47 Art Exhibits to See in Boston This Fall

Highlights include 'Shoes: Pleasure and Pain' at the Peabody Essex Museum and all-night parties at the Museum of Fine Arts. —Catherine Cray, Matthew Reed Baker

Della Robbia

Resurrection of Christ (before conservation), 
Giovanni della Robbia. / Courtesy of Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Della Robbia: Sculpting with Color in Renaissance Florence

The Della Robbia exhibition presents a glimpse of the Renaissance in all of its vibrant color with these expertly glazed terracotta sculptures. “Praised in its own day as ‘almost eternal,’ and seen as a new invention not known in antiquity, Luca della Robbia’s technique of glazed terracotta displays the creative ingenuity and graceful beauty that characterized the Renaissance and that continues to astonish and beguile us today,” said curator Marietta Cambareri in a statement. Indeed, with gems like The Resurrection of Christ, how could one not be beguiled?

August 9-December 4, Museum of Fine Arts Boston, 617-267-9300, mfa.org.

Jean-Marie Straub and Danièlle Huillet: Three Works

Is film fine art? A closer look inside the creation of Every Revolution is a Throw of the Dice, Cézanne: Conversation with Joachim Gasquet, and A Visit to the Louvre proves that it is—or at least that it can be, especially when the filmmakers are a talented French power couple who infuse all that they touch with their profound creativity.

August 4-September 24, Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts, 617-496-5387, ccva.fas.harvard.edu. 

Mickalene Thomas

Mickalene Thomas, Monet’s Salon. / Courtesy of the Artist and Luhring Augustine

First Light: A Decade of Collecting at the ICA

The ICA has graced the Boston waterfront for ten years now, and the curators are celebrating. Opening highlights include Paul Chan’s digital animation 1rst Light (which inspired the exhibit’s name), Cornelia Parker’s Hanging Fire (Suspected Arson), and a newly acquired cut-paper tableau by Kara Walker. Visit again in October, because the exhibit will rotate to feature different parts of of the collection.

August 17-January 16, 2017, Institute of Contemporary Art, 617-478-3100, icaboston.org. 

Dru Donovan

Dru Donovan, Untitled, 2008, Carving the Lung. / Courtesy of the Artist

Visiting Faculty 2016-17

Harvard’s Visual and Environmental Studies department welcomes six new artists and professors whose work subverts the way we examine the world around us—Lucas Blalock, Jennifer Bornstein, Paul Bush, Dru Donovan, Guy Maddin, and Kianja Strobert.

August 25-October 1, Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts, 617-496-5387, ccva.fas.harvard.edu. 

Folding, Refracting, Touch: Modern and Contemporary Art in Dialogue with Wolfgang Tillmans

The premiering exhibit juxtaposes the work of German master Wolfgang Tillmans with other contemporary photographers for a visual conversation about photography’s fantastical possibilities and material bounds.

August 27-January 8, 2017, Harvard Art Museums, 617-495-9400, harvardartmuseums.org.

Bruce Davidson

Bruce Davidson, Untitled (arrest of a demonstrator, Birmingham, Alabama). / Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum © Magnum Photos, Inc., and Bruce Davidson

Vision and Justice

Trace the politicized representations of black Americans from the vanquished slaves of the Civil War era to the calm and powerful protesters of the 60s Civil Rights movement. And keep in mind: Although the exhibit ends in the 60s, its relevance endures.

August 27-January 8, 2017, Harvard Art Museums, 617-495-9400, harvardartmuseums.org.

František Kupka

František Kupka, Hour. / Harvard Art Museums/Busch-Reisinger Museum © Artists Rights Society

Modern Art and Modernity

The exhibit accompanies a course on the development of modern art from the 18th to the 20th century. Like reading a book but only looking at the pictures, a visit to the exhibit provides all of the fun without any of the homework.

August 27-January 8, 2017, Harvard Art Museums, 617-495-9400, harvardartmuseums.org.

Ann Wessman: Being: Vertical + Horizontal

Night and day; asleep and awake; vertical and horizontal. Ann Wessman visualizes these opposite states that make up the rhythm of life in a monochromatic grid, where vertical slices of paper represent the wakeful day and horizontal pieces represent the sleeping night.

August 31-October 2, Kingston Gallery, 617-423-4113, kingstongallery.com.

Kristina Pitsch: Still Life

What happens when an artist recreates the ornate patterns found on fine porcelain—using cardboard? Pitsch embarks on an examination of ornamentation that blurs the lines between luxurious and commonplace.

August 31-October 2, Kingston Gallery, 617-423-4113, kingstongallery.com.

Opening September

Erik Bornemann Richard Bornemann

Left: Untitled by Erik Bornemann; Right: Slicestair by Richard Bornemann. / Images Courtesy of the FPAC Gallery

Like Father Unlike Son: Two Contrasting Modes of Expression

Discover what differences in artistic styles can reveal about the relationship between two men who have shared a home, genetic material, and a passion for visual arts.

September 1-October 7, FPAC Gallery, 617-423-4299, fortpointarts.org.

Manzanar: Photographs by Ansel Adams

Photographs inside the California Japanese internment camp show both the injustice of holding over ten thousand people in scanty tarpaper lodgings on the basis of ethnicity, but also the surprising beauty and resilience of the community that developed within those beaten down walls.

Opening September 1, Addison Gallery of American Art, 978-749-4015, andover.edu/museums/addison.

Imogen Cunningham: In Focus

Take a peek at America through a new lens—literally. 20th century photographer Imogen Cunningham captured subjects ranging from American poet Theodore Roethke to Georgia O’Keefe-inspired botanical close-ups.

September 3-June 18, 2017, Museum of Fine Arts, 617-267-9300, mfa.org.

Terry Winters

Terry Winters, Yellow Stone. / © Terry Winters
, Courtesy of Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Terry Winters: The Structure of Things

Right-brained or left-brained? Terry Winters proves that he is both with an exhibit of visually arresting paintings that take inspiration from mathematical series and biological cellular systems.

September 3-June 18, 2017Museum of Fine Arts, 617-267-9300, mfa.org.

Truth in Architecture: Works by Paul Stevenson Oles FAIA

Stevenson Oles is a talented architect and illustrator—two things that might not seem to go together anymore when computers outpace human accuracy. But Oles’ talent shines through and shows the continued value of drawing by hand.

September 8-October 6, BSA Space, 617-391-4000, architects.org/bsaspace.

Correspondences: Bernd and Hilla Becher, Seton Smith, and a Collection of Early 20th Century Postcards

See just how extensive the creative possibilities are within the narrowest constraints: postcards with pictures of houses. Photographs of half-timbered structures that all look the same at first glance but reveal subtle differences upon further inspection, and a collection of postcards of Boston’s Old State House anchor the collection and prove that infinite possibilities can exist within this genre.

September 10-October 15, Barbara Krakow Gallery, 617-262-4490, barbarakrakowgallery.com.

For Another

Allen Rupersberg, Allan McCollum, Claes Oldenburg, and Liliana Porter join forces in this exhibition of conceptual sculpture.

September 10-October 15, Barbara Krakow Gallery, 617-262-4490, barbarakrakowgallery.com.

Sarah Sze

Sarah Sze, Measuring Stick. / Courtesy of the Artist and Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York

Sarah Sze

“Blurring the boundaries between sculpture, installation and painting, Sarah Sze builds intricate landscapes from the ordinary minutiae of everyday life, yet on a grand architectural scale,” the Rose Art Museum said in a statement. Sze’s fall installation for the Rose has never been seen before, but her previous works in New York (pictured above), San Francisco, Japan, the UK, and other locations show that she’s not one to disappoint.

September 11-December 11, Rose Art Museum, 781-736-3434, brandeis.edu/rose.

Painting Paintings (David Reed) 1975

David Reed’s work reveals the processes used to create it—the physical act of painting, the roughness of his brushes, and so much more.

September 11-December 11, Rose Art Museum, 781-736-3434, brandeis.edu/rose.

David Shrigley: Life Model II

Galleries are for looking, but no touching, right? Not for David Shrigley. Like a life drawing class, but not quite, grab a paper and some charcoal to draw the sculpted caricature of a nine-foot tall woman.

September 11-December 11, Rose Art Museum, brandeis.edu/rose.

Sean Lynch Adventure: Capital

Film? Anthropology? Ancient myths? Check, check, and check. The Irish artist blends the diverse fields seamlessly in a short video.

September 11-December 11, Rose Art Museum, 781-736-3434, brandeis.edu/rose.

Justin Goodstein

Courtesy of Historic New England, photograph by Justin Goodstein

Haymarket, the Soul of the City

“The market is a reflection of the city’s changing population, and today includes Halal butchers, artisanal cheesemongers, Cambodian fruit sellers, and workers from South America and Asia,” the BSA said in a statement. Photographs and videos showcase this diversity in an exhibit that highlights the city’s character, defined by the individuals who inhabit it.

September 15-October 30, BSA Space, 617-391-4000, architects.org/bsaspace.

Taking Shape: Sculpture at the Addison

Weathervanes and signs, big names and unknowns, the Addison explores all that sculpture can be.

September 17-March 19, 2017, Addison Gallery of American Art, 978-749-4015, andover.edu/museums/addison.

Chorus Line Frances Stark (American, born in 1967) 2008 Cut-and-pasted printed paper and cut-and-pasted colored paper on paper *The Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY, U.S.A. Purchased with funds provided by the Contemporary Arts Council of The Museum of Modern Art, and Committee on Drawings Funds. *Digital Image © The Museum of Modern Art/Licensed by SCALA / Art Resource, NY. *Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Chorus Line, Frances Stark, 2008. / Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Uh-oh: Frances Stark 1991-2015

The L.A.-based multimedia artist gets her mid-career survey, featuring more than 100 works. With striking visuals, incisive commentary, and wry humor, this is the season’s big fun exhibition.

September 17-January 29, 2017Museum of Fine Arts, 617-267-9300, mfa.org.

The Clock Christian Marclay (American, born in 1955) 2010 Single channel video (color, sound) 16:9 aspect ratio *Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Edward Linde Fund—Jointly owned by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and the National Gallery of Canada *© the artist Photo: Todd‑White Art Photography Courtesy the Artist, White Cube, London and Paula Cooper Gallery, New York *© the artist. Photo: Todd‑White Art Photography. Courtesy White Cube, London and Paula Cooper Gallery, New York. *Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Christian Marclay, 2010, single channel video. / © The artist, Photo by Todd‑White Art Photography, Courtesy of Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Christian Marclay: The Clock

Ever been to a twenty-four hour-long movie? The MFA will be showing one on repeat starting this September. Christian Marclay collected clips from a century of film and TV to create this ode to time. Look at the screen and you’ll see big names like Jack Nicholson alongside cinematic depictions of clocks, telling the same time as your own watch (or cell phone). The museum will also host overnight parties as part of #mfaNOW.

September 17-January 9, 2017, Museum of Fine Arts, 617-267-9300, mfa.org. 

John Lennon poster

Left: Richard Avedon. John Lennon, 1967. Offset lithograph. Courtesy Robert Bachelder; Right: Walter Schnackenberg. Odeon Casino, 1912. Lithograph. Courtesy Robert Bachelder

A Century of Style: Masterworks of Poster Design

Posters are more than just pieces of paper adorning the bedroom walls of angst-filled teens. Since 1890 they have represented the staying power of compelling design in a world rapidly changing with technology.

September 19-December 3, MassArt Bakalar Gallery, 617-879-7337, massart.edu.

Encircling the World: Contemporary Art, Science, and the Sublime

The word “sublime” calls to mind greatness, in beauty and in size—the behemoth ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, the gargantuan cliffs in the Grand Canyon. But what if the sublime could be found in smaller packages? Zoomed in artistic imaginings of microscopic processes informed by scientific inquiry prove that the feeling of awe comes in all sizes.

September 19-December 3, MassArt Bakalar Gallery, 617-879-7337, massart.edu.

Beyond Words

Courtesy of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

Beyond Words: Italian Renaissance Books

They just don’t make books like they used to. Look inside the covers of the Renaissance’s luxury items and artistic gems. The show’s highlights includes the first Florentine edition of Dante’s Divine Comedy illustrated by none other than Botticelli.

September 22-January 16, 2017, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, 617-566-1401, gardnermuseum.org.

Making It Modern: The Folk Art Collection of Elie and Viola Nadelman

An exhibit at the intersection of folk art and contemporary sculpture marries Elie Nadelman’s two fascinations. Admire one of the most extensive collections of American folk art alongside the sculpture that it inspired.

September 24-December 31, Addison Gallery of American Art, 978-749-4015, andover.edu/museums/addison.

Partners in Design: Alred H. Barr Jr. and Philip Johnson

The MoMA’s first director and first curator of architecture walk into a bar (or a museum). No, this is not a bad joke; it’s the beginning of the collaboration that would introduce modernism to American soils. Witness their incredible eye for design in an exhibit that combines everything from their MoMA collections to furniture from each man’s apartment.

September 28-December 18, Davis Museum, 781-283-2051, wellesley.edu/davismuseum.

charlotte brooks

Charlotte Brooks

Left: Duke Ellington and band members playing baseball in front of their segregated motel (Astor Motel), while touring in Florida, 1955; Right: Cuban Singers La Lupe performing in New York City, 1970. / Photographs by Charlotte Brooks courtesy of the Davis Museum

Charlotte Brooks at Look, 1951-1971

The Library of Congress describes Charlotte Brooks as “a sociologist with a camera.” This first-ever retrospective covers her work for Look magazine, where she made her own history as its only female photographer.

September 28-December 18, Davis Museum, 781-283-2051, wellesley.edu/davismuseum.

Anni Albers: Connections

This textile artist and refugee from Nazi Germany took on the challenge of representing six decades of her life in nine silk screens. From first meeting her husband in Germany to just after his death in the US, this autobiography on cloth is both aesthetically interesting and emotionally laden.

September 28-December 18, Davis Museum, 781-283-2051, wellesley.edu/davismuseum.

Opening October


Youjin Moon, Callisto, 2014. / Courtesy of the artist and DM Contemporary, New York, NY

The deCordova New England Biennial 2016

All six New England states appear in this 16-artist takeover, with works ranging from Ashley Bryan’s puppets inspired by African folktales to Jason Noushin’s paintings using Farsi calligraphy.

October 7-March 26, 2017, DeCordova Sculpture Park and Museum, 781-259-8355, decordova.org.

Edward Steichen: Twentieth Century Photographer

Commercial photographer of the rich and famous for Condé Nast, war photographer of the sick and dying in both World War I and II, and finally curator at the Museum of Modern Art: Edward Steichen’s diverse experiences informed the transformation of his photographic talents.

October 7-March 26, 2017, DeCordova Sculpture Park and Museum, 781-259-8355, decordova.org.

Samuel Morse

Samuel F. B. Morse, Gallery of the Louvre. / Photograph courtesy of the Peabody Essex Museum

Samuel F.B. Morse’s Gallery of the Louvre and the Art of Invention

Best known for developing Morse Code, Samuel also spent almost three years of intense study in the Louvre developing a painting filled with replicas of 40 of the museum’s most famous works—the Mona Lisa, anyone? The exhibit features the mammoth, six-by-nine foot study, and other objects copied from from the masters.

October 8-January 8, 2017, Peabody Essex Museum, 978-745-9500, pem.org.


Director’s Choice: ‘Making Strides’ by Prellwitz Chillinski Associates. / Photo via BSA Space

Canstruction 2016

What can you make out of cans? A lot, as it turns out. This exhibit is for charity, as all of the cans used in the sculptures will be donated to the Merrimack Valley Food Bank.

October 9-28, BSA Space, 617-391-4000, architects.org/bsaspace.

William Merritt Chase

Studio Interior, William Merritt Chase. / Brooklyn Museum photograph, courtesy of Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

William Merritt Chase

See the American Impressionist at his finest. Four museums ranging in location from Washington D.C. to Venice have collaborated to bring together eighty of the master’s works depicting “sympathetic images of women, jewel-like landscapes, views of urban parks, and scenes of children at play.”

October 9-January 16, 2017Museum of Fine Arts Boston, 617-267-9300, mfa.org.

Edgar Arcenaux

Edgar Arcenaux, Library of Black Lies, 2016. / Courtesy of the artist, Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects, and Galerie Nathalie Obadia, Paris/Bruxelles / Photo by Hélène Hilaire, 2016

Edgar Arcenaux

Three Arcenaux installations combine at List to provide for a snapshot of United States black history and powerful social commentary. A Book and a Medal puts Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in the context of modern urban life, The Library of Black Lies uses books by well-known black thinkers to construct a hybrid of catacomb and maze, and the never before seen Until, Until, Until chronicles Arcenaux’s reaction to Broadway star Ben Vereen’s performance at President Reagan’s inauguration.

October 14-January 8, 2017, MIT List Visual Arts Center, 617-253-4680, listart.mit.edu.

Lunar Attraction

The exhibit explores humanity’s longtime fascination with earth’s largest satellite. Does a full moon have psychological effects? Is the moon actually made of cheese? Cannot confirm or deny.

October 15-September 4, 2017, Peabody Essex Museum, 978-745-9500, pem.org.


Artist Nick Cave may be best known for his colorful wearable sculptures called Soundsuits. But at Mass MoCA, he’s creating his largest, most complex work, filling a football-field-size installation area with crystal clouds and found objects for a yearlong show.

Opens October 16, Mass MoCA, 413-662-2111, massmoca.org.

Richard Artschwager: Books, Punctuation, Splats, and Time

The recently deceased sculptor is a master of trompe l’oeil, which translated from the French literally means “trick of the eye.” The exhibition features found objects transformed into clocks, books, question marks, and exclamation points and then painted over in the trompe l’oeil style that lends a false perception of depth to their flat surfaces.

October 22-December 3, Barbara Krakow Gallery, 617-262-4490, barbarakrakowgallery.com.

Embodied Absence: Chilean Art of the 1970s Now

A 1973 coup in Chile caused political upheaval, social exclusion, and highly emotional works of art that spoke to the chaos. Not all of this art has survived intact, but what remains continues to inspire Chilean artists today for an artistic dialogue that spans decades.

October 27-January 8, 2017, Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts, 617-496-5387, ccva.fas.harvard.edu.

Renée Green: Pacing

What is the position of humanity in this world? What do we cause and what real footprint do we leave behind? Renée Green will consider these and other questions on the concept of “relation” for two years, updating the exhibit as she reaches new revelations.

October-April 2018, Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts, 617-496-5387, ccva.fas.harvard.edu. 

Opening November

Barbara Leiner Page Pearson

Right: she’s so smart by Barbara Leiner; Left: pink by Page Pearson. / Photographs courtesy of the FPAC Gallery


Barbara Leiner and Page Pearson use color and shape in drastically different ways, making for a vibrant and beautiful visual conversation about color theory.

November 1-December 2, FPAC Gallery, 617-423-4299, fortpointarts.org.

Doris Salcedo: The Materiality of Mourning

Bogotá-based Doris Salcedo creates startling installations to memorialize victims of political violence—including, in this exhibition, a shroud made of thousands of rose petals for a nurse slain in her home country.

November 4-April 9, 2017, Harvard Art Museums, 617-495-9400, harvardartmuseums.org.

One Room Mansion

The tiny houses in the woods craze that’s taken over Pinterest? That’s yesterday’s news at the BSA space. The exhibit will explore another more practical option in compact living—an elevated version of college dorms with individual rooms and luxurious shared amenities for affordable living and in an urban center.

November 10-February 6, 2017, BSA Space, 617-391-4000, architects.org/bsaspace.

The Artist’s Museum

Even the most contemporary artists take inspiration from the past. The exhibit is filled with homages to former master artists, ranging from René Magritte to Amy Winehouse.

November 16-March 26, 2017, Institute of Contemporary Art, 617-478-3100, icaboston.org.

shoes pem

Photo by Kathy Tarantola

Shoes: Pleasure and Pain

This footwear fantasia features more than 200 pairs from over the centuries and around the world. Whether in moccasins or metallic poly gonal heels, it’ll be quite a stroll through fashion and history.

November 19-March 12, 2017, Peabody Essex Museum, 978-745-9500, pem.org.