12 Essential Art Exhibitions Worth Traveling For This Fall

Museums and art organizations around the globe are putting their best foot forward this fall with fresh takes on outdated histories and new, thrilling discoveries. Outside the well-trodden hubs of Los Angeles and New York, the coming season boasts a vibrant celebration of women artists, from historically misunderstood figures to contemporary creators. The work of Native and Indigenous artists is also the subject of growing, overdue attention. And of course, it wouldn’t be a fall art season without a few boldface names getting deliciously ambitious retrospectives. Here, CULTURED selects 12 shows worth the trip this autumn. 

Curatorial collective of the 35th Bienal de São Paulo, from left to right: Manuel Borja-Villel, Diane Lima, Grada Kilomba, and Hélio Menezes. Image courtesy of Levi Fanan/Fundação Bienal de São Paulo.

Choreographies of the Impossible” 
The 35th Bienal de São Paulo, São Paulo
September 6-December 10, 2023 

The four-person curatorial team behind the 35th Bienal de São Paulo—Diane Lima, Grada Kilomba, Hélio Menezes, and Manuel Borja-Villel—has compiled an ambitious show based around the theme of resilience. It includes the work of 120 artists, from rising talents like Igshaan Adams, Dayanita Singh, and Luana Vitra to historical figures such as Charles White, Elizabeth Catlett, and Wifredo Lam. The city will also host an action-packed slate of museum and gallery exhibitions. Don’t miss “Indigenous Histories” (October 20, 2023-February 25, 2024) at Museu de Arte de São Paolo Assis Chateaubriand, an ambitious presentation of Indigenous cultural production from around the world.

Sarah Goodridge, Rose Prentice (1771–1852), 1837–38. Image courtesy of the Yale University Art Gallery.

Mickalene Thomas/Portrait of an Unlikely Space
Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven
September 8, 2023–January 7, 2024

In something of a departure from her vibrantly decorated paintings and photographs, Mickalene Thomas has created an installation that imagines living-room-like interior spaces during the pre-Emancipation era. Inspired by a miniature painting of a formerly enslaved woman, Rose Prentice, who lived from 1771 to 1852, the artist places engravings and daguerreotypes of Black women, men, and children in dialogue with her own work and the work of her contemporaries.

Annika Kahrs, Gravity’s Tune (Film Still), 2023. Image courtesy of the artist and Produzentengalerie Hamburg.

“The World’s Quietest Concert Hall” by Annika Kahrs
Schering Stiftung, Berlin
September 13-November 27, 2023

What do gravitational waves sound like? German artist Annika Kahrs makes art out of that question. Her intriguing piece, Gravity’s Tune, is inspired by the sound created when two black holes orbit and collide. The culmination of over three years of work at the U.S.-based Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO), this new sound and video performance (coinciding with Berlin Art Week) is based on a 2015 scientific breakthrough, when experts converted cosmic waves into acoustic signals for the first time.

Niko Pirosmani, Giraffe. Photography by Roberto Bigano. Image courtesy of the Collection of Shalva Amiranashvili, Museum of Fine Arts of Georgia, and Infiniarts Foundation.

Niko Pirosmani” 
Fondation Beyeler, Basel
September 17, 2023-January 28, 2024

Though this exhibition started its tour at Denmark’s Louisiana Museum of Modern Art earlier this year, the survey of the Georgian modernist, 1862-1918, hasn’t gotten the attention it deserves. The show represents a rare opportunity to see a large body of work by an artist who enjoys cult status in his home country. Pirosmani is a self-taught enigma who spent his life doing odd jobs, from working as a railroad conductor to a dairy farmer, and rose to prominence posthumously. Discover some 50 paintings in what is described as the largest exhibition of the artist’s work to date.

Cara Romero (Chemehuevi), Indian Canyon, 2019. Image courtesy of the artist and the National Gallery of Art.

The Land Carries Our Ancestors: Contemporary Art by Native Americans” 
The National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
September 22, 2023–January 15, 2024

While art lovers swooned over the first retrospective of Jaune Quick-to-See Smith, a citizen of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Nation, at the Whitney Museum in New York earlier this year, the octogenarian artist was busy curating an unprecedented show of her peers. “The Land Carries Our Ancestors” features some 50 living Native American artists working in the U.S. Quick-to-See Smith has supported the visibility of Native artists for decades, despite a pitiful lack of attention from the established art world. Now, she shares the spotlight with figures including Marie Watt, Gerald Clarke Jr., and Cara Romero. 

Marina Abramović, Nude With Skeleton, 2005. Photography by Attilio Maranzano. Image courtesy of the Marina Abramović Archives.

Marina Abramović
The Royal Academy of Arts, London
September 23, 2023–January 1, 2024

The twice-postponed retrospective of Serbian artist Marina Abramović is one of the season’s most talked-about art events—and rightly so. The performative and participatory nature of the exhibition resulted in multiple pandemic delays, while also stoking anticipation for the artist’s live performances. Expect to see restagings of pioneering works like The Artist is Present and The House with the Ocean View. “No two visits will be the same,” promise the organizers.

Artemisia Gentileschi, Judith and her Maidservant with the Head of Holofernes, 1623-25. Image courtesy of the Detroit Institute of Art and Baltimore Museum of Art.

Making Her Mark: A History of Women Artists in Europe, 1400-1800” 
Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore
October 1, 2023-January 7, 2024

Women artists have always been integral to Europe’s artistic and cultural production. They just haven’t gotten appropriate credit for it. While the Baltimore show’s organizers acknowledge they are joining a wave of new scholarship on women in art history, they claim that other “investigations remain largely focused on an elite group.” This show, co-organized with the Art Gallery of Ontario, is distinguished by its wider aperture, embracing artistic, cultural, and entrepreneurial innovations by both acclaimed and lesser-known women through 175 objects. Works range from portraiture, sculpture, tapestries, drawings, metalwork, and more.

John Biggers, Kumasi Market, 1962. Image courtesy of the Collection of William O. Perkins III and the Phillips Collection.

African Modernism in America, 1947-67” 
The Phillips Collection, Washington, DC
October 7, 2023–January 7, 2024

This traveling exhibition revisits important ‘60s presentations of modern African art in America to consider how the fruitful dialogue shaped art history. Curators are zeroing in on the transcontinental exchanges between African artists and American patrons, artists, and cultural organizations amid the context of the Civil Rights movement, decolonization, and the Cold War. The show, co-organized by the American Federation of Arts and Fisk University Galleries, includes work by 50 artists from Papa Ibra Tall to Suzanna Ogunjami. 

Marisol, Mi mama y yo, 1968. Photography by Brenda Bieger. Image courtesy of the Buffalo AKG Art Museum, Estate of Marisol / Artists Rights Society (ARS), and the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. 

Marisol: A Retrospective” 
Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Montreal
October 7, 2023–January 21, 2024 

This retrospective, organized with the Toledo Museum of Art, the Buffalo AKG Art Museum, and the Dallas Museum of Art, digs into an artist described by the curators as “the most intriguing and least understood artist associated with Pop art.” The show surveys the 60-year career of the Venezuelan-American Marisol, 1930-2016, who became famous in the 1960s for her striking assemblage sculptures influenced by Pop and Pre-Columbian art. The exhibition also revisits her post-1970s work, when the artist fell out of the limelight.

Mike Kelley, Ectoplasm Photograph 13, 1978/2009. Image courtesy of the Bourse de Commerce.

Mike Kelley: Ghost and Spirit
Bourse de Commerce, Paris
October 13, 2023-February 2024

The Tate Modern-organized retrospective, which begins its international run amidst Paris’s fall art fairs, has our attention. The in-depth show will include a sure-to-be-memorable presentation of the artist’s “Kandors”—sci-fi fantasy cities under bell jars—in the Bourse’s spectacular rotunda, as well as Kelley’s final work, Day is Done, 2005. Plus, visitors will get a better understanding of Kelley’s highly influential but lesser-shown drawings, photographs, and writings.

Mark Rothko, Red on Maroon, 1959. Image courtesy of the Tate and Fondation Louis Vuitton.

Mark Rothko” 
Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris
October 18, 2023-April 2, 2024

The Fondation Louis Vuitton knows how to do a blockbuster exhibition—and Mark Rothko’s first retrospective in France promises to be no exception. Mounted in time for the opening of the Paris+ by Art Basel fair, the show gathers some 115 works from major institutions, encompassing the artist’s early figurative paintings as well as his iconic and influential abstractions. The exhibition will also include the first “Rothko Room,” from the Phillips Collection, completed in close collaboration with the artist in 1960. 

Marie Laurencin, In the Forest (Dans la forêt), 1916. Image courtesy of the Barnes, McNay Art Museum, and Fondation Foujita / Artists Rights Society.

Marie Laurencin: Sapphic Paris” 
The Barnes, Philadelphia
October 22, 2023–January 21, 2024

If you haven’t seen the arresting work of French artist Marie Laurencin, 1883-1956, in person, this fall offers a ripe opportunity. Although historically best known as the lover of Apollinaire and a secondary member of the Cubist movement, Laurencin developed a distinct artistic style and became part of interwar Paris’s vibrant lesbian literary and artistic network. For her first solo American museum exhibition in 30 years, the Barnes will bring together more than 50 paintings that offer discreet evocations of queer affection and a uniquely “sapphic modernity.”

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