From cultures to civilization, from Superman to the coastline, this year’s top museum exhibits made us re-examine what we thought we knew by heart. It was a year of new faces and artists so thoroughly reconsidered they might as well have been entirely new. And a museum decided to upend the whole notion of how a museum should to be.

Installation view, “Huma Bhabha: They Live”, The Institute of Contemporary Art Boston

Photo by Charles Mayer Photography © Huma Bhabha

“Huma Bhabha: They Live”

No artwork has stuck with me this year more than the sculpture by Karachi-born artist Huma Bhabha. His towering figures populated the Institute of Contemporary Art like otherworldly beings and his sculpture reflecting the ravages of war in the Middle East was heartbreaking. Most evocative however was a shrouded, pleading figure that filled an entire gallery, not only in size but also with extraordinary layers of meaning.

This exhibition was presented from March 23 to May 27, 2019 at the Institute of Contemporary Art.

The Mexico of Graciela Iturbide
Mujer Ángel, Desierto de Sonora / Angel Woman, Sonoran Desert, Mexico, 1979

Graciela Iturbide, courtesy of Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

“The Mexico of Graciela Iturbide”

She is Mexico’s most famous living photographer and known primarily for a photograph of a crowned Juchitan woman in a crown of iguanas. But as this expansive exhibition revealed, Iturbide’s prowess lies in his ability to capture, again and again, a deep sense of place and culture in his striking black-and-white photography.

This exhibition was presented from January 19 to May 12, 2019 at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.

Renoir: The body, the senses
“Seated Bather” by Pierre-Auguste Renoir

Courtesy of Clark Art Institute and Fogg Museum

“Renoir: The Body, The Senses”

For a long time, Renoir got lost in the hokum of endless wall calendars and postcards. Who knew he was cool enough to capture Picasso’s unbridled passion? This very first exhibition of nudes by Renoir revealed the painter’s talent from his beginnings at the academy to his late-life push into the avant-garde.

This exhibition was presented from June 8 to September 22, 2019 at the Clark Art Institute.

The Hood Museum of Art
The refurbished second-floor galleries of the Hood Museum of Art, with installations of contemporary African art, Melanesian art and contemporary Australian Aboriginal art

Michael Moran, courtesy Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth

The reopening of the Hood Museum of Art

When the Hood Museum of Art at Dartmouth College reopened this year, it was more than a gleaming new space. Its director and curators have turned the typical museum experience on its head. You will always find Renaissance art and successful artists like Picasso. Corn, they are outside the museum. It is now often overlooked global contemporary art that takes center stage in the museum’s main galleries.

The Hood Museum of Art reopened on January 26, 2019.

JMW Turner: Tate Watercolors
Syon House and Kew Palace near Isleworth (“The Swan’s Nest”), ch. 1805, J.MW Turner (1775-1851) © Tate, London 2018

Joe Michael, courtesy of Mystic Seaport Museum and Tate, London

“JMW Turner: Tate Watercolors”

The Mystic Seaport Museum has pulled off a major coup by landing the only North American stopover for a vast collection of Turner watercolors that rarely travel and can only be exhibited once in a generation due to their sensitivity to light. It was a must-see show for Turner’s beauty and process, including how he kept a fingernail long to literally scrape hints of light into his work.

This exhibition is visible from October 5 to February 23, 2020 at the Mystic Seaport Museum.

hyman flower
“The Seated Old Woman” by Hyman Bloom

“Hyman Bloom: Matters of Life and Death”

Hyman Bloom’s fascination with the cycle of life took him into gruesome territory, depicting cadavers and bodies wide open. But as someone who worked with the same talent and strength as 20and greats of the century Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning, his work vibrates with color and luminescence. For the subject, Bloom has long been overlooked, so congratulations to the Museum of Fine Arts for having the conviction to see his work, well, re-Bloom.

This exhibition is visible from July 13 to February 23, 2020 at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.

Homer at the beach
Winslow Homer (1836-1910), Children on the beach (a.k.a Watch the tide recede and watch the boats), 1873. Oil on canvas (12 5/8“ x 16 ½”).

Courtesy of Sotheby’s, Inc. and the Cape Ann Museum

“Homer at the Beach: A Marine Painter’s Journey, 1869-1880”

With a comprehensive review of Winslow Homer’s marine painting, comprised of ambitiously collected national and international loans, the Cape Ann Museum has emerged as the small museum that can and go To do. The exhibit traced Homer’s travels along the eastern seaboard, from the bather-frequented beaches of New Jersey to the rugged isolation of northern New England.

This exhibition was presented from August 3 to December 1, 2019 at the Cape Ann Museum.

fatimah tuggar
A piece from Fatimah Tuggar’s “Home Horizon’s” exhibit at the Davis Museum at Wellesley College.

“Fatimah Tuggar: The Horizons of Home”

In Fatimah Tuggar’s photographic collages, not everything appeared first. The artist creates an “alternative imaginary” in a work that presents cut-out scenes of cultural collisions, all of which refer to the Nigerian artist’s abstract notions of houses. The slow-moving look his work engenders is a great lesson in absorbing cultures in the world outside of Tuggar’s imaginary one.

This exhibition was presented from September 13 to December 15, 2019 at the Davis Museum at Wellesley College.

Men of Steel, Women of Wonder
Jason Bard Yarmosky, wintered fields, 2016. Oil on canvas 72 x 144 in.

Courtesy of the artist and the Addison Gallery of American Art

“Men of Steel, Wonder Women”

For nearly 80 years, Superman and Wonder Woman have stood with us for truth, justice, and the American way. But the Addison has forced us to wonder for what truth and what justice they now stand for. A wide range of artists answered the question with cheeky, probing, and reverent looks at the sexuality, fragility, and humanity of superheroes. After this show, they will never be seen the same again.

This exhibition is presented from October 5 to January 5, 2020 at the Addison Gallery of American Art.

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Jean Akomfrah, Mauve, 2017

Courtesy of Lisson Gallery and Boston Institute of Contemporary Art.

“John Akomfrah: Purple”

A six-channel video installation in the free and raw exhibition space of the Institute of Contemporary Art in East Boston, “Purple” was an epic, epic look at our planet using archival and newly shot footage from wild nature, industry and civilization around the world. continents. Both marvelous and chilling, Mauve was a monumental experience made all the more unforgettable by a killer score.

This exhibition was presented from May 26 to September 2, 2019 at the ICA watershed.

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