The Top 50 Exhibitions of 2023

In the midst of a hyper-charged news cycle throughout 2023, we still managed to see a lot of art and celebrate creativity in all its glorious permutations. We asked Hyperallergic staff and contributors to send us a list of their favorite art exhibitions and experiences this year and we’ve compiled this from that call for submissions. The list may be thin on biennials, since we’re mostly bored of them (who isn’t?), but it’s heavy on work by artists who continue to drive the conversations that artists, critics, curators, art historians, and the public are eager to have. —Hrag Vartanian, Editor-in-Chief and Co-founder


1. Vermeer

Johannes Vermeer, “Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window” (1657–58), oil on canvas (Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, Dresden, photo by Wolfgang Kreische)

The presence of Catholicism was perhaps the most surprising part of seeing this comprehensive collection of Vermeer paintings in one place. Accompanying this blockbuster of blockbuster shows about the enigmatic 17th-century Dutch artist, the Rijksmuseum released new scholarship arguing that his famous relationship to light was likely influenced by the then-young Jesuit order, whose station in Delft was next to Vermeer’s home. The most iconic paintings were present — such as “Girl with a Pearl Earring,” “The Milkmaid,” and “Woman Holding a Balance” — and they’re accompanied by lesser-known works that are explicitly religious, such as his first known painting, “Christ in the House of Mary and Martha.” The catalogue and online experience, which includes the ability to zoom into paintings to see the brushstrokes in detail, made this rare, exclusive show a little more accessible to global audiences. Divine or not, the Rijksmuseum proved that Vermeer’s work continues to delight, with his iconic subjects caught in a moment when the world was much larger than we imagined and yet somehow deep, meaningful, and magical. —AX Mina

Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, Netherlands (rijksmuseum.nl)
February 10—June 4, 2023
Curated by Gregor J.M. Weber, Pieter Roelofs, with assistance from a team of scientists


2. Xu Bing: Gravitational Arena

Xu Bing has never gotten the kind of serious attention he deserves in the United States. Best known for “Book from the Sky’ (1987–91), an installation of hand-printed books, ceiling and wall scrolls of approximately 4,000 meaningless ideograms, Bing’s exploration of the written word is unrivaled What I have long suspected became obvious when I saw his vertiginous exhibition, Xu Bing: Gravitational Arena at the Museum of Art Pudong (MAP) in Shanghai, China. Within an enclosed, four-story space in the museum — which no one had used previously in its entirety — Bing installed a funnel of words descending from the ceiling until it ended in the mirrored floor, which gave the illusion of doubling its length and subverted the viewer’s sense of architecture’s stability. Made of 1,600 die-cut words written in Bing’s brilliant invented “square word calligraphy,” which transforms English words into something that resembles a Chinese ideogram, “Gravitational Arena” reimagines reading as an act of deciphering and piecing together. Bing uses text from Ludwig Wittgenstein, whose writings have inspired a number of American conceptual artists, most notably Mel Bochner and Joseph Kosuth, who tended to be literal in their use of his writing. In “Gravitational Arena,” Bing makes Wittgenstein’s opaque writing into a constantly changing construction whose legibility depends on where the viewer is standing. Some of the words are elongated, as if the funnel’s downward gravitational pull has distorted them. There is no vantage point where the entire text can be seen. No matter where you see the funnel of words from, the experience is delightful, confounding, challenging, and absurd. —John Yau

Museum of Art Pudong, Shanghai, China (museumofartpd.org.cn)
August 12, 2022–June 6, 2024
Organized by the museum


3. Modern Love, Love in the Age of Cold Intimacies

Left: Marge Monko’s “I Don’t Know You, So I Can’t Love You” (2018); right: Hannah Toticki’s “Touch Screen Protection Rings” (2019) (photos Hrag Vartanian/Hyperallergic)

There are some shows you don’t want to let go because they become part of your consciousness in a way that refuses to stay fixed. This sprawling exhibition at a German beer factory turned contemporary art destination in Athens focused on the contemporary landscape of love and its strange intimacies and — sometimes — messy manifestations.

There’s the shitty, racist boyfriend (David Haines and his absolutely obnoxious “Dereviled,” 2013, which strangely focuses on BIPOC churches as a hub for homophobia; thankfully the curator tempered the manspreading of the work — which is intentional, though I doubt he’d use that word to describe it — by providing a curtain and walls). There’s also Marge Monko’s “I Don’t Know You, So I Can’t Love You” (2018) and “Dear D” (2015), which creates a few sparks of love between virtual assistants, the starfuckery and corporal specters in Duran Lantink’s layered “Old Stock Collection: Look 3 (Purple Vagina Face)” (2019), Lauren Lee McCarthy’s chaotic dating experiment in “Social Turkers” (2013), Hannah Toticki’s marvelous creations offering technology or fashion as avatars of intimacy, Julie Jacques’s meditative “You Will Be Free” (2017) that focuses on a Jorge Luis Borges character who is “granted a miracle, a suspension of time that allows him to finish his book till the end of the night before his end” (sign me up!), Gabriel Abrantes’s “Artificial Humors” (2016) about a love affair between an Indigenous Amazonian and a flying robot, and the same artist’s collaboration with Benjamin Crotty to create the poetic “Liberdade” (2011), where one of the characters robs a pharmacy for viagra and admits later that “Nothing helps me get hard. I don’t know why.” All of it was brilliant. 

But the core of the show for me was Candice Breitz’s “TLDR” (2017), which I consider one of the true artistic masterpieces of the 21st century. Breitz worked with a group of sex workers in Cape Town to tell a complicated story of empowerment and sexuality that pokes its finger in the eyes of well-meaning, if toxic, celebrities, and overlays protest songs on a larger story of how privilege is used to help grassroots struggles. Curator Katerina Gregos deserves accolades for this achievement. I was only sad I couldn’t go back again and again throughout the year to deconstruct my own responses and document how they changed when faced with this rich conversation about love in a time of growing war, hate, and pain. —Hrag Vartanian

National Museum of Contemporary Art Athens, Greece (emst.gr)
December 15, 2022–May 28, 2023
Curated by Katerina Gregos


4. Philip Guston Now

Philip Guston, “Wharf” (1976) (photo Seph Rodney/Hyperallergic)

The Philip Guston show at the National Gallery was all a retrospective show should be. It was comprehensive, exploratory, inquisitive, and grand. Before this, I never knew that Guston tried his hand at Surrealism and even Social Realism painting. He did, and the canvases displayed deepened my knowledge of and appreciation for someone consistently willing to learn how to excel at something and then plumb the depths of the self again to find what more was left to say. Few artists are this brave.

The show was also engulfing. The largest paintings, such as “Black Sea” and “Wharf,” felt like images I could swim in. It was the kind of exhibition that demonstrated what the National Gallery can do with its expansive halls. Much has been written about Guston. You might argue too much, but this show was enough to inspire, to inform, to enlighten, and to make me cheer. —Seph Rodney

National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC (nga.gov)
March 2–August 27, 2023
Organized by the National Gallery of Art, Washington; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Tate Modern, London; and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston


5. Wangechi Mutu: Intertwined

“Heads in a Basket” (2021) in the foreground, with “Crocodylus” (2020) in the midground, and other basket works in the background (photo Hrag Vartanian/Hyperallergic)

This retrospective of an artist who is at the top of her game was a glorious celebration of artistic exploration. Mutu is leading artistic conversations on many continents. While she first burst onto the art scene with her frenzied explosion of line and color, always connected to the body, her latest wave of work has been far more sculptural and has pushed her vocabulary in fresh and interesting ways. As I wrote in my review earlier this year: “Encountering the art again and again, it occurs to me that while her drawings have a tendency to break things apart, her sculptures synthesize those ideas into objects that are almost archaeological in feeling, appearing as if they were unearthed and cleaned for display … What unifies the art is the dialogue between various pieces, as well as the general notion that the artist is wrestling with something bigger within these concurrent bodies of work.” A true delight and one of the best shows I saw this year. —HV

New Musem, New York (newmuseum.org)
March 2–June 4, 2023
Curated by Margot Norton, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive chief curator, and Curator Vivian Crockett, with Curatorial Assistant Ian Wallace


6. Jaune Quick-to-See Smith: Memory Map

Jaune Quick-to-See Smith, “War Horse in Babylon” (2005), oil and acrylic on canvas, two panels, 60 inches x 100 inches overall (photo courtesy the artist and Garth Greenan Gallery, New York; Forge Project Collection, traditional lands of the Muh-he-con-ne-ok)

Her first New York retrospective, the one-floor exhibition (it should’ve been bigger) was a close look at an innovative contemporary artist who, like so many elders of her communities, was tasked with forging new paths through the stereotypes and clichés allotted to Indigenous Americans by the powers that be. Smith is a rebel who doesn’t give the art community’s imposed boundaries and borders a second thought, and she is a freewheeling creative soul who appropriates as she likes, while making everything she touches her own. The exhibition made many inroads in our general understanding of the artist. For me, her Map paintings came across as one of the most important series of works she’s made and something deserving of more public attention, as they riff off well-trodden ideas around American and global contemporary art to expose biases and to question conventions.

Smith is unreserved in her work and her aesthetic looks more contemporary than ever. Hers is a lexicon that will continue to inform the legions of fans this show undoubtedly garnered in her continuing mission to bring Native American art to the center of art conversations. There’s a reason that in 2020 she was the first contemporary Native American artist whose work was acquired by the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, and she was invited this year to be the first-ever artist curator at the same DC institution. She’s a genius whose star continues to rise. 

The Whitney Museum was smart enough to organize this, but maybe next time don’t put the White male artist in the galleries above her, which in the spatial logic of New York, where higher floors denote increased status, was a diss, even if the curators, administrators, and museum director would never admit it. —HV

Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (whitney.org)
April 19–August 13, 2023
Curated by Laura Phipps, associate curator at the Whitney Museum of American Art, with Curatorial Project Assistant Caitlin Chaisson


7. Remedios Varo: Science Fictions

Remedios Varo, “Creación de las aves” (“Creation of the birds”) (1957) (INBAL/Secretaría de Cultura © 2023 Remedios Varo, Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VEGAP, Madrid; photo by Rodrigo Chapa)

​​When rationalism fails, dreams gain momentum. During the upheaval of World War II, many artists fled Europe for Mexico, a country where pre-Columbian history met Indigenous myth and magic, creating a fertile environment for expansive thinking. Remedios Varo was one of these artists. She joined other female expats to blend science, history, and metaphysics into minutely detailed, fantastical compositions. The exhibition Remedios Varo: Science Fictions at the Art Institute of Chicago added profound depth to this chapter of art history.

It is my favorite exhibition of 2023 because I found solace and hope in how Varo routinely expanded the immediate, visible world into complex force fields that exceed human tampering. She reminds us again and again that the world contains more than meets the eye: human dominion is the ultimate myth. —Debra Brehmer

Art Institute of Chicago (artic.edu)
July 29–November 27, 2023
Organized by the museum with the Museo de Arte Moderno in Mexico City and curated by Caitlin Haskell, the Art Institute of Chicago curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, and guest curator Tere Arcq


8. Gego: Measuring Infinity

Gego (Gertrud Goldschmidt), “Tronco no 5 (Trunk No. 5)” (1976), steel, 70 1/2 × 28 3/4 × 28 3/4 inches (Private collection © Fundación Gego; photo by Thomas R. DuBrock, courtesy the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston)

Many of Gego’s most captivating works comprise a single element — metal wire — or two, if you consider the negative space she wove so expertly around it, her webbed sculptures drifting like vapor floating on the water’s surface. This unforgettable exhibition proved that lightness and levity can fill a room, namely, the Guggenheim’s imperfect spiral ramp, which has perhaps never been as effectively activated than by her ethereal explorations of line and transparency. Born Gertrud Goldschmidt in Hamburg, the artist became Gego in Caracas, where she sought exile from Nazi persecution at the start of the war and staked her claim in the canon of Latin American modernity with works that acknowledged but pushed back against the tenets of the prevailing Kinetic Art and Geometric Abstraction movements. To experience her dibujos sin papel, aptly named “drawings without paper”; reticulárea sculptures, voluminous forms reminiscent of openwork weaving; and both late and early pieces in watercolor and assemblage, all in a single, sprawling show, was nothing short of sublime. — Valentina Di Liscia

Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York (guggenheim.org)
March 31–September 10, 2023
Organized by the museum; Museo Jumex; and Museu de Arte de São Paulo Assis Chateaubriand, and curated by Julieta González, Instituto Inhotim artistic director; Geaninne Gutiérrez-Guimarães, associate curator at Guggenheim Museum Bilbao and the museum; Pablo León de la Barra, Latin America curator at large at the museum; Tanya Barson, Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona former chief curator; and Michael Wellen, Tate Modern senior curator of International Art


Installation view of Duane Linklater: mymothersside at MCA Chicago (photo courtesy MCA Chicago)

Duane Linklater’s (Omaskêko Cree) exhibition mymothersside, organized by the Frye Art Museum in Seattle and presented at MCA Chicago, probed and dismantled colonial legacies of oppression ensconced within museums, looking at their historic and contemporary modes of operation and the ways in which they have harmed and continue to harm Indigenous peoples. Linklater’s works redress the exclusion of Indigenous content in museums as well as the inclusion of Indigenous art and cultural material devoid of first-person voices from Indigenous communities. The MCA iteration of the show concentraed on the semiotics of Indigenous architecture, creating large-scale sculptures of tipi poles and canvases adorning the walls and pooling on the floor. In another series, he critiqued museums and their collecting practices by 3D-printing replicas of Indigenous objects in museum collections and, resting them on large, mirrored tables, implicating the viewer in perpetuating coloniality in museums. —Erin Joyce

Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Chicago (mcachicago.org)
March 11–September 3, 2023
Organized by Carla Acevedo-Yates, museum curator, with Curatorial Assistant Iris Colburn, and curated by Amanda Donnan, the chief curator at the Frye Art Museum in Seattle, Washington


10. Action, Gesture, Paint

Mercedes Pardo, “Pequeña nada [Little Nothing]” (1959), oil on canvas, 23 1/2 x 28 5/8 inches (photo Angelina Lippert/Hyperallergic)

The past few years have been a watershed moment for recognizing female artists. Yet it sometimes feels like institutions are haphazardly gathering work by women within a given genre without considering the quality or their relationship to one another, and selling the show as a feminist retort to the male-dominated art world (girls can make art, too!). Action, Gesture, Paint proved an exception to that rule, presenting a head- spinning 150 paintings by 81 artists from around the world. Unlike so many forced “women artist” shows, this exhibition did not need that angle to sell it — it could have easily been called 150 Insanely Awesome Abstract Paintings. The walls vibrated with visual symphonies of color and line. No two works were alike — the sheer variety was astounding. It was the first and only show that got me excited within a gallery all year. Visitors were wandering around in awe, often walking back and forth between works, noticing dialogues and techniques one rarely connects with large shows on abstraction. In a genre that has felt a bit overdone the past decade, this exhibition knocked it out of the park. —Angelina Lippert

Whitechapel Gallery, London, United Kingdom (whitechapelgallery.org)
February 9–May 7, 2023
Organized by the gallery


11. Pepón Osorio: My Beating Heart/ Mi corazón latiente

Pepón Osorio, “Scene of the Crime (Whose Crime?)” (1993), mixed mediums and video installation, 112 x 244 5/8 x 146 3/4 inches (photo Valentina Di Liscia/Hyperallergic)

Some exhibitions touch our souls in an indelible way, and this one was it for me this year. Through a practice influenced by theater and social work, Puerto Rico-born artist Pepón Osorio crafts intricate environments, almost like film sets, that pay homage to people, their lived experiences, and the primarily working-class and Latinx neighborhoods they inhabit. Dating from the 1990s to the present, the works at the New Museum included recreations of a shuttered Philadelphia public school, a barbershop, a taped-off Hollywood crime scene, and a teenage boy’s maximalist bedroom adjoining a correspondingly stark jail cell like the one where his father was held, an audio exchange between them threading the discordant spaces together like an invisible string. Each room or installation was its own contained tableaux, realistic down to the most minute details — a bobblehead dog toy next to a can of coconut oil mist on the salon counter; a paper plate covered in aluminum foil in “Quinceañera” (2011), referencing the traditional coming-of-age party for girls and the universal pleasure of taking home a piece of leftover cake. In an art world where the word “community” is so often tossed around meaninglessly, its specificity carelessly flattened, Osorio’s practice does justice to locality, language, and the distinct, irreplicable hum of a person’s life. —VD

New Museum, New York (newmuseum.org)
June 29–September 17, 2023
Curated by Margot Norton, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive chief curator, and Bernardo Mosqueira, Institute for Studies on Latin American Art chief curator


12. Rose B. Simpson: Road Less Traveled

Rose B. Simpson, “Remind” (2022), clay, steel, grout, lava beads, 66 x 35 x 15 inches (© Rose B. Simpson; photo courtesy the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York)

In her debut New York exhibition, Rose B. Simpson: Road Less Traveled, Simpson proved something I suspected when I first saw reproductions of her: She is one of the most needed artists of her generation (she was born in 1983). My admiration has continued to grow in the months since her show because I see that how she lives life and what she makes are not separate. Simpson is an enrolled member and resident of Khaʼpʼoe Ówîngeh (Santa Clara Pueblo in New Mexico), which is famous for producing blackware and redware pottery. She comes from a family of artists and scientists, who are concerned with sustainable living systems. In order to come into her own, Simpson left the Santa Clara Pueblo and studied flamenco dancing, ceramics, creative writing, and automotive science, among other things. That voraciousness to learn feeds her work. It is out of this cross-pollination of cultures, techniques, chance meetings, and self-determination that Simpson achieves a necessary synthesis of opacity and clarity, mystery and directness. She also resists making her figures culturally specific while committing herself to both telling her story and communicating her ancestral identity. There is nothing universal about Simpson’s genderless figures, but they are as necessary as the clay from which they are made. —JY

Jack Shainman Gallery, New York (jackshainman.com)
February 23–April 8, 2023
Organized by the gallery


13. John Akofmrah: Purple and John Akomfrah: Five Murmurations

Installation view of John Akomfrah’s “Purple” (2017) at the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, DC (photo Hrag Vartanian/Hyperallergic)

Not exactly one exhibition, these two displays were a few minutes walking distance from each other on the Mall in Washington, DC, and were a perfect complement to one another, not to mention a good primer for those who may not be knowledgeable about the artist’s growing bodies of work.

While the six-channel “Purple” (2017) focuses on the environment and the operatic tragedies unfolding before us while governments whittle away any chance to heal the human-made catastrophe, the three-channel “Five Murmurations” is a diasporic meditation on systemic violence, acts of protest, and the circulation and distortion of images around the strong emotions that galvanized people into action in 2020 after the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer.

Akromfrah’s art is most effective when he rides the border between universal metaphor and human subjectivity, and his fractured displays allow the space to bring together the informal marriage of formal and experimental aesthetics that makes for a rich experience. These two closeby presentations were simply fantastic. —HV

Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC (hirshhorn.si.edu)
November 23, 2023–January 7, 2024
Curated by Marina Isgro, associate curator of Media and Performance Art

National Museum of African Art, Washington, DC (africa.si.edu)
October 14, 2023–ongoing
Curated by Karen E. Milbourne


14. Delcy Morelos: El abrazo

Delcy Morelos, “El Abrazo” (2023) (photo Louis Bury/Hyperallergic)

I’ve visited Delcy Morelos’s El abrazo twice since it opened at Dia Chelsea in October 2023 and I expect to visit again whenever I’m in the neighborhood before it closes in July 2024. Its two soil installations present a striking contrast with one another, each emanating its own irresistible aura. The shadowy, cavernous room that comprises “Cielo terrenal” (Earthly Heaven, 2023) creates space for quiet contemplation, while the bulky monument in “El abrazo” (The Embrace, 2023) looms over visitors with mysterious tactility. Like so many Dia Foundation classics, Morelos’s earthworks possess the kind of awe-inspiring presence that you’re happy to experience as often as you have the chance. —Louis Bury

Dia Chelsea, New York (diaart.org)
October 5, 2023–July 2024
Curated by Alexis Lowry with Curatorial Assistant Zuna Maza


15. Pattern & Flow: A Golden Age of American Decorated Paper, 1960s-2000s

Olaf, detail of “Purple Monochromatical Monomaniacal Merry-Go-Round” (1990), artists’ oils with chemicals, solvents, and paint additives on commercial paper, 21 3/8 x 13 3/4 inches (photo Angelina Lippert/Hyperallergic)

In Pattern & Flow, curator and historian Mindy Dubanksy presented the most compelling exhibition in New York City this past year in my opinion. As ubiquitous stationary items, decorative papers were popular among book binders and other artists during their heyday of the 1960s through the ’80s, but that same popularity meant that few pristine sheets survive. More importantly, every example is slightly different, and little information was recorded about who created which patterns or how they were made. 

Through years of dogged research, Dubansky amassed the most complete and expansive archive of decorative marbled papers in the world, as well as artists’tools (many of which were handmade to create intricate motifs) and work clothes, the detritus of art-making that is seldom saved. The result is a unique collection of these papers, permanently housed at the Watson Library at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which went on view for the first and only time in this exhibition. The show not only highlighted the work of dozens of artists unknown to most visitors, but also shone a light on a typically unseen craft that is rapidly dying. —AL

Grolier Club, New York (grolierclub.org)
February 22–April 8, 2023
Curated by Mindy Dubansky


16. Manet/Degas

Edgar Degas, “Monsieur and Madame Édouard Manet” (1868–69), oil on canvas, 25 9/16 x 27 15/16 inches (photo courtesy Kitakyushu Municipal Museum; collection of Kitakyushu Municipal Museum of Art)

Manet’s “Olympia” might have been the showstopper, but the richness of context and the pure painterly pleasure delivered by Manet/Degas at the Met are the prime takeaways from this end-of-the-blockbuster-era show. Not a retrospective but an entanglement, it was much like the Museum of Modern Art’s 1990 exhibition Picasso and Braque: Pioneering Cubism in format, but altogether different in tone. Rather than recounting a fractious collaboration, Manet/Degas compares and contrasts two antipodal personalities, sometimes friendly, often antagonistic, whose art and ambitions could not have been more different, and yet completed one another. Each possessed an ingredient of modernity that the other lacked — resulting in breakthroughs in technique and concept that set the table for Braque, Picasso, and a century’s worth of artistic innovation. —Tom Micchelli

Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (metmuseum.org)
September 24, 2023–January 7, 2024
Organized by the museum and the Musées d’Orsay et de l’Orangerie, Paris


17. Shelley Niro: 500 Year Itch

Shelley Niro (Six Nations Reserve, Bay of Quinte Mohawk, Turtle Clan) “Ancestors” from M: Stories of Women series (2011; 2022 reprint), color inkjet print, 53 x 33 inches (image courtesy the National Museum of the American Indian)

Stepping into this exhibition felt like walking into a starry sky. A veritable constellation of photography, sculpture, painting, and more greeted me with the wit and tenderness characteristic of artist Shelley Niro (Kanien’kehaka). Though curatorially organized into four categories — memory, matriarchy, actors, and relations — a little bit of each concept could be found across the show, creating a comprehensive picture of Niro’s multifaceted practice. Especially etched into my memory are her photographs of herself and loved ones mounted on matte boards adorned with drill holes resembling star clusters, and a sculptural and video work honoring what is now called Niagara Falls as a sacred Haudenosaunee site. Together with its captivating catalogue, 500 Year Itch sheds a bright light on Niro’s distinctive, influential, and long-undersung artistic eye. —Lakshmi Rivera Amin

National Museum of the American Indian, New York (americanindian.si.edu)
May 27, 2023–January 1, 2024
Organized by the museum and the Art Gallery of Hamilton, Canada, with curatorial support from the National Gallery of Canada


18. Spirit and Invention: Drawings by Giambattista and Domenico Tiepolo

Domenico Tiepolo, “Punchinellos Feasting” (c. 1797–1804), pen and brown ink with brown wash, over black chalk (photo © Christie’s Images / Bridgeman Images; Collection of Peter Marino, New York)

The epic paintings of Giambattista Tiepolo may be the star at the Metropolitan Museum. However, at the Morgan Library & Museum, Giambattista’s son is the star. Walking through the radiant exhibition Spirit and Invention: Drawings by Giambattista and Domenico Tiepolo, we witness the late-blooming liberation of Domenico’s artistic sensibility as he steps out from his father’s long shadow — and old-fashioned rococo style — to create one of the most ambitious and enigmatic series in the history of art, the 104 drawings of his Punchinello suite — “Amusements for Children” (Divertimenti per li ragazzi) that seem anything but family-friendly — satirical send-ups of art and society that are alternately beguiling, biting, and borderline blasphemous. —TM

Morgan Library and Museum, New York (themorgan.org)
December 15, 2023–ongoing
Curated by John Marciari, curator of Drawings and Prints


19. The Cold Gaze: Germany in the 1920s

Otto Dix, “Portrait of the Journalist Sylvia von Harden” (1926), oil and tempera on wood, in The Cold Gaze: Germany in the 1920s (photo AX Mina/Hyperallergic)

There’s a menace at the heart of The Cold Gaze—Germany in the 1920s, a monumental, expansive exhibition about New Objectivity (Neue Sachlichkeit) at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art. With 600 artworks and a show within the show of August Sander’s photography, it offered a rich view into Germany’s Weimar Republic, which lasted from 1918 to 1933, the period between World War I and the rise of the Nazi Party. That menace is the underbelly of capitalism, with boredom, anomie, class inequality, and worker exploitation existing alongside the glamorous nightlife of Berlin, the advent of automation, and a blossoming of queer life. Paintings, films, posters, photos, poems, and sculptural works reveal the philosophies and media underlying this critical time in history. A century later, the central tensions of the Weimar Republic feel all the more relevant —AM

Louisiana Museum of Art, Copenhagen, Denmark (louisiana.dk)
October 14, 2022–February 19, 2023
Organized by the museum and the Centre Pompidou, Paris, France


20. Stand Queer of the Closing Doors

Sterling Tull, Silly Brown, and David Puck in Stand Queer of the Closing Doors on the L train (photo Zac Thompson/Hyperallergic)

If you happened to be riding the L train on June 18th you might have seen a subway car full of drag performers giving impromptu shows. Stand Queer of the Closing Doors was organized by Sterling Tull and Silly Brown in response to over 520 anti-LGBTQ+ bills introduced in state legislatures across the country this year. During the subway commute, performers, including Julie J, Sweaty Eddie, Klondyke, Missleidy Rodriguez, Poly Ester, Angel Au, Andrew Dahling, DiDi Opulence, Daniella Darling, and David Puck, lip-synced and collected over $600 in tips. The money was all donated to the Ali Forney Center, an organization that helps unhoused LGBTQ+ youth. —Zac Thompson

L Train in New York City
June 18, 2023
Organized by Sterling Tull and Silly Brown


21. Alexander Tovborg: The Church

Installation view of stained glass windows in Alexander Tovborg: Kirken at Kunsthal Charlottenborg, Copenhagen (photo AX Mina/Hyperallergic)

The long Danish summer played host to Alexander Tovborg’s transformation of Copenhagen’s Kunsthal Charlottenborg into a church. The artist’s massive stained glass windows bathed the space in psychedelic pinks, oranges, and blues that shone atop sculptural works including a baptismal font and a depiction of a teenage Jesus, along with paintings of Noah after the flood and an abstract triptych of Eve. By transforming the gallery into a space for spiritual contemplation, Tovborg drew connections between contemporary art and religion. As he wrote for Hyperallergic’s A View from the Easel series, “Welcome. To my studio. Welcome. To the church. Like any, it mirrors the believer…. This sanctuary and monastery, it exists for me. My Eden, my heavens, purgatory, and inferno. My gateways and portals. All in one and at once.” —AM

Kunsthal Charlottenborg, Copenhagen, Denmark (kunsthalcharlottenborg.dk)
June 10–August 6, 2023
Curated by Naja Rasmussen, head of art, and Simon Friese, Creator Projects director


22. Indian Theater: Native Performance, Art, and Self-Determination since 1969

Left, a view of Nicholas Galanin’s “White Carver” (2012–ongoing), and, right, New Red Order’s “Conscientious Conscripture” (2018–ongoing) (photos Hrag Vartanian/Hyperallergic)

A fantastic exhibition that provides more proof of curator Candice Hopkins’s stellar ability to bring together timely and important shows of Native American, First Nations, and Indigenous art, this only suffered from a location that few ever get to visit.

From Kay WalkingStick’s “Feet Series Arrangement” (1972) and “Gray Apron” (1974), which serve as forerunners to many topics now commonly dealt with by Native women artists, to New Red Order’s chaotic “Conscientious Conscripture” (2018–ongoing) room of anti-settler colonial slogans and Nicholas Galanin’s “White Carver” (2012–ongoing) performance, which puts a carver on display while creating a wooden “pocket pussy” in an almost anthropological display, this wide-ranging survey firmly entrenches the centrality of Indigenous art in North American art conversations, and will hopefully remedy the intentional gaps created by 20th-century art historians of the settler-colonialist persuasion that echo dominant narratives of the ruling elite.

When WalkingStick once said, “Native women were the first abstractions,” she was also asserting the centrality of Native experience in art on this continent, and now Hopkins is proving that continues to be true, even if institutions remain resistant to the ideas laid out so clearly here. At times this exhibition felt like a celebration of not only the past, and present, but the bright future that lies ahead. —HV

CCS Bard Hessel Museum of Art, Annandale-on-Hudson, New York (ccs.bard.edu)
June 24–November 26, 2023
Curated by Candice Hopkins


23. Partisans of the Nude: An Arab Art Genre in an Era of Contest, 1920-1960

Kahlil Gibran, “Untitled” (1930), watercolor and pencil on paper, 11 x 8 1/2 inches (image courtesy Telfair Museums)

This show is the brainchild of American University of Beirut professor Kirsten Scheid, whose work on Arab art history I’ve been following for years. In this project, Scheid sets out to dispel the notion that nudity is or ever was an absolute taboo in Arab art. She makes her case with a stunning pan-Arab collection of nudes from the post-Ottoman period of 1920–1960. On the opening night, I overheard a bellicose visitor probing her: “Would the Taliban allow this kind of art?” It goes to show that people like Scheid still have a lot more work to do. —Hakim Bishara

Wallach Art Gallery at Columbia University, New York (wallach.columbia.edu)
October 6, 2023–January 14, 2024
Curated by Kirsten Scheid, professor of Anthropology and Art Studies at the American University of Beirut


24. Frank Walter

Frank Walter, “Untitled [View of Dark Water, Hill and Sky]” (undated), oil on single ply cardboard, 9.055 x 12.795 inches (© Kenneth M. Milton Fine Arts Conservator; photo by Eduardo Ortega, courtesy Fortes D’Aloia & Gabriel, São Paulo/Rio de Janeiro)

Hailing from Antigua and Barbuda, self-taught Caribbean painter Frank Walter (1926–2009) has been the subject of a number of recent shows, bringing to light his vast body of work, which includes some 5,000 paintings, as well as poetry, essays, sculptures, and drawings. Walter began painting in the 1960s, after living in England, where he hoped to perfect his knowledge of technology and agriculture (his profession), but instead experienced racism and poverty, reduced to working menial jobs. Barbara Paca, the curator of Frank Walter Archives, organized the gorgeous show at Fortes D’Aloia & Gabriel of Walter’s miniature oil paintings, often painted on the back of photographs, focusing on his recurring themes of passage and maritime landscapes. Particularly striking are Walter’s nocturnal maritime landscapes, with dark muted colors, scant mysterious lights, and dissolving horizons, in which realism fluidly commingles with abstraction. —Ela Bittencourt

Fortes D’Aolia & Gabriel Gallery, São Paulo, Brazil (fdag.com.br)
March  4–April 20, 2023
Organized by the gallery


25. Marta Minujín: Arte! Arte! Arte!

Marta Minujín, “Laberinto Blando (Soft Maze)” (2010), acrylic, tempera, lacquer on mattress fabric, foam rubber on canvas, and neon lights, 41 3/4 x 41 3/4 x 10 5/8 inches (© Marta Minujín; image courtesy Henrique Faria, New York and Herlitzka & Co., Buenos Aires; collection of the artist)

A more perfect title could not have been conjured for this exhibition of an artist whose style is as over-the-top and irreverent as the loud, unabashed repetition that those three words in immediate succession implies. I wandered the galleries dizzyingly, imagining sinking my teeth into each soft mattress sculpture from the ’60s, admiring each sherbet-hued erotic canvas, all seemingly culminating in the candy-striped world of “Implosion!” (2021), an immersive audio and projection piece. Early ephemeral works are present in the form of photo documentation, such as “El Partenón de libros” (“The Parthenon of Books”) (1983), comprising thousands of books banned during Argentina’s bloody dictatorship and created in the year when democracy was finally restored; the installation feels alarmingly prescient. “Overdue” is a term too casually used when a big museum surveys the work of a woman artist of a certain age, and Minujín is far from an outsider in the art world. But it’s also true that she does not have the star of certain Pop giants or feminist luminaries in the United States, and this show, the Jewish Museum’s first English-Spanish bilingual presentation, is a giant step toward changing that. —VD

Jewish Museum, New York (thejewishmuseum.org)
November 17, 2023–March 31, 2024
Organized by Darsie Alexander, senior deputy director and chief curator, and Associate Curator Rebecca Shaykin


26. Robert Houle: Red Is Beautiful (Misquah Onésheshen)

A view of some of the Shamans in the Robert Houle exhibition at the National Museum of the American Indian in DC (photo Hrag Vartanian/Hyperallergic)

This elegant retrospective originated at the Art Gallery of Ontario under the direction of curator Wanda Nanibush, who mysteriously “left” the museum earlier this year amid of flurry of anti-Palestinian activity by outside agitators and the museum administration itself — shame on the AGO, which had so much promise as being on the leading edge of decolonial conversations and has now decided to slide back into provincialism and irrelevance. This exhibition is a good example of what the talented Nanibush is capable of, and the sections on the genocidal residential schools and issues of sovereignty were very moving. I was particularly awed by the large “Muhnedobe uhyahyuk [Where the gods are present] (Matthew, Phillip, Batholomew, Thomas)” (1989), and how it engages with the long history of art. —HV

National Museum of the American Indian, New York (americanindian.si.edu)
May 25, 2023–June 2, 2024
Organized by the Art Gallery of Ontario


27. Hiroshi Sugimoto

Hiroshi Sugimoto, “Kenosha Theater, Kenosha” (2015), gelatin silver print (photo AX Mina/Hyperallergic)

London’s Hayward Gallery played host to the largest survey to date of the Japanese photographer’s work, riffing off his observation that “The camera can capture more than a single moment, it can capture history, geological time, the concept of eternity, the essence of time itself.” Sugimoto’s photographs of natural history museum dioramas sit alongside his time lapse images of abandoned theaters and his portraits of wax figures. With these, he uses photography to help us see time differently, as if gazing directly into the past. His work is also a celebration of film photography, such as his Lightning Fields series, made by placing rock salt from the Himalayas in water and then submerging electrically charged film to generate haunting images of electricity. He wanted to recreate the conditions in which life might have emerged and, in so doing, he transformed his work into a meditation on the sacredness of existence. —AM

Southbank Centre, London, United Kingdom (southbankcentre.co.uk)
October 11, 2023–January 7, 2024
Organized by the gallery


28. The Art of Jean LaMarr

Jean LaMarr, “Some Kind of Buckaroo” (1990), screenprint, 26 x 38 inches (image courtesy the Collection of the Nevada Museum of Art, The Robert S. and Dorothy J. Keyser Foundation Art of the Greater West Collection Fund)

The Art of Jean LaMarr, organized by the Nevada Art Museum and presented at the IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Arts in Santa Fe featured over 60 works spanning five decades of the prolific artist’s career ranging from installation to paintings, prints, and ephemera. LaMarr, who is of Wada Tukadu Numu (Northern Paiute), Illmowi, Aporige, and Atsugewi (Pit River) descent, embeds trenchant dialogues on reductive representations of Indigenous people, lived realities of colonial occupation, and environmental racism afflicted upon Indigenous communities in lush visuals. LaMarr’s work pays particular attention to the hyper-sexualization of Indigenous women through a settler-colonial lens including Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s fictional character Minnehaha from his text Hiawatha, which the artist actively combats in her 1995 interactive installation, “Princess Pale Moon. The work, set up like a diorama, recreates a W.H. Harper depiction of Minnehaha done in the 1920s, with an anonymous Native woman depicted in the moonlight next to a canoe. LaMarr invites the viewer to don Native-inspired garb and, as the artist says, “play Indian” while stepping into the scene to be photographed – thus reversing the gaze. As LaMarr states, “humor is our savior.” —EJ

IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Art, Santa Fe, New Mexico (iaia.edu)
August 18, 2023–January 7, 2024
Organized by the Nevada Museum of Art in Reno, Nevada


29. Henry Taylor: B Side

Henry Taylor, “It’s H. I. M.” (2012), acrylic on canvas, 84 x 72 inches (© Henry Taylor; photo by Sam Kahn, courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth; Collection of Amy and Harris Schwalb)

Organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, this memorable show is a holistic survey of the LA-based artist’s decades-long career. It’s all in there, from his depiction of the 2016 police murder of Philando Castile in Minneapolis and tribute to the Black Panthers to his portraits of neighbors, friends, politicians, and celebrities. Being immersed in Taylor’s view of the world, all pain and joy included, is a worthy experience. —HB

Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (whitney.org)
October 4, 2023–January 28, 2024
Organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles


30. Candice Lin: Lithium Sex Demons in the Factory

Candice Lin, “Lithium Sex Demons in the Factory” (2023) (photo by Izzy Leung, courtesy Canal Projects)

I’ll be honest. When I was browsing exhibitions for school field trips, I put Candace Lin’s Lithium Sex Demons in the Factory on my list for the title alone. But the title was no fluke. In Lin’s elaborate installation, visitors stood before workstations on which tools to manufacture lithium batteries mingled with echoing ceramic pieces that mimicked and mutated the modern technology. You could then climb to a sterile manager’s station to survey other visitors or crouch in the muddy, cave-like space beneath; both, thanks to the eerie sound design, were demon-ridden. Throughout, Lin’s narrative of a factory worker who returns to demonic life to reconnect with the coworker she loves is told in scraps of text, paintings, and animated videos. When addressing environmental and economic justice, many artists produce works that feel like glorified PowerPoints. But Lin used art’s powers of beauty and confusion to help us experience life in one of the factories that produces our electronics. Her characters move in and out of ancient myth and modern capitalism. Who’s to say which of their visions come from lithium poisoning and which from finally understanding our world? —Erin L. Thompson

Canal Projects, New York (canalprojects.org)
September 22–December 16, 2023
Organized by Canal Projects, New York


31. Nick Cave: Forothermore

Nick Cave’s Forothermore was a standout retrospective, achieving the rare feat of encompassing a 30-plus-year career within a coherent and sharp narrative, and refusing a straightforward chronological hang. Cave’s work is full of energy and movement, from his shimmering sculptural assemblages to his Soundsuits, made to dance and parade. His work’s greatest strength is in his embrace of maximalism as a joyful political demand. For Cave, glitter and ornament exist alongside a critical, complex exploration of Blackness in America, alternately funny and tragic. —Alice Procter

Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York (guggenheim.org)
November 18, 2022–April 10, 2023
Organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago and curated by Naomi Beckwith, Guggenheim Museum deputy director and chief curator, with Assistant Curator X Zhu-Nowell


32. Nina Katchadourian: Uncommon Denominator

Nina Katchadourian, “Topiary” (2012), from the project Seat Assignment (2010 and ongoing) (© Nina Katchadourian; image courtesy the Morgan Library & Museum)

Nina Katchadourian’s love of what is quiet, and her ability to find strangeness and beauty in the mundane, is hypnotic. Although her work was new to me, this show was easily my favorite of the year. Uncommon Denominator showed her ability to conjure a world through minutiae, and to pull whole narratives and universes out of something as simple as a tissue and an in-flight magazine. Her work is a perfect fit with the Morgan: several of the objects in the show were cherished items chosen by the library’s staff, displayed interspersed with her own creations and her family’s collections. Despite a snug gallery space, Joel Smith’s collaborative curation felt expansive and rich, beautifully juxtaposing objects as varied as 17th-century prints and Katchadourian’s own childhood drawings. —AP

Morgan Library and Museum, New York (themorgan.org)
February 10–May 28, 2023
Organized by the museum


33. Shellyne Rodriguez: Third World Mixtapes: The Infrastructure of Feeling

Shellyne Rodriguez, “Barry lines dem up” (2023), color pencil on paper, 52 1/4 x 43 1/4 inches (image courtesy Shellyne Rodriguez and P·P·O·W, New York)

It takes a large heart to accommodate the pain and struggles of others in places near and far. Bronx-based artist Shellyne Rodriguez has that largesse of heart, together with skillful hands and a revolutionary intellect. Her debut exhibition at PPOW, showcasing portraits of friends, neighbors, and allies from the Bronx, was a revelation and a promise for more work to come from this artist, who refuses to play by the art market’s rules. —HB

PPOW Gallery, New York (ppowgallery.com)
March 17–April 22, 2023
Organized by the gallery


34. Marie Laurencin: Sapphic Paris

Marie Laurencin, “Women with a Dove” (Femmes à la colombe), (formerly called Marie Laurencin and Nicole Groult (1919); Centre Pompidou – Musée National d’Art Modern / Centre de Création Industrielle, Paris (artwork © Fondation Foujita / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris 2023; photo Jacques Faujour; photo credit Digital Image © CNAC/MNAM, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Art Resource, NY)

Walking into the Barnes Foundation’s Marie Laurencin: Sapphic Paris is like being enveloped in a soft pile of rose chiffon. Laurencin was a key figure in Parisian modernist painting. Brushing shoulders with Picasso and sharing a fiery affair with Apollinaire, she was often the lone woman in key modernist exhibitions. But her proximity to legendary male artists overshadowed what should have been a gleaming legacy. In a palette of soft grays and dusty pinks, Laurencin voyaged into an unabashedly queer, feminine universe, where women dance with ghostly horses, hounds, and deer. While she certainly repudiated the machismo of Cubism, it undoubtedly influenced her work, which melds figurative illustration and abstraction, as women float with a graceful ferocity and piercing black eyes. Laurencin’s subjects often reflected her own relationships with women, the figures tenderly embracing each other as they gaze defiantly at the outside world.The artist once wrote, “Worse than being dead, even more pathetic is being a forgotten woman.” This exhibition is a splendid way to honor this bicon. —Isa Segalovich

Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (barnesfoundation.org)
October 22, 2023–January 21, 2024
Organized by the foundation and curated by consultant curator Simonetta Fraquelli and Barnes curator Cindy Kang


35. Hank Willis Thomas: I’ve Known Rivers

Hank Willis Thomas, “My soul has grown deep like the rivers” (2023), screen print and UV print on retroflective vinyl mounted on Dibond (photo AX Mina/Hyperallergic)

Each piece in I’ve Known Rivers at Pace Gallery was titled after a line from a 1921 Langston Hughes poem titled “The Negro Speaks of Rivers.” In “I’ve seen its muddy bosom turn all golden in the sunset,” the screen-printed and UV-printed retroreflective vinyl work initially looks muddy and all black. But by shining a flashlight at eye level, the viewer sees past the surface to a rich collage of images from past social movements. Viewed online, the works appear as a binary — flashlight on or flashlight off — but in person the experience is like searching a real body of water for glimpses of what lies beneath. While Thomas has engaged with retroreflective materials for years, the river theme captures the multifaceted nature of trying to look at and understand not just a body of water but the murmurings of history and its effects on the present. —AM

Pace Gallery, Los Angeles, California (pacegallery.com)
July 15–August 26, 2023
Organized by the gallery


36. Barbara T. Smith: Proof

Detail of Barbara T. Smith, “Trunk Piece” (1969–72), mixed media, installation dimensions variable (photo Matt Stromberg/Hyperallergic)

2023 was a big year for Barbara T. Smith, with a career survey at the Institute of Contemporary Art Los Angeles (ICA LA), as well as shows at the Box gallery and the Getty Center, which was accompanied by the release of a memoir. The ICA LA show was especially revelatory, featuring significant artworks, performance documentation, and ephemera spanning a six-decade (and counting) career defined by curiosity, experimentation, and generosity. These include early photocopied books featuring images of her body and her children printed on a leased commercial Xerox machine in her living room; a model of “Field Piece” (1969–72), an ambitious installation of tall fiberglass columns animated with light and sound triggered by movement; and photographs of “Outside Chance” (1975), a performance in which she hurled 3,000 computer-printed individual “snowflakes” from the roof of a Las Vegas hotel onto the street below. Encompassing feminism, performance, technology, humor, family, and the porous barrier between art and life, Proof is one of those rare retrospectives that leaves you wanting to know more about the artist, and wondering why you didn’t already. —Matt Stromberg

Institute of Contemporary Art Los Angeles, California (theicala.org)
October 7, 2023–January 14, 2024
Organized by guest curator Jenelle Porter with support from Senior Curator Amanda Sroka and Curatorial Assistant Caroline Ellen Liou


37. Her Brush: Japanese Women Artists from the Fong-Johnstone Collection

Murase Myōdō 村瀬明道, “Breaking Waves in the Pines” (late 1900s), ink on paper (image courtesy Denver Art Museum)

In the debate about whether women-only shows are just a matter of organization or actually impact research and collections, Her Brush at the Denver Art Museum is a perfect case study. The show ambitiously presented artists from Japan’s Edo (1600–1868) and Meiji (1868–1912) periods, many who would garner a “who’s that?” from scholars. Incredible individual stories were carefully introduced, social silos under the Tokugawa clearly communicated, and eyes well-trained on creative choices and traditions of ink painting. Her Brush was poised to be a ground-breaking show with national coverage, but this is likely the first time many have heard of it. It was achieved through a gift of 500 objects by two patrons. Authentication problems resulted in last-minute omissions, canceled distribution of the catalogue, and the show’s placement in a gallery so hidden you might accidentally wander into the staff break room instead. Since the show was instigated by a desirable acquisition, scholarship was subjugated to administrative timelines. Yet Her Brush was an important 2023 show for the art it spotlighted, the discourse it spirited about deficiencies in the record, and the problematic habit of tethering museum scholarship to donor demands. —Kealey Boyd

Denver Art Museum, Denver, Colorado (denverartmuseum.org)
November 13, 2022–July 16, 2023
Organized by the museum


38. Partcours Dakar 2023

A visitor at Partcours’s 12th edition in Dakar (photo courtesy Loman Art House)

Senegal has gotten press recently as an arts magnet, with artists such as Kehinde Wiley establishing a major studio in the capital, but the country has always centered arts. Reputably 25%of the national budget went to the arts during the administration of the poet president Léopold Senghor. ​​Partcours is a biennial in Dakar that is mostly under the radar of the Anglophone world. Its 12th edition brought a wide range of events, from architectural walking tours of Dakar offered by AFRIKADAA to an immersive Loman Art House group show about the human rights violations by the Yahya Jammeh regime to Kër Thiossane’s outdoor fresco and soundscape installations recounting “…the alliances formed between researchers, residents, and trees” in urban environments. Adding to the pleasure of the event, the Sufi nation values “Teranga,” or hospitality, as a national virtue. —Nevdon Jamgochian

Various locations and organizers across Dakar (partcours.art)
November 24–December 10, 2023


39. Africa Fashion

Installation view of Africa Fashion at the Brooklyn Museum (photo Seph Rodney/Hyperallergic)

​​Part of the reason I was attracted to this exhibition is that I used to work in clothing retail. I have witnessed firsthand how clothing can be transformative. Yet clothing here had a wider scope than just the individual. It was much more about several countries on the continent of Africa shaking themselves free of colonialist political, economic, and cultural restraints to embrace their agency. The clothing you wear has everything to do with how free you feel in the world and what you want to say to it when not speaking.

The show offered beauty that is deeply African, for example, the magnificent innovation in the work of South African designer Lukhanyo Mdingi, who made jackets and matching joggers out of felted mohair, wool, and acrylic. The clothing was accompanied by a historical timeline, small library, documentary photography, jewelry, and other accessories, all washed over by a musical soundtrack that evoked that time of the 1950s and ’60s when revolution felt and was possible. There was so much beauty to be considered that this show made me feel not only informed, but also proud to be part of this lineage. —SR

Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, New York (brooklynmuseum.org)
June 23–October 22, 2023
Organized by Curator of African Art Ernestine White-Mifetu and Annissa Malvoisin, Bard Graduate Center and museum postdoctoral fellow in the Arts of Africa; with Catherine Futter, director of Curatorial Affairs and senior curator of Decorative Arts; Matthew Yokobosky, senior of Fashion and Material Culture; and Rhea Stark, curatorial assistant in Arts of Africa, Asia, and the Islamic World


4o. Bispo do Rosario: All Existing Materials on Earth

Bispo do Rosario, “Untitled [Grande Veleiro (Big sailboat)]” (undated), wood, plastic, fabric, foam, metal, ink, graphite, paper, found materials, thread, fiber, and nylon, 46 1/2 inches x 62 1/4 x 25 1/2 inches (photo Irini Zervas/Hyperallergic)

Arthur Bispo do Rosario’s solo exhibition, his first in the United States, was a rare opportunity to see the Afro-Brazilian artist’s embroidered textiles and sculptures on view together, and absorb the breadth of his life and work. According to the artist, he was visited by an angel, and received a divine mandate to prepare for the Last Judgment. This led him to create over 1,000 artworks while he lived inside an institution in Rio de Janeiro. The exhibition eschewed the white cube aesthetic by approximating Bispo do Rosario’s lived environment. Although he didn’t consider his objects artworks, his techniques involved a high level of craftsmanship and formal innovation. Foregrounding his technical skill, spiritual mission, and humanity, the exhibition provided a positive means of accessing the artist and his work. —Irini Zervas

Art at Americas Society, New York (as-coa.org/art)
January 25–May 20, 2023
Organized by Art at Americas Society and the Museu Bispo do Rosario Arte Contemporânea and curated by Aimé Iglesias Lukin, Ricardo Resende, and Javier Téllez, with Tie Jojima


41. Three Worlds Drawn by Setsuko Mitsuhashi

Setsuko Mitsuhashi, “Hana-ore Pass I” (1974), natural pigments on Japanese paper (image courtesy Yasumasa Suzuki and the Setsuko Mitsuhashi Memorial Museum)

The world deserves to know about Setsuko Mitsuhashi. Earlier this year, I came upon Three Worlds Drawn by Setsuko Mitsuhashi at the artist’s memorial museum in Otsu, a small town outside of Kyoto, Japan. I was drawn in by the paucity of information about the artist online: I found a handful of jpegs in a Google image search but little else. Fascinated, I took the train to Otsu and climbed the forested hill where her museum stands. Mitsuhashi’s paintings began as delicate botanical studies, but soon they evolved into passionate accounts of the legends of nearby Lake Biwa. Her budding and brilliant art career was tragically cut short when she died of cancer in 1975 at the age of 35. Her story, which was tenderly retold to me by the museum’s director, Seiji Hiraishi, brought tears to my eyes. Mitsuhashi’s dedication to her art, her family, and to life has stayed with me, and will continue to do so for a very long time. —Lauren Moya Ford

Setsuko Mitsuhashi Memorial Museum, Otsu, Japan (otsu.or.jp)
November 28, 2022–June 18, 2023
Organized by museum Director Seiji Hiraishi


42. Rubens & Women

Peter Paul Rubens, “The Virgin in Adoration before the Christ Child” (c. 1616–19), oil on panel, KBC Bank, Antwerp, Museum Snyders & Rockox House (image courtesy Dulwich Picture Gallery)

So famous for painting fleshy, plump nudes that the term “Rubenesque” still denotes body types today, it is bold of the Dulwich Picture Gallery to lean wholly into the topic of Rubens and women when most museums and galleries are actively seeking to focus on female and minority artists. Curators Dr. Ben van Beneden and Dr. Amy Orrock, however, successfully subverted the long-held view of Rubens’s work as “fleshy” and “objectifying” by studiously examining the varying nature of his relationships with the women in his life, combined with fascinating and minute insights into the technical methods behind his work. Their curating carefully avoids imposing contemporaneous — and anachronistic — slogans of female “empowerment,” but instead develops a far more nuanced attitude toward female sitters and the nude body throughout portraits and preparatory work. —Olivia McEwan

Dulwich Picture Gallery, London, United Kingdom (dulwichpicturegallery.org.uk)
September 27, 2023–January 28, 2024
Organized by the gallery and the Rubenshuis in Antwerp, Belgium, and curated by Rubenhuis former Director Ben van Beneden and independent art historian Amy Orrock


43. The Ugly Duchess: Beauty and Satire in the Renaissance

Quinten Massys, “An Old Woman” (“The Ugly Duchess”) (about 1513), oil on oak. Bequeathed by Miss Jenny Louisa Roberta Blaker, 1947 (© The National Gallery, London)

A single painting, hung in one of the gallery’s smallest exhibition spaces, formed the centerpiece of a small, highly entertaining, and instructive show entitled The Ugly Duchess that went on display at London’ National Gallery this past spring. “The Ugly Duchess” herself is a painting by the Antwerp artist Quentin Massys that dates from about 1513. The duchess, more caricature than portrait of an actual sitter, is the very model of repulsive unloveliness, with her saggy, wrinkled skin, all topped off by a ridiculously anachronistic piece of horned, diabolical headgear. The exhibition deftly fans out to consider the nature of misogyny in the Renaissance, and how Massys’s image came to be adapted by the great 19th-century cartoonist Sir John Tenniel when he fabricated his drawing of the ferociously severe and terrifying Duchess for Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. —Michael Glover

National Gallery, London, United Kingdom (nationalgallery.org.uk)
March 16–June 11, 2023
Organized by the museum


44. Saif Azzuz: Says Who

Saif Azzuz, “Full of Kwech” (2022), steel jail toilet filled with Eastern Gamagrass, Purple Love Grass, Seabeach Sedge, Foxglove beardtongue, American Alumroot, Red Chokeberry, White Meadowsweet, Pointed Broom Sedge, and Deertongue, 34 inches x 32 inches x 19 inches (image courtesy Nicelle Beauchene Gallery)

Saif Azzuz’s first solo exhibition in New York examined the colonial history of Lower Manhattan’s Collect Pond Park with a strong suite of verdant paintings and installations incorporating police handcuffs and a prison toilet-turned-planter. It was about time the East Coast discovered this Libyan-Yurok artist from the Bay Area. —HB

Nicelle Beauchene Gallery, New York (nicellebeauchene.com)
February 24–March 25, 2023
Organized by the gallery


45. Bangkok Art Biennale: CHAOS : CALM

Cian Dayrit, “lmperial Puppet Regalia” (2022), embroidery on textile, woodwork sculptures, weaving and craftwork (dimensions variable) (photo courtesy BAB)

The official Thai art scene has always had potential but the censorship from various military juntas and strict lèse-majesté laws have stifled creative dissent. However, things are changing — the new King is popularly detested (people don’t stand up for the royal anthem before movies anymore!) and the government has lost the respect of many Thais after the antidemocratic removal of recent presidential candidates. This has led artists and curators to push the limits of censorship. Since 2017, the biannual has shown a range of edgy-ish work in spectacular venues from the temples of Wat Arun and Pho to the dowdy Queen Sirikit National Convention Center. While this iteration was criticized for lacking a cohesive theme (one visitor I talked to called BAB a “hoarder’s idea of an art show”), I liked the volume and confidence of the works, from Cian Dayrit’s puppets and embroideries that commenting on authoritarian regimes to Vasan Sitthiket’s modern political shadow puppets to the avatar of Kawita Vatanajyankurf, chanting “You’ll never be free, and your voice will be silenced” as a call and response to the phrase “Your voice is powerful and it will be heard.” Also notable was the anonymous political group Collective Absentia’s performance piece featuring a person in a black hood silently sitting under bright lights. These may not seem like direct attacks on the system, but considering that even oblique criticisms were not tolerated not so long ago in Thailand, they amounted to powerful moments. —NJ

Venues across Bangkok, Thailand (bab22.bkkartbiennale.com)
October 22, 2022–February 23, 2023
Curated by Loredana Pazzini-Paracciani, Nigel Hurst, Jirat Ratthawongjirakul, and Chomwan Weeraworawit


46. Michael Richards: Are You Down?

Foreground: Michael Richards, “Are You Down?” (1999), resin, metal, tar. 3 elements, each 48 x 60 x 60 inches; wall: Michael Richards, “Are You Down?” (2000), fiberglass, bonded bronze, resin, concrete, black beauty sand, installed at Franconia Sculpture Park (photo courtesy the Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami and The Michael Richards Estate)

My conviction that art historians have a crucial role to play in making the art world reflect the diversity of the real world was strengthened this year by the retrospective Michael Richards: Are You Down? at the Bronx Museum. Richards’s pointed and often hilarious work analyzes his experience as a gay man from the Caribbean trying to make a life as an artist —– but it also pokes holes in the pieties of viewers who might try to limit his identity to his demographic categories. Richards died at 38 on September 11, 2001, in his grant-funded studio on the 92nd floor of the World Trade Center. His surviving works went into boxes in the garage of a family member, where they sat until Alex Fialho and Melissa Levin, the exhibition’s curators, tracked them down. At times, Fialho and Levin had to improvise, as when they found  no record of what music was meant to be played with “Swing Lo’” (1996), a chariot decked out with neon lights and powerful speakers. They tracked down a friend to whom Richards had given a mix tape of Jamaican reggae and dancehall music and brought the work back to life. —ET

Bronx Museum, New York (bronxmuseum.org)
September 8, 2023–January 7, 2024
Organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami, and curated by Alex Fialho and Melissa Levin


47. Lenora de Barros: Minha Língua

Brazilian artist Lenora de Barros began making art in the 1970s, after concrete art and poetry and then neo-concretism marked the local artistic scene, but she’s yet to gain a wider recognition beyond her home country. Luckily, Pinacoteca de São Paulo’s new curator Pollyana Quintella organized a compact yet texturally sumptuous survey of de Barros’s diverse body of conceptual work, showing the artist experimenting across poetry, photography, collage, performance, and sound and video art, often concentrating on the sensual yet violent interplay between body and language. With works from the past 40 years, including a newly commissioned video, “The Face. The Tongue. The Belly” (2022), the show mined the complex and not always harmonious symbiotic relationship between the body and mind — one of de Barros’s staying themes. EB

Pinacoteca, São Paulo, Brazil (pinacoteca.org.br)
October 8, 2022–April 9, 2023
Curated by Pollyana Quintella


48. Yoshie Sakai: Grandma Entertainment Franchise

Installation view, of Yoshie Sakai: Grandma Entertainment Franchise on view at the Vincent Price Art Museum, East Los Angeles College (photo by Monica Orozco, courtesy VPAM)

For “Grandma Entertainment Franchise” at the Vincent Price Museum, Yoshie Sakai transforms the space into a day spa, nightclub, and an amusement park for the elderly. The exhibit is loud, bold, and colorful, addressing often overlooked issues of ageism, access, and the body through a cartoon-like aestheticSakai’s installations were pure eye candy as she drew inspiration from consumer products and her experiences with her own Japanese grandma (or obaachan). This is the rare exhibition that saw viewers forming a line for a restroom stall art piece that could never function. I’m still waiting in that line to become a grandma. —Dakota Noot

Vincent Price Art Museum, Monterey Park (vincentpriceartmuseum.org)
October 21, 2023–February 3, 2024
Curated by Dav Bell and Ana Iwataki


49. Rosemary Mayer: Noon Has No Shadows

Installation view of Rosemary Mayer: Noon Has No Shadows at Hannah Hoffman Gallery, in collaboration with Marc Selwyn Gallery, Los Angeles; foreground: “1924 Ghost”(1980–81/2023), paper, ribbons, string, cords, wooden rods, and metallic paint, 78 x 146 x 96 inches (photo by Paul Salveson, courtesy The Rosemary Mayer Estate; Hannah Hoffman, Los Angeles; and Marc Selwyn Fine Art, Los Angeles)

In recent years Rosemary Mayer has begun to garner the attention of the art world, but the late artist’s ethereal work is still a long way from the acclaim it deserves. A joint show at LA galleries Hannah Hoffman and Marc Selwyn was, astonishingly, her first on the West Coast. Large, layered fabric sculptures at Hannah Hoffman were balanced out by smaller stretched forms that look like mockups for earthy dwellings and watercolor drawings of Greek vessels (studies for an unrealized tent project) at Marc Selwyn, revealing a more interior side of an artist whose practice revolved around community and presence. Mayer meant for her for projects to be ephemeral. The objects and images may appear light as a feather, but when we sit with their emotions they can be crushing. This too, she seemed to say, will pass. Every time I see her art, I wish she was still around. —Natalie Haddad

Hannah Hoffman Gallery (hannahhoffman.la) and Marc Selwyn Fine Art (marcselwynfineart.com), Los Angeles
November 12–December 23, 2023
Organized by Hannah Hoffman Gallery, Marc Selwyn Fine Art, and the Estate of Rosemary Mayer


50. María Magdalena Campos-Pons: Behold

Visitors admire María Magdalena Campos-Pons’s “Secrets of the Magnolia Tree” (2021) at the Brooklyn Museum. (photo Valentina Di Liscia/Hyperallergic)

Cuban artist Magdalena Campos-Pons’s oeuvre spans photography, video art, installation, collage, Murano glass sculpture, and stirring performances, among other mediums and approaches all represented in this much-deserved, expansive exhibition. But it is her Polaroid polyptychs, images composed of two or more individual framed pictures, that remain imprinted in my mind long after seeing the show — works like her self-portrait “The Calling” (2003), in which she dons the white garb and makeup of Santería priesthood, her head tilted back as she hoists a bouquet of pale flowers; or “Replenishing” (2001), seven Polacolor Pro photos arranged in an H shape for hogar, “home,” that portray the artist and her mother linked by a knotted chain of colorful beaded necklaces. Perhaps that’s because these works so movingly convey the idea of fragmented identity, one that pulses at the heart of Campos-Pons’s life and practice. —VD

Brooklyn Museum, New York (brooklynmuseum.org)
September 15, 2023–January 14, 2024
Organized by the museum and the J. Paul Getty Museum, and curated by Carmen Hermo, Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art associate curator, and Mazie Harris, Getty Museum Department of Photographs assistant curator, with Jenée-Daria Strand, former Elizabeth A. Sackler Center curatorial associate


Honorable Mentions

Marcus Behmer

Marcus Behmer, “Exlibris Frieda Liermann (Vorzeichnung)” (undated, c. 1907), ink on paper (photo Natalie Haddad/Hyperallergic)

Among the year’s most fascinating shows was Galerie Buchholz’s monographic exhibition of German artist Marcus Behmer — according to the gallery, his first in the US since 1912. Born in 1879 in Weimar, Behmer began as an illustrator whose fine line work and fantastical visions could recall Aubrey Beardsley. But that comparison doesn’t begin to describe the weirdness tucked away in this extraordinary show. Even a 1900 ink drawing of a woman that resembles Beardsley’s work is harsher, more cynical. Skip ahead to 1937’s ink and pencil “Hirschen-Salome” and Salmone, astride a stag (Hirsch in German), receives the head of John the Baptist from a bipedal rabbit. Adding to Behmer’s significance, he was an early member of the Scientific-Humanitarian Committee, the first LGBTQ+ rights organization in history. —NH

Galerie Buccholz, New York (galeriebuchholz.de)
March 3–April 8
Organized by the gallery


John Walker

Although John Walker has received critical attention and many honors since the outset of his career in England and his work can be found in the collection of several museums worldwide, I feel that he has not received the attention he deserves. His show at Alexandre made that clear to me, which is why I think it was one of the best shows. It got me to completely reevaluate his work, and I was already an admirer. An abstract artist who has worked with motifs derived from Goya, Velasquez, John Constable, Marsden Hartley, Paul Cezanne, and Australian aboriginal bark painting, Walker has always kept moving. This means that over the course of a career that stretches across more than half a century, he has never developed a signature motif or what the business world calls a brand. Recently, when I visited him, he said: “Everything in these paintings is based on something I have seen.” Walker’s cross-pollination of direct observation, his dialogue with art history, autobiography, historical events, such as World War I, and abstraction is part of why he has never fit in. He refuses to stay in any lane and, in that regard, he is unruly.  He invites the viewer into a world that is disconsolate, dissonant, elegiacal, haunted, inchoate, and primordial. His understanding of oil paint as mud speaks to the inevitability of dissolution. On every level Walker’s art embodies the desire for artistic freedom in the face of mortality. —JY

Alexandre Gallery, New York (alexandregallery.com)
April 29–June 17, 2023
Organized by the gallery


Divya Mehra: Your Wish Is Your Command

Divya Mehra, “Your Wish Is Your Command” (2023), 16 x 28 x 8 feet (photo Natalie Haddad/Hyperallergic)

Technically part of a larger presentation, Toronto’s annual one-night public art festival Nuit Blanche, Divya Mehra’s two installations in the city were among the year’s public art highlights. Mehra has spent her two-decade career drawing attention to the exploitation and marginalization of people (especially women) of color by the White colonialist systems of the US and her native Canada. “Your Wish Is Your Command” (2023), a giant, inflatable genie lamp installed outside of the Toronto-Dominion Centre office complex in the city’s financial district, was a dramatic comment on those in power and their means of retaining it through financial control. Illuminated by spotlights and moonlight, and periodically blowing steam, it was downright arresting, as was “A Practical Guide” (2023), a massive grocery bad reading “LOOT” in front of the Hudson’s Bay department store building. Sure, they inspired selfies, but they also inspired more contemplation than any empty town square or meaningless monument to capitalism. —NH

Nuit Blanche, Toronto, Canada
7pm on September 23–7am on September 24, 2023
Curated by Kari Cwynar

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