Winter Arts Guide: Museum Openings

Fight the winter blahs with art exhibits. Here's what's coming to local galleries this season.

When the frozen landscape around you is dominated by muddy streets, gray slush, and sallow, sun-starved faces, that’s when you could really use a shot of visual splendor. Luckily, our many fine art museums offer plenty of sights for sore eyes this winter.

Hassan Hajjaj

Hassan Hajjaj, Mr Toliver / Photo courtesy of the Newark Museum, via Worcester Art Museum

“Hassan Hajjaj: My Rock Stars”

Behind every successful career, there are the people who propelled you there—whether it’s your cheerleaders and mentors, or the naysayers who gave you the drive to prove them room. In “My Rock Stars,” Moroccan-born, UK-based artist Hassan Hajjaj pays homage to figures in his life, “who—though they may not all be famous—have inspired the artist personally.”

November 7-March 6, Worcester Art Museum, 55 Salisbury St., Worcester, 508-799-4406 ,

Marilyn Arsem

Photo excerpted from Marilyn Arsem’s US Domestic Policy II / Courtesy photo by Denis Romanovski via Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

“Marilyn Arsem: 100 Ways to Consider Time”

Museum of Fine Arts exhibition “Marilyn Arsem: 100 Ways to Consider Time” will not merely showcase Arsem’s work—the exhibition is Arsem herself: For six hours a day, every day, for 100 days, she’ll be in Gallery 261, “inserting her living presence into the Museum.” It’s an apt role for a figure who is in many ways the living embodiment of performance art in Boston. The Mobius founder has created over 180 works of performance art since 1975, and as the MFA notes, “in the process she has helped to define the genre itself.”

November 9-February 19, Museum of Fine Arts, 465 Huntington Ave., Boston, 617-267-9300,

Native Fashion Now

Orlando Dugi’s cape and dress from “Desert Heat” / Courtesy photo by Nate Francis, via Peabody Essex Museum

“Native Fashion Now”

This fall, the Peabody Essex Museum debuts the first-ever large-scale traveling exhibition of contemporary Native American fashion, featuring 100 works spanning the last 50 years that “explore the vitality of Native fashion designers and artists from pioneering Native style-makers to today’s maverick designers making their mark in today’s world of fashion.”

November 21-March 6, Peabody Essex Museum, 161 Essex St., Salem, 978-745-9500,

“Kenneth Paul Block Illustrations”

His career spanning half a century, Kenneth Paul Block (1925–2009) is “arguably the most important fashion illustrator of the second half of the 20th century,” according to the MFA. In his lifetime, he transformed the pages of the moribund WWD with his fluid, energetic works, and helped define midcentury elegance as much as the style icons whose portraits he captured—Jacqueline Kennedy, Babe Paley and Gloria Guinness among them. This exhibit showcases roughly 30 works by Block, from the 1950s to the 1990s.

December 12-August 14, Museum of Fine Arts, 465 Huntington Ave., Boston, 617-267-9300,


Hiro, Black Evening Dress in Flight (1963) / Courtesy photo via MFA

“Hiro Photographs”

Few artists so fully dominate their chosen medium that they can pull off the mononym. Joining the ranks of Madonna, Prince, Morrissey is Hiro, a photographer with a singularly striking aethetic vision. Perhaps his uniquely elegant sense of surrealism stems in part from his history of being something of a cultural outsider: He was born in Shanghai to Japanese parents, and came to the U.S. from Japan in 1954. And this MFA exhibit is a milestone for 85-year-old artist, as it will be the first solo exhibition of Hiro’s work to be shown in a major American museum.

December 12-August 14, Museum of Fine Arts, 465 Huntington Ave., Boston, 617-267-9300,

Diane Simpson

Diane Simpson, Formal Wear (1998) / Courtesy the artist, Corbett vs. Dempsey, Chicago, and JTT, New York; via ICA

“Diane Simpson”

If it’s optical illusions you’re after, you’ll find them in the textile acrobatics of Diane Simpson, who makes metal, mahogany, wool, and polyester seem to defy the laws of physics. “While elements of her creations appear to effortlessly hang and fold, they are in fact the result of a rigorous approach to construction techniques, reveling in passages of pattern, joinery, and skewed angles that are by turns humorous and psychologically charged,” the ICA informs us.

December 16-March 27, Institute of Contemporary Art, 100 Northern Ave., Boston, 617-478-3100,

The Birthday Party

Ramin Haerizadeh, Rokni Haerizadeh, and Hesam Rahmanian, Untitled (2015) / Performance still, courtesy of the artists, via ICA

“Ramin Haerizadeh, Rokni Haerizadeh, and Hesam Rahmanian: The Birthday Party”

When you get an announcement that “You’re invited to an eclectic, exuberant, gender-bending, and totally wild art experience,” you better clear your calendar. Step into the wonderland of Ramin Haerizadeh, Rokni Haerizadeh, and Hesam Rahmanian, three Iranian artists who use a variety of mediums (sculpture, painting, drawing, and video), to create “consuming total environments.”

December 16-March 27, Institute of Contemporary Art, 100 Northern Ave., Boston, 617-478-3100,


“Everywhen” promotional image via Harvard Art Museums

“Everywhen: The Eternal Present in Indigenous Art from Australia”

Turning the clocks back makes us even more acutely aware that time—as anthropologists may argue—is in many ways a social construct. “For Indigenous people, the past is understood to be part of a cyclical and circular order known as the ‘everywhen’; conceptions of time rely on active encounters with both the ancestral and natural worlds,” the Harvard Art Museums note. This upcoming exhibit focuses on more than 70 works of Indigenous Australian art, including pieces by Rover Thomas and Emily Kame Kngwarreye (who have both showcased work at the Venice Biennale).

February 5-September 18, Harvard Art Museums, 32 Quincy St., Cambridge, 617-495-9400,

Ellsworth Kelly, Dartmouth (2011) / Courtesy of Ellsworth Kelly and Gemini G.E.L., Los Angeles. Gift of Stephen M. Salny, via Rose Art Museum

Ellsworth Kelly, Dartmouth (2011) / Courtesy of Ellsworth Kelly and Gemini G.E.L., Los Angeles. Gift of Stephen M. Salny, via Rose Art Museum

Stephen M. Salny Collection

This November, Brandeis University’s Rose Art Museum announced that they’d received a donation of 48 works from Stephen M. Salny, including pieces by Joseph Albers, Richard Diebenkorn, Helen Frankenthaler, Jasper Johns, Sol Lewitt, Brice Marden, Robert Motherwell, Sean Scully, and Rose’s first Damien Hirst. They also received 11 lithographs by abstract painter Ellsworth Kelly, who studied at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts. To celebrate, they’re holding an exhibition of the newly acquired works.

February 12-June 5, Rose Art Museum, 415 South St.,Waltham, 781-736-3434,

Walid Raad

Walid Raad, We decided to let them say “we are convinced” twice. It was more convincing this way / Photo courtesy the artist and Sfeir-Semler Gallery, Beirut/Hamburg, via ICA

“Walid Raad”

Born in 1967, Walid Raad spent his childhood in war-torn Lebanon, and his art has been devoted to unraveling the psychic trauma of the conflict ever since. He’s also fascinated with memory. In 1999, Raad launched the the Atlas Group, an imaginary foundation meant to show the potential chasm between historical documentation and the truth: A close reading of the Atlas Group’s “forensic reports” on the 14-year civil war reveal that their information gathering may not be so trustworthy after all, the cracks in the truth revealing themselves on closer inspection.

February 24-May 30, Institute of Contemporary Art, 100 Northern Ave., Boston, 617-478-3100,


Looking for more winter arts coverage? Check out:

Winter Concerts and Comedy

Winter Theater Openings

Winter Author Events