Your New York Exhibition Guide

Must-See Shows This September

As the center of the contemporary art world, New York offers tons to see at the many galleries and museums that dot the city. Some might even say there are too many to see, so that’s where we come in. Explore our list of favorite exhibitions below. We keep it regularly updated, and the shows are in order of freshness. If you’re looking for a bit more in depth coverage, head to our Instagram where these shows and more are featured.

Wolfgang Tillmans at MoMA | ArtDrunk

Wolfgang Tillmans at MoMA

There are a small handful of living photographers whose vision, skill, and daring elevates them above their peers to legendary status. And then there is Wolfgang Tillmans. The German photographer, known for his relentless experimentation and unmistakable vitality, allows us mere mortals to see the world through his eyes in a monumental retrospective at MoMA. Despite its stature, Tillman’s work retains a poetic intimacy. This mix of grandeur and familiarity is in large part what makes Tillmans so good. Our trying times have pushed him to an increasing insistence on political themes. And in Tillman’s hands, the camera once again shows itself to be a powerful force for justice, compassion, and humanity.

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Masaomi Yasunaga at Lisson | ArtDrunk

Masaomi Yasunaga at Lisson Gallery

We, as humans, go gaga for ceramics. Whether you’re in the antiquities wing at the Met or the aisles of IKEA, there’s no end of lovely earthenware for shipping your olive oil or housing your tiny cacti. Enter Masaomi Yasunaga, who upends this venerable tradition with a radical take on ceramics. Omitting clay altogether, Yasunaga opts instead for gravel and glass powder. Though his sculptures resemble traditional pottery in their outward forms, they are the result of an intense firing process that subverts conventional notions of what makes a jug a jug: they are buried in sand and then unearthed in a ceremonial reversal of the classic archeological dig. Yasunaga isn’t afraid to take risks, and his bold and striking sculptures are the triumphant result.

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Do Ho Suh at Lehmann Maupin | ArtDrunk

Do Ho Suh at Lehmann Maupin (W24th St)

They say you can’t believe everything you see on the internet. And it’s not much different in the art world. But done properly, a distorted reality can be both delightful and provocative. This is exactly what’s going on with Do Ho Suh. His eclectic show at Lehmann Maupin features several feats of playful trickery. Some of it is good fun, some of it hits home with urgent truths, and all of it is engrossing. In one piece, the artist meticulously recreates household objects, light switches, door knobs, and old-school telephone receivers in baby blues and popsicle pinks. All in his iconic style of translucent fabric. In another, a web of space-grade plastic is spun into an inverted political moment. Yes, our world may be turned upside down, but there’s still undeniable wonder in visual wizardry.

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Robert Colescott at New Museum | ArtDrunk

Robert Colescott at the New Museum

Robert Colescott was way, way ahead of his time. Long before the current cadre of young Black artists took on the subjects of identity and race through figurative, historically-reverential painting, Colescott was doing exactly that. He was a maestro of satire, humor, and provocation. He danced along the high wire of racially-charged painting with the unwavering balance of a master acrobat. Colescott is best known for works in which he replaces the white subjects of canonical masterpieces with Black protagonists. Beautifully composed and sumptuously painted, the paintings point out the absence of Black figures in art history and level scathing critiques of America’s ingrained racism. The scale of the New Museum show is exceedingly generous. It offers a chance to see all the famous paintings and many lesser-known works, too.

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Ray Johnson at the Morgan Library | ArtDrunk

Ray Johnson at The Morgan Library and Museum

This fascinating show of never-before-seen work by Ray Johnson, a pioneer of mail art, is definitely something to write home about. Despite his revolutionary vision, Johnson remains relatively obscure. The Morgan has set out to change that, offering New Yorkers a chance to meet the city’s “most famous unknown artist.” In just two years between 1992 and 1994, Johnson snapped his way through 137 disposable cameras, whose casual, throwaway status appealed to his outsider sensibilities and intimate approach. The photos themselves feature scenes of daily life, details of interesting objects Johnson found on the street, and collage-like shots showing his own drawings and text pieces. Shown alongside the mail art, the series is a collective love letter to the camera and the city.

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Kiyan Williams at Brooklyn Bridge Park | ArtDrunk

Black Atlantic at Brooklyn Bridge Park

If you find yourself on a beach this summer, gazing out at the horizon and pondering the vast mystery of the sea, you will probably understand why the ocean has always exerted such power over artists. In “Black Atlantic,” a series of site-specific installations around Brooklyn Bridge Park, five artists (Leilah Babirye, Hugh Hayden, Dozie Kanu, Tau Lewis, and Kiyan Williams) have set out to shift your perspective on this mighty body of water. The Atlantic was pivotal to American history, especially due to its role in the slave trade and the African diaspora. These artists take ownership of a subject that has long dominated American and European art — often with imperialist and colonialist overtones — and argue for a more nuanced understanding of the complex cultural exchanges that shaped the identities of contemporary Americans. While it might be scorching this time of year, most galleries are closed for the summer break, so outdoor sculpture is your best bet to keep seeing art. 

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