist based in New Mexico whose vibrant paintings zoom in on plant stalks, rising suns, and spirals until they become landscapes unto themselves. The works buck stereotypes of what Native Art can be, often combining traditional styles with mainstream, modern trends. The result tears the Abstract Expressionist movement open at the seams, illuminating the blind spots of categorization and art-historical memory.
June 23 – October 22
Orange County Museum of Art
In Chinese artist Yu Ji’s “Flesh in Stone” series, parts of the human body are cast in concrete, exhibited as bits and pieces familiar yet anonymous. Plump cheeks and bent knees morph from human body parts to components of a built environment, highlighting the interrelatedness of people and the spaces they occupy. Her upcoming exhibition will also feature a new piece made in response to the curved architecture of the Orange County Museum of Art’s mezzanine, further exploring the possibilities that emerge when the distinctions between humans and their surroundings blur.
July 29 – November 27
Art Institute of Chicago
Remedios Varo is a Mexican Surrealist artist who famously declared “the dream world and the real world are the same.” Varo, who was born in Spain, learned mechanical and observational drawing from her father, a hydraulic engineer. In the 1930s, she relocated to Paris where she soaked up Surrealist and modernist ideas. A decade later, Varo fled Fascism and emigrated to Mexico, where she became close friends with Leonora Carrington. In Varo’s elaborate and fantastical paintings, solitary and otherworldly female characters wear robes of ocean waves, prophesize symbols in crystal chalices, and lock eyes with their feline companions. Her sharp and controlled style contrasts with her phantasmagoric content, which spans astrology, zoology, domesticity, religion, cosmogony, botany, and alchemy.
October 18, 2023 – January 14, 2024
Cleveland Museum of Art
Ballerinas, exit stage right. An upcoming exhibition at the Cleveland Museum of Art, subtitled Women, Work, and Impressionism in Late 19th-Century Paris, will feature 30 Degas works featuring laundresses, united for the very first time. The laundress, responsible for washing, ironing, and carrying clothing, was typically overworked, overlooked, and underpaid; she often financially supported herself through sex work on the side. Degas’ works on the subject place strenuous, domestic later center stage, exploring gender and class as expressed through the laundresses’ toiling bodies. The show will also feature work by Degas’ contemporaries, including Berthe Morisot and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, along with other cultural artifacts featuring the laundress.
October 26 – December 3
Aurie Ramirez is an artist who has worked since the early 1980s out of Creative Growth, a studio supporting artists with physical, intellectual, and developmental disabilities in Oakland, California. Her delicate watercolors depict a kinky fairy-tale world featuring harlequin jesters, sentient clouds, goth centaurs, flying pizza slices, and candy colored lingerie. Ramirez—a superfan of the band KISS and the Addams Family—combines punk rock and happily ever in hallucinatory visions that feel ripped from a NSFW storybook. Her paintings are not just visual, but musical, delicious, erotic, and full of joy.