The Latest and Greatest to See at Philly's Art Museums

By Eric McInnis | December 3, 2019 | Culture

Philadelphia prides itself with its many art museums—from the infamous Barnes Foundation to the iconic Philadelphia Museum of Art, there’s a plethora of arts and culture meccas to choose from. With that in mind, why not plan a visit to one of them? They have plenty of exhibits on view. Here, a list of our favorites.

Our Town at Woodmere Art Museum

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The late Edith Neff is one of the most important and influential realist painters. A lifelong resident of Philadelphia, Neff combined the landscape and public areas of the city with portraits of herself, friends and family to celebrate Philly and deconstructed concepts such as race, gender and identity. This is the first large-scale exhibition of her work in over two decades, and features perspectives and commentary from Neff’s contemporaries. Through January 19, 2020, tickets from $10, 9201 Germantown Ave., woodmereartmuseum.org

Designing Hollywood at Allentown Art Museum

One of the most important aspects of the Golden Age of Hollywood, going from the late 1920s through the 1950s, were lavish and luxurious costumes, paired hand-in-hand with Hollywood’s biggest celebrities and movie stars. Designing Hollywood celebrates this fact with more than fifty garments, from period clothing to the personal wardrobe of stars like Marilyn Monroe and Joan Crawford. Learn how costume designers contributed to Hollywood productions, and their oft-ignored importance in helping to define some of the greatest films of all time. All of these garments are owned by local private collector Gene London. Through December 22, 2019, tickets from $12, 31 North Fifth St., allentownartmuseum.org

30 Americans at Barnes Foundation

When it comes to contemporary artists, many of the all-time greats are from the African-American community. With such important figures like Jean-Michael Basquiat and Norman Lewis, it is also important to celebrate current African-American artists delivering incredible work in today’s time. That’s why the Barnes Foundation is hosting 30 Americans, a look at the work of 30 different contemporary African-American artists through painting, sculpture and photography. Each artist takes a look at identity and the African-American experience, specifically pervasive and unfortunate stereotyping. Race, gender, sexuality, class and more is explored in these unique artworks. Expect to see work from Rashid Johnson, known for combining photography with black history; Nina Chanel Abney, who tackles loaded topics with bright colors and cartoonish figures; and Kara Walker, best known for her black-cut paper silhouettes. Through January 12, 2020, tickets from $25, 2025 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, barnesfoundation.org

42nd Annual Wind Challenge Exhibition Series at Fleisher Art Memorial

Since 1978, Fleisher has commemorated the Wind Challenge, a series of juried competitions intended to expand people’s minds through art. See the second challenge on December 6, which strives to introduce contemporary artists to Pennsylvania audiences. Viewers will see new talent and their own defining artwork, whether it be painting, sculpting or other forms of visual art. From December 6 through January 25, 2020, times vary, free admission, 719 Catharine St., fleisher.org

Ancient History of the Distant Future at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts

Ancient History takes contemporary art from 13 different artists and pairs it with historical collections of the Academy. Through this combination, artists get to point back at these historic artworks, whether critically or with reverence. Viewers also see how life and times have changed, stayed the same, and just how complex history truly is. Some of the notable artists who contributed to this exhibit include visual artist Cassils, who works in several fields, including live performance, film, sculpture and photography; Mario Garcia Torres, who focuses on untold or unknown stories in history; and Adrian Villar Rojas, who tackles the idea of the end of the world through sculpture, video and music. Through February 2, 2020, tickets from $15, 118-128 N. Broad St., pafa.org

Visionary Voices at Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens

Lasting until February, Visionary Voices looks at the creations of four talented, self-taught artists known for their distinctive portraitures and memorable political themes. Each of these four artists have stunning imagery and designs to call their own, from the abstract to the simplistic, and there’s plenty to enjoy for any art-loving viewer. These include Philly-based artist Chloe Fimiano, a Philly-based artist, portraiture Anthony Coleman, mixed-media artist Susan Wallack, and stream of consciousness artist Jaither West. All four have their own styles and attributes, through the way they combine color, mood, commentary, and their own inspirations—resulting in astonishing and breathtaking artworks that should inspire just about anyone. Through February 23, 2020, tickets from $10, 1020 South St., phillymagicgardens.org

Impressionism to Modernism at Michener Art Museum

When reading a title as simple as Impressionism to Modernism, one may assume this exhibit is just a random assorted collection of different paintings, both impressionist and modernist. However, it has a greater meaning to Michener, as the collection comes from two of the biggest philanthropists in Philadelphia. The two are Marguerite and Gerry Lenfest, who in 1999 gave the Michener Museum 59 Pennsylvania Impressionist paintings, from the likes of Walter Emerson Baum and Edward Redfield. The couple would later give a collection of Modernist works in 2010, from artists like Charles Evans and Charles Rosen. And so, in memory of Gerry Lenfest, who passed away last year, the Michener Museum presents all of the works formerly by the Lenfests in one glorious exhibition, detailing a high-quality sampling of two unique art forms from two of the most generous collectors and supporters of art in Philadelphia. Through March 1, 2020, Times vary, tickets from $15, 138 S. Pine St., michenerartmuseum.org

Marisa Merz at Philadelphia Museum of Art

The late Marisa Merz was one of the most famous Italian sculptors in history, and a notable figure in the Arte Povera movement of the 1960s (one that celebrated the simplicity and wonders of life). The only woman in said movement, Merz’s radical sculptures attacked Italy’s corporatism, with an unconventional style all her own. Merz took simple materials like copper wire and clay and turned them into memorable and subversive designs. Experience just some of Merz’ best designs and creations, and learn about her and other artists’ contributions to the radical resistance of Arte Povera in this exciting exhibit. Through summer 2020, tickets from $25, 2600 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, philamuseum.org

To Berman with Love at Berman Museum of Art

A part of Ursinus College, The Philip and Muriel Berman Museum of Art has been around for 30 years, and has been used to enlighten college and community audiences alike. To celebrate such a momentous occasion, the Museum has a unique anniversary exhibit that boasts an interactive element to many of the museum’s patrons. Over the past couple months, five thousand postcards have been produced and distributed to community members. Receivers then wrote their own personal love letters to Berman and what the museum means to them. Each written postcard is displayed on the walls of this walk-through exhibit and available to read for patrons. This creates a one-of-a-kind anniversary celebration that commemorates a place that offers high art to patrons everywhere, and offers an interactive element with community members that is seldom seen in museums. Through October 2020, free, 601 E. Main St., ursinus.edu/berman



Photography by: Triptych, 1967, by Edith Neff. Oil on canvas, 42 x 90 in. (Woodmere Art Museum: Gift of Dr. Maria B. Smith, 2012);
Self-Portrait, 1971, by Edith Neff. Oil on canvas. 50 in. x 43 in. (Woodmere Art Museum: Gift of Dr. Barbara Torpie and Dr. Richard Torpie, 2013)