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Fall Arts Preview

New England’s 15 best museums and gallery shows for fall

Yayoi Kusama, pictured with her work “Love Is Calling” ©YAYOI KUSAMA. David Zwirner, New York; Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo/Singapore/Shanghai; Victoria Miro, London/Venice

WOMEN TAKE THE FLOOR The MFA, like most museums worth a damn, has been interrogating and rebuilding its own practices to better reflect the world we live in now — and the litany of ills from the world we’d like to leave behind. That means a more inclusive agenda where race and gender are concerned, and this show, a reinstallation of the third floor of the museum’s Art of the Americas wing, was conceived to focus “on the overlooked and underrepresented work and stories of women artists.” Sept.13-May 3, 2021, Museum of Fine Arts, 465 Huntington Ave., Boston. 617-267-9300,


RAID THE ICEBOX NOW In 1970, the Rhode Island School of Design Museum invited Andy Warhol to rifle through its collection and put whatever he wanted in the galleries. He did — most of it left unhung, leaning in layers on the floor against the wall. Warhol undermined the unquestioned preciousness of historical collections in general. This revival, so to speak, will be more pointed, with a number of artists dismantling traditional master narratives in this, an increasingly fluid, and voluble, time. Sept. 13-Nov. 1, 2020, RISD Museum, 20 North Main St., Providence. 401-454-6500,

FATIMAH TUGGAR: HOME’S HORIZONS A terrifically ambitious solo exhibition of the Nigerian-born, Kansas-based Tuggar, the Davis Museum’s installation will include pieces ranging from sculpture, video, and augmented reality all the way to handmade craft. Tuggar, on theme, muses on the meaning of home for a society in radical motion and flux, with social justice at heart. Sept. 13-Dec. 15, The Davis Museum at Wellesley College, 106 Central St., Wellesley. 781-283-2051,

JENNY HOLZER Holzer, who became a giant of American post-conceptual art in the 1970s with her flinty, political text works, already has a huge permanent footprint at Mass MoCA, so it makes sense the museum would want to deepen the relationship with one of its marquee draws. This fall, it’s presenting a broad survey of Holzer’s works, stretching back to the ’70s — almost 1,000 or so posters, as well as vitrines chock full of scribbled notes and various bits and pieces collected by the artist over decades. Sept. 20-summer 2020, Mass MoCA, 1040 Mass MoCA Way, North Adams. 413-662-2111,


WITH CHILD: OTTO DIX/CARMEN WINANT Has there ever been a more viscerally creepy genius than Otto Dix? Maybe, but not by much. This show in Worcester gloms on to Dix at his most unflinching, portraying female nudes in late pregnancy, but answers his borderline-objectification with works by two women, linked across generations: contemporary artist Carmen Winant and Dix’s student Gussy Hippold-Ahnert. Sept. 21-Dec. 15, Worcester Art Museum, 55 Salisbury St., Worcester. 508-799-4406,

HANS HOFMANN: THE NATURE OF ABSTRACTION Not the household name like those that came after him — Pollock, Rothko, De Kooning, Still — Hofmann, the legend goes, both preceded and influenced Abstract Expressionism, the moment at which the international art world focused squarely on America and really never looked away again. Hofmann, who moved to the US from Germany in 1933, was a teacher of great renown, counting among his star students Louise Nevelson, Lee Krasner, and Ray Eames. Sept. 21-Jan. 5, 2020, Peabody Essex Museum, 161 Essex St, Salem. 978-745-9500,


GORDON MATTA CLARK: ANARCHITECT Gordon Matta Clark sliced houses in two and bored bus-size holes in derelict apartment buildings several stories up, highlighting late-20th-century society’s wasteful ways regarding, well, everything, from gas guzzlers all the way up to building stock. Matta Clark’s inference — that everything is temporary, and disposable — first made in the ’70s, feels now like the proverbial canary in a coal mine, with a planet poised at the edge of ruin. Are we ready to listen yet? Sept. 21-Jan. 5, 2020, Rose Art Museum, Brandeis University, 415 South St., Waltham. 781-736-3434,

YAYOI KUSAMA: LOVE IS CALLING + BEYOND INFINITY Here come the selfies: When the ICA announced it had acquired one of the celebrated Japanese nonagenarian’s “Infinity Rooms” earlier this year, it almost had to deploy crowd control strategies as part of the announcement, due to the runaway success of Kusama’s “Infinity Mirrors” exhibition in various cities last year. The ICA promises a deep dive to offset the Instagram onslaught, with a thoughtful accompanying display that situates Kusama’s work in the context of her peers. Sept. 24-Feb. 7, 2021, Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston. 617-478-3100,

MIGRATING WORLDS: THE ART OF THE MOVING IMAGE IN BRITAIN With Harvard Art Museums and the ICA both hosting migration-themed shows, this one joins a chorus of voices singing plaintively about one of the two key crises of our times (the other, climate change, has a near-constant presence on our anxiety meter, and in our art institutions as well). With works from artists such as Isaac Julien and Rosalind Nashashibi, among others. Oct. 10-Dec. 29, Yale Center for British Art, 1080 Chapel St., New Haven. 877-274-8278,


WENG FAMILY COLLECTION OF CHINESE PAINTING: FAMILY AND FRIENDS Last year, local collector and Chinese art scholar Wan-go H.C. Weng made the largest donation of Chinese paintings and calligraphy in the MFA’s history — 183 works, all told, some of them monumental. Weng’s gift gets its first airing this fall — the first of an eventual triumverate of shows that will display his extraordinary largesse. This show will feature works from the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties. Oct. 12-Aug. 9, 2020, Museum of Fine Arts, 465 Huntington Ave., Boston. 617-267-9300,

ALL THE MARVELOUS SURFACES: PHOTOGRAPHY SINCE KARL BLOSSFELDT Inspired by German photographer Karl Blossfeldt’s “Art Forms in Nature” (1928), this show picks up where Blossfeldt’s intensely close looking at bits of foliage left off. Artists that came later — whether mid-century like Harold Edgerton, or right now, like Erin Shirreff — are seen in the context of Blossfeldt’s fascination with pattern and texture, all while being remarkably beautiful. Oct 12-March 29, 2020, de Cordova Sculpture Park and Museum, 51 Sandy Pond Road, Lincoln. 781-259-8355,

LEE MINGWEI: SONIC BLOSSOM An elaborately-robed person prowls the gallery, eventually sidling up to you to speak. “May I give you the gift of a song?” he or she will ask, if you let them. If you say yes, they’ll erupt in operatic tones, just for you. It’s the most recent visit to Boston for Mingwei’s ongoing performance/social practice piece. Given the reaction it received at the MFA in 2015, the project is sure to receive a warm welcome back. Oct. 16-Dec. 1, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, 25 Evans Way, Boston. 617-566-1401,


IN THE COMPANY OF ARTISTS: 25 YEARS OF ARTISTS-IN-RESIDENCE The Gardner’s homey confines — if you were a multi-millionaire, I suppose, with a penchant for Venetian baroque architecture — have always made it something of an outsize house museum, which, for its namesake, it quite literally was. So it seems only natural that the museum have a robust and longstanding artist-in-residence program, which this look back celebrates for the fertile — and often surprising — pleasure it’s been. Oct. 17-Jan. 20, 2020, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, 25 Evans Way, Boston. 617-566-1401,

AFROCOSMOLOGIES: AMERICAN REFLECTIONS This show explores spirituality and its role in African-American culture from the late 19th century to the present. Together, the works form “a continuing body of beliefs — a cosmology — that incorporates the centrality of nature, ritual, and relationships between the human and the divine.” Oct. 19-Jan. 20, 2020, Wadsworth Atheneum, 600 Main St., Hartford. 860-278-2670,

RAGNAR KJARTANSSON: SCENES FROM WESTERN CULTURE Kjartansson, the Icelandic absurdist video artist best-known for “The Visitors,” a six-channel piece among the most-loved in the collection of ICA Boston, arrives in Portland with “Scenes from Western Culture.” This one’s a dryly cynical near-satire about the mixed-up priorities of post-apex Western capitalism: fine dining, speedboating, sex in a condo so sterile (“modern,” the marketing pamphlet might prefer) you’d be tempted to perform surgery in it. “Scenes From Western Culture” may lack the heart of “The Visitors,” a heartstring-tugger about friendship and loss, but it’s got meat: Kjartansson based his films on French Rococo painter Jean-Antoine Watteau’s pastoral scenes of 18th-century aristocrats. Plus ça change. Nov. 2-March 1, 2020, Portland Museum of Art, 7 Congress Square, Portland, Maine. 207-775-6148,

Murray Whyte can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @TheMurrayWhyte