9 Must-See US Museum Shows Opening in Early 2021, From KAWS’s Brooklyn Blowout to a Homecoming for Laura Owens

With 2020 in the rear-view mirror, we hope health-related exhibition delays and cancellations are a thing of the past (though you never know).

Below, take a look at our picks of US shows opening in the early part of 2021 you won’t want to miss.

David Driskell: Icons of Nature and History
High Museum of Art, Atlanta
February 6–May 9

David Driskell, (1975). Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, Arthur and Margaret Glasgow Endowment.

Before his death at the age of 88 in April, David Driskell earned respect as a versatile artist and curator who helped raise the profile of African American artists and those of the African Diaspora. This first exhibition since his death is also the first to bring together his works on paper with his paintings.

Goya’s Graphic Imagination
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
February 12–May 2

<img class="size-full wp-image-1935058" src="" alt="Francisco de Goya, Bullfight in a Divided Ring (1825). Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. ” width=”1000″ height=”731″ srcset=” 1000w,×219.jpg 300w,×37.jpg 50w” sizes=”(max-width: 1000px) 100vw, 1000px”>

Francisco de Goya, (1825). Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

This broad, chronological exhibition of roughly 100 works delves into Goya’s graphic works and explores how he used drawings and prints to elaborate complex ideas, as well to document his responses to turbulent social and political events occurring around him. It is in these works that Goya’s political liberalism, disdain for superstition, and opposition to intellectual oppression shine through.


KAWS: What Party
The Brooklyn Museum
February 12–September 5

<img class="size-full wp-image-1935052" src="" alt="KAWS, WHAT PARTY (2020). © KAWS. (Photo: Michael Biondo).” width=”600″ height=”833″ srcset=” 600w,×300.jpg 216w,×50.jpg 36w” sizes=”(max-width: 600px) 100vw, 600px”>

KAWS, (2020). © KAWS. (Photo: Michael Biondo).

The artist’s 25-year career has made an indelible mark on the contemporary art scene (and the market) and this year’s  (had to) is surely his debut museum survey. Artnet News’s Gray Market scribe Tim Schneider even predicts KAWS’s works will outsell most every Old Master work by value in 2021.

Hockney–Van Gogh: The Joy of Nature
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
February 21–June 20

Vincent van Gogh, (1890). Kroller Muller Museum.

Strange bedfellows are Vincent Van Gogh and David Hockney, a pair of artists whose works, at first glance, have little more in common than paint. But the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston found another way in: a love of landscape. That’s the conceit of the institution’s upcoming exhibition, “Hockney–Van Gogh: The Joy of Nature,” which puts the two crowd-pleasers together in what is sure to be a lush experience.

Niki de Saint Phalle: Structures for Life
March 11–August (Exact Closing Date TBD)

<img class="wp-image-1935053 size-large" src="×798.png" alt="Niki de Saint Phalle, Tarot Garden (1991). © 2019 Niki Charitable Art Foundation. Photo: Ed Kessler.” width=”1024″ height=”798″ srcset=”×798.png 1024w,×234.png 300w,×39.png 50w” sizes=”(max-width: 1024px) 100vw, 1024px”>

Niki de Saint Phalle, (1991). © 2019 Niki Charitable Art Foundation. Photo: Ed Kessler.

Niki de Saint Phalle’s chic personal style and colorful works belie a serious personality deeply invested in feminism and political activism, and her works have influenced other artists for decades. This show will include her paintings, drawings, sculptures, and immersive installations.

“Christina Quarles
Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago
March 13–August 29

Christina Quarles, (2018). © Christina Quarles. Courtesy of the artist, Regen Projects, Los Angeles, and Pilar Corrias Gallery, London.

Originally slated to open in April 2020, Christina Quarles’s eagerly anticipated MCA Chicago exhibition will be her largest show to date, featuring figurative paintings from the past three years and a new large-scale installation.

Julie Mehretu
Whitney Museum of American Art
March 25–August 8

<img class="wp-image-1935055 size-large" src="×495.jpg" alt="Julie Mehretu, Retopistics: A Renegade Excavation (2001). Photograph by Edward C Robinson III.” width=”1024″ height=”495″ srcset=”×495.jpg 1024w,×145.jpg 300w,×24.jpg 50w” sizes=”(max-width: 1024px) 100vw, 1024px”>

Julie Mehretu, (2001). Photograph by Edward C Robinson III.

Following its acclaimed run at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Ethiopian-born artist Julie Mehretu’s mid-career survey will make its long-awaited debut in New York. Some 70 works on canvas and paper will show the breadth of Mehretu’s abstracted geographic visions.

“Sam Francis and Japan: Emptiness Overflowing”
Los Angeles County Museum of Art
Dates TBD

Sam Francis, (1957). Courtesy of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Modern and Contemporary Art Council Fund, © Sam Francis Foundation, California/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo ©Museum Associates/LACMA.

Sam Francis made his first trip to Japan, a milestone in the course of his career, in 1957. In this first exhibition to highlight the influence of Japanese art and culture on his work, LACMA will pair his art with that of historic Japanese artists, as well as Francis’s contemporaries in the Gutai and Mono-Ha movements. 

Laura Owens: Rerun
Cleveland Museum of Art at the Transformer Station
Spring 2021

Laura Owens, (2016). Courtesy of the artist; Gavin Brown’s enterprise, New York, Rome; Sadie Coles HQ, London; and Galerie Gisela Capitain, Cologne,

This exhibition is a homecoming of sorts for Laura Owens. The wide-ranging and experimental painter grew up close to Cleveland in Norwalk, Ohio, and spent many hours exploring the Cleveland Museum of Art’s encyclopedic collections as a teenager. Owens, who has been based in Los Angeles for the past three decades, has developed this unique exhibition with high school students involved with the Cleveland museum’s Arts Mastery program.

Source: Exhibition -


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