Winter Arts Guide: Museum picks

Botticelli’s “Three Miracles of Zenobius” will be part of “Botticelli: Heroines and Heroes” at Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.
Botticelli’s “Three Miracles of Zenobius” will be part of “Botticelli: Heroines and Heroes” at Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York)

NATURE’S NATION: AMERICAN ART AND THE ENVIRONMENT The landscape has been a defining aspect of American identity for centuries — long before there was even a United States of America to define. What happens when that landscape is in distress? That’s what this show seeks to address. Jan. 31-May 5. Peabody Essex Museum. East India Square. 978-745-9500.

THE BAUHAUS AND HARVARD Among several exhibits marking the groundbreaking Modernist design school’s centenary, this is sure to be the meatiest, given the school’s history with Bauhaus cofounder Walter Gropius, the onetime chair of Harvard’s school of architecture. Consider it a vision of better living through design a century later, with all the caveats that come with that. Feb. 8-July 28. Harvard Art Museums. 32 Quincy St., Cambridge. 617-267-9300,


RAGNAR KJARTANSSON: THE VISITORS The ICA brings an old favorite out of storage with the 2012 piece that helped make Kjartansson’s reputation: a nine-channel video work that situates a gang of friends playing music in and outside of a 43-room mansion set in a snowy mountain range. Its absurdity is outweighed only by the sincerity of its emotional core — a balance, in my mind, to which Kjartansson hasn’t paid quite enough attention since. Feb. 13-July 28. Institute of Contemporary Art, 25 Harbor Shore Drive. 617-478-3100,

BOTTICELLI: HEROINES AND HEROES This show at the Gardner Museum travels intimately familiar turf — Isabella Stewart Gardner, the museum’s founder, acquired the first Botticelli to come to America — using strikingly unfamiliar means: Graphic novelist Karl Stevens has created a response to Botticelli more suited to this #MeToo moment. Feb. 14-May 19. Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. 617-566-1401,

FRIDA KAHLO AND ARTE POPULAR Kahlo’s reputation as a ground-breaking Modern feminist artist is firmly cemented. This exhibition puts Kahlo the fearless experimentalist in the context of the folk and vernacular traditions that helped to inform her radical invention. Feb. 27-June 16. Museum of Fine Arts, 465 Huntington Ave. 617-267-9300,


MATTHEW BARNEY: REDOUBT One of the most-celebrated artists of his generation, Barney checks back in to his alma mater for the first time since graduation in the ’80s with a complex, meditative video work about nature, loss, and cosmic grand schemes. A far cry from his trademark viscerality? Maybe. But don’t be surprised to see entrails or ectoplasm somewhere along the way. March 1-June 16. Yale University Art Gallery, 1111 Chapel St., New Haven. 203-432-0601,

TRENTON DOYLE HANCOCK: MIND OF THE MOUND: CRITICAL MASS Mashing together superheroes, Greek mythology, and a wildly holistic view of an interconnected world, Hancock’s massive installation (in the giant museum’s by-far biggest space) creates an entire universe where nature and culture — ideally, at least — become one. March 19-January 2020. Mass MoCA, 1040 Mass MoCA Way, North Adams. 413-662-2111,

HUMA BHABHA: THEY LIVE Bhabha, who is from Karachi, fuses castoffs with a Modernist aesthetic that muddies the purity of the latter with the alarming accretion of the former, making her often-monumental works the ideally complex totems for our very troubling times. March 23-May 29. Institute of Contemporary Art, 25 Harbor Shore Drive. 617-478-3100,

TOULOUSE-LAUTREC AND THE STARS OF PARIS I’m wary of the same old Lautrec show warmed over and served up dozens of times, but I’ll reserve the benefit of the doubt that this installment diverges from the lascivious romanticism of the typical to highlight the artiste populaire’s “formal innovations,” as the MFA site says. Showing alongside contemporaries — if not confreres — Edgar Degas, Honoré Daumier, Pierre Bonnard, and Édouard Vuillard offers some hope. April 7-Aug. 4. Museum of Fine Arts, 465 Huntington Ave. 617-267-9300,


SUFFERING FROM REALNESS A contemporary art show that takes its title from a Jay-Z/Kanye West lyric can be expected to provoke — the line comes from the song “N***as in Paris” — and this one, at Mass MoCA, won’t disappoint. Starring recent MacArthur Fellowship recipient Titus Kaphar, the show looks to explore “the politics of representation,” taking on such fiery issues as “racism, violence, gender equality, the politicized body of wartime, the anxious body, the complexity of responsibility, and the future.” April 13-January 2020. Mass MoCA. 1040 Mass MoCA Way, North Adams. 413-662-2111.