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10 must-see museum shows from Massachusetts to Maine

Candice Lin, "Memory (Study #2)," 2016, detail.Ruben Dia/Image courtesy the artist, Commonwealth and Council and François Ghebaly Gallery, Los Angeles


METAL OF HONOR: GOLD FROM SIMONE MARTINI TO CONTEMPORARY ART Two rare works by the early Renaissance painter Simone Martini from the Gardner Museum collection form the basis of this exhibition, which connects artists across centuries through a shared fascination with the symbolic power of gold. The Gardner’s Martinis, including a monumental five-panel altarpiece “Virgin and Child With Saints,” circa 1320, will be joined by four loans from other institutions, as well as pieces by contemporary artists Titus Kaphar, Kehinde Wiley, and Stacey Lynn Waddell. Through Jan. 16. Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, 25 Evans Way. 617-566-1401,

IN CONCERT: GANSON & CAVATORTA When the MIT Museum closed its old location at the start of the pandemic in March 2020, it also wrapped up a long-running favorite: Arthur Ganson’s “Gestural Engineering,” a collection of wonderfully absurd tabletop-size kinetic sculptures that first opened at the museum in 1995. Ganson describes himself as a cross between “a mechanical engineer and a choreographer.” My favorite of his works was “Cory’s Yellow Chair,” a star-shaped gearwheel that fragmented and reassembled the doll-size seat like clockwork, in perpetuity. Brimming with such inexhaustible delights, the show was magnetic, and adored, for years. With the new MIT Museum now open, “Gestural Engineering” returns, to the relief of many, though not quite as before. The new exhibition pairs Ganson’s work with a piece by Andy Cavatorta, a kindred spirit of a sculptor who works with sound and robotics and has created eclectic instruments for artists such as Björk. And good news: The yellow chair is back! Ongoing. MIT Museum, 314 Main St., Gambrill Center, Building E-28, Cambridge. 617-253-5927,

SYMBIONTS: CONTEMPORARY ARTISTS AND THE BIOSPHERE “Symbiont” is the scientific term for species that thrive on interdependence — a honeybee and an apple blossom, or the beneficial bacteria in your belly that you try to keep happy with probiotics. This exhibition offers a collision of art and science where some of the 14 artists included will not only examine those relationships but nurture them right there in the gallery as their work lives and grows before your eyes. Oct. 21 to Feb. 26. MIT List Visual Arts Center, 20 Ames St., Cambridge. 617-253-4680,


FRANK BOWLING’S AMERICAS Bowling was born in British Guiana and raised in London, but found his painterly voice in the tumult of 1960s and ′70s New York, where a rising Black Power movement ran parallel to the convulsions of late Modernism, as Abstract Expressionism struggled to maintain relevancy. This survey of Bowling’s work, often a collision of abstract painting and silkscreened images charged with the political tumult of the Black diaspora, rises to meet the artist’s own declaration: that “Modernism belonged to me also.” Oct. 22 to April 9. Museum of Fine Arts Boston, 465 Huntington Ave. 617-267-9300,


ON THE HORIZON: ART AND ATMOSPHERE IN THE 19TH CENTURY The Romantic era of 19th-century art prized the pristine countryside as closest to the divine, but the intangible elements of air and sky may have provided artists with a more expressive milieu in which to explore mood and experience. This exhibition looks at painters including J.M.W. Turner, John Constable, and James McNeill Whistler through their expressive, atmospheric pictures. Nov. 19 to Feb. 12. Clark Art Institute, 225 South St., Williamstown. 413-458-2303,


James McNeill Whistler, "Nocturne: The River at Battersea," 1878.Clark Art Institute


PRESENCE: THE PHOTOGRAPHY COLLECTION OF JUDY GLICKMAN LAUDER With 150 pictures by 70 photographers, this exhibition is the first showcase of a trove of 600 notable photographs from the collection of Judith Glickman Lauder given to the museum in January of this year. Lauder, married to Estée Lauder chairman emeritus Leonard Lauder, spent considerable time behind the camera herself, honing her eye, and the standout collection shows it: The show includes well-known pictures by such photographers as Berenice Abbott, Diane Arbus, Richard Avedon, Danny Lyon, Sally Mann, Gordon Parks, and James Van Der Zee — and Glickman Lauder herself. Through Jan. 15. Portland Museum of Art, 7 Congress Square, Portland, Maine. 207-775-6148,

Richard Avedon, "Audrey Hepburn and Art Buchwald, with Simone D'Aillencourt, Frederick Eberstadt, Barbara Mullen, and Dr. Reginald Kernan, evening dresses by Balmain, Dior, and Patou, Maxim's, Paris, August 1959," 1959.Richard Avedon/Portland Museum of Art, Maine, Judy Glickman Lauder Collection. © The Richard Avedon Foundation


ROCKWELL KENT: PRINTS FROM THE RALF C. NEMEC COLLECTION Kent never viewed printmaking as the poor cousin to his painting output, as many of his early-20th-century peers surely did. Instead, he saw it as a fundamentally democratic form of art that allowed people of all means to see, and even own, fine art. Kent traveled broadly, offering a window into the everyday of faraway lands including Alaska, Greenland, and Tierra del Fuego. This show, drawn from one of the largest collections of Kent prints in the world, is a study in the artist’s hard-edged graphic style, depicting scenes from far and near. Through Dec. 9. Fleming Museum of Art, the University of Vermont, 61 Colchester Ave., Burlington, Vt. 802-656-0750,


STATE OF THE ART 2020: LOCATE This project started in 2014 at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Arkansas with the broad mandate to examine how contemporary art “reflects the present moment.” The traveling exhibition is the museum’s most recent plunge into how artists explore themes of family, place, identity, and belonging. Both exhibitions, 2014 and 2020, had a notable priority of finding artists in every corner of the nation, not just the usual suspects of Los Angeles and New York, making for a vibrant experience that aims to be as varied and eclectic as the country itself. Oct. 20 to Feb. 13. Currier Museum of Art, 150 Ash St., Manchester, N.H. 603-669-6144,



BEING AND BELIEVING IN THE NATURAL WORLD: PERSPECTIVES FROM THE ANCIENT MEDITERRANEAN, ASIA, AND INDIGENOUS NORTH AMERICA A cross-department collaboration between the RISD museum’s curators of ancient art, Native American Art, and Asian art, this exhibition takes an expansive, planet-wide view of artistic expressions of nature across 4,000 years of human creativity, right up to the present day. Oct. 22 to May 7. Rhode Island School of Design Museum, 20 North Main St., Providence. 401-454-6500,


EDWARD BURTYNSKY: EARTH OBSERVED The photographer Edward Burtynsky captures a world transformed by industry from a calculated remove, distant enough to clearly see the inhuman scale of human endeavor scored into the skin of the planet. This exhibition will feature his large-scale works, made over 40 years of photographing everything from mines and industrial agriculture to gargantuan freighters being broken down piece by piece. Nov. 17 to April 16. New Britain Museum of American Art, 56 Lexington St., New Britain, Conn. 860-229-0257,


Edward Burtynsky, "Ship Breaking #24, Chittagong, Bangladesh," 2000. EB Photography

Murray Whyte can be reached at Follow him @TheMurrayWhyte.