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It’s all stops out again in the museum world, with show years in the making on tap

Buzzed-about exhibitions include Alberto Giacometti in Cleveland, ‘Afro-Atlantic Histories’ at the NGA, Winslow Homer at the Met and Cézanne in Chicago

(Sonny Ross/Illustration for The Washington Post)

It’s wonderful to see America’s matchless museums back in the swing of things after the past two fearful, pinched and stuttering years. There are so many exhibitions opening across the country, covering the gamut of art-making, from photographs, sculpture and weaving to drawings, the history of cinema, automobiles and even the very niche category of paintings on stone.

Most of these shows have been years in the planning. The expertise, scholarship and logistics behind every one of them would astound you even in ordinary times. It’s all the more impressive given the impediments, uncertainty and heartbreak so many curators and their colleagues have had to negotiate in recent times. Hats off to museum workers!

Here are 10 shows I’m excited about — but honestly, there are so many more. Go to the websites of your favorite museums and see what they have in store.

Joan Mitchell

Arguably the most acclaimed of the second generation of abstract expressionists, Mitchell came to prominence in 1950s New York, before spending more than four decades in France. This retrospective, co-organized by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, will open in Baltimore with 70 works borrowed from public and private collections in the United States and Europe.

Joan Mitchell March 6-Aug. 14 at the Baltimore Museum of Art.

Alberto Giacometti

This is an ambitious overview in Cleveland of the modern sculptor’s celebrated postwar work, featuring 60 sculptures, paintings and drawings. Giacometti is best known for his slender sculptures, the products of ferociously focused attention over long periods. As identified with postwar existentialism as Meursault, the fictional protagonist of Albert Camus’s “The Stranger,” they appear to have been nibbled down to a dense core by the space around them. The show will tour to Houston, Seattle and Kansas City.

Alberto Giacometti: Toward the Ultimate Figure March 12-June 12 at the Cleveland Museum of Art.

Security guards turn curators

Who spends more time in galleries than security guards? What do they like? What would they want us to see? The Baltimore Museum of Art has asked 17 of its officers to choose an exhibition of works from the collection. Working with the renowned art historian and curator Lowery Stokes Sims, the guards have not only chosen the pieces, but also contributed to research, design, didactics, content for the accompanying catalogue and public programs. They’re getting paid for the extra work, too.

Guarding the Art March 27-July 10 at the Baltimore Museum of Art.

Whitney Biennial

A hit-and-miss affair, lately more concerned with preempting criticisms and checking identity boxes than creating a coherent exhibition of powerful new art, the Whitney Biennial, this year organized by David Breslin and Adrienne Edwards, nonetheless remains the most closely watched survey of contemporary art in America. However well it succeeds overall, this year’s iteration, like most of its predecessors, is sure to introduce us to compelling new talent.

Whitney Biennial 2022: Quiet as It’s Kept April 6-Sept. 5 at the Whitney Museum of American Art.

‘Afro-Atlantic Histories’

This exhibition of more than 130 works of art addressing the experiences and complex histories of the African diaspora, from the 17th century to today, comes to the National Gallery of Art after a spell in Sao Paolo, Brazil, in 2018. It will include contemporary art by the likes of Njideka Akunyili Crosby, the late David C. Driskell and Zanele Muholi, as well as historical paintings, sculpture and photographs not only from Africa, but also Europe, the Americas and the Caribbean.

Afro-Atlantic Histories April 10-July 17 at the National Gallery of Art.

Winslow Homer

This exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art will be the biggest show devoted to Homer, one of America’s most reliably popular artists, in 25 years. Hinging on a theme of conflict, it will present an overview of the great 19th-century artist’s career in 90 oil paintings and watercolors.

Winslow Homer: Crosscurrents April 11-July 31 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Matisse masterpiece

Six feet high and seven feet wide, Henri Matisse’s “The Red Studio” (1911) was met with perplexity when it first appeared. It’s now one of the anchoring masterpieces at New York’s Museum of Modern Art. MoMA will make the painting, which depicts six of Matisse’s paintings, three of his sculptures and a decorative ceramic plate scattered around his studio, the centerpiece of an exhibition exploring the circumstances of the work’s creation.

Matisse: The Red Studio May 1-Sept. 10 at the Museum of Modern Art.

Philip Guston

Four major museums organized this exhibition, devoted to one of America’s most acclaimed and influential postwar painters, before deciding to call it all off ahead of its opening at the National Gallery in 2020. Their reasons were confusing, but it appears they wanted to be sensitive to the imagined reactions of particular viewers and possibly feared protests. (For a period, Guston, an avowed opponent of racism, painted and drew dull-witted figures with Ku Klux Klan hoods to signify stupidity, evil and psychic sludge). The rearranged schedule means the show kicks off in Boston instead of in the nation’s capital, where it will open in February 2023.

Philip Guston Now May 1-Sept. 11 at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.


This exhibition will try to demonstrate not only how important Cézanne — the ultimate artist’s artist — was in his day, but also how relevant he remains. It’s definitely a case worth making. With 90 oil paintings, 40 drawings and watercolors, and two complete sketchbooks, the show is being billed as the first major Cézanne retrospective in 25 years and the first in Chicago in 70 years. It should be a knockout.

Cézanne May 15-Sept. 5 at the Art Institute of Chicago.

Robert Adams

Adams, 84, has taken some of the most beautiful and plain-spoken landscapes in the history of American photography. Known for his aesthetic of modesty and compassion and his ardent championing of the environment, he believes in art’s capacity to change us for the better. Adams is getting the full retrospective treatment at the National Gallery of Art, which will display 175 of his photographs taken between 1965 and 2015.

American Silence: The Photographs of Robert Adams May 29-Oct. 2 at the National Gallery of Art.