Resources for Traveling to Philadelphia

Blockbuster Philadelphia Arts Events

February 26, 2020

From an unprecedented Jasper Johns retrospective collaboration with New York City – to an astounding Frank Gehry-led architectural transformation of an iconic art museum – to a ground-breaking opera festival – 2020 promises to be an incredible year of art in Philadelphia.

In Philadelphia, art is everywhere and is an essential part of every visit. The city has an incredible display of public art (more than any other U.S. city), alluring street and folk art, ground-breaking performance art and quintessential fine art museums.

Here are some of the biggest arts events to catch in Philadelphia this year:

Philadelphia Museum of Art’s Core Project by Frank Gehry

The Forum, looking west and up to Lenfest Hall. The Forum extends from the street level to the first floor and will be one of the most highly trafficked and recognizable areas created during the Core Project. This stunning space will serve as a welcoming spot for visitors to socialize or orient themselves. Architectural rendering by Gehry Partners, LLP and KX-L.

Led by world-renowned architect Frank Gehry, the landmark museum and architectural treasure is slated to complete its next phase of an expansive interior renovation by autumn 2020. After the recent reopening of the North Entrance, 22,000 square feet of space was reactivated at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, with a grand entrance lobby (ceiling heights of more than 24 feet) and a rich array of architectural features such as a section of the museum’s storied Vaulted Walkway. The arched ceiling features an array of newly restored Guastavino tiles. By fall 2020, when the Core Project is completed, more than 90,000 square feet of renovated space will be open to visitors, unveiling architecturally significant spaces that have long been hidden from view.

Jasper Johns retrospective at the Philadelphia Museum of Art

Corpse and Mirror II, 1974-75, by Jasper Johns. Oil and sand on canvas (4 panels), 57 58 x 75 14 in. (146.4 x 191.1 cm). Collection of the Artist. © Jasper Johns / Licensed by VAGA at Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

The Philadelphia Museum of Art joins with the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York for an artistic partnership celebrating the work of Jasper Johns. Two exhibits, simultaneously staged in both museums and self-contained, will offer an impressive array of work by the artist who has shaped the contemporary artistic landscape and will provide rare insight into his working process. The retrospective will feature 600 pieces spanning 70 years of John’s career, including his most celebrated paintings, sculptures, drawings and prints, along with lesser-known and recent works. Jasper Johns: Mind/Mirror can be seen at the Philadelphia Museum of Art on Museum Mile October 28 through February 21, 2021.

Exhibits that challenge art traditions at the Barnes Foundation

A grouping of pieces illustrates the evolution of the artist's process from an initial sketch into a painting and then to a tapestry as part of the exhibit Marie Cuttoli: The Modern Thread from Miro to Man Ray, on view at the Barnes Foundation through May 10. Photo by K. Huff for PHLCVB.

The Barnes Foundation – known for its stunning collection of Impressionist, post-Impressionist and modern paintings – fosters new ways of thinking about human creativity. On display through May 10, Marie Cuttoli: The Modern Thread from Miro to Man Ray is the first major exhibition to celebrate Cuttoli’s visionary approach to art and business, from her early work in fashion and interiors to her revival of the French tapestry industry with Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, and other modern artists. Dr. Albert C. Barnes was one of Cuttoli’s most vocal advocates and patrons. Elijah Pierce’s America will be on view June 14 through September 7, presenting the exceptional work of the self-taught woodcarver known for carvings that depict remarkable narratives—religious parables, autobiographical scenes, episodes from American politics—and sometimes include figures from popular culture and sports. This fall, in collaboration with the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, the Barnes presents The Strange Case of Victor Brauner, October 18 through January 10, 2021. The exhibition is one of the first major US retrospectives dedicated to the influential surrealist.

Opera Philadelphia’s Festival O20

Tosca comes to the Academy of Music in spring 2021 in a production from Teatro Regio di Parma. Photo by J. Franconi Lee, courtesy of Opera Philadelphia.

Hailed by the New York Times as “hotbed of operative innovation” and “one of North America’s premiere generators of valid new operas” by Opera News, Opera Philadelphia’s trailblazing Festival O returns for another dazzling season. The only American festival nominated for a 2020 International Opera Award, O20 features a wide variety of operatic happenings at multiple venues across Philadelphia, September 17-27. Highlights include the world premiere of a new Opera Philadelphia commission from Pulitzer Prize-winner and three-time Grammy-winner and Philadelphia resident Jennifer Higdon. Preeminent Verdi soprano Sondra Radvanovsky makes her role debut as Lady Macbeth in a contemporary new treatment of Verdi’s Macbeth from award-winning Scottish director Paul Curran. Jamaican bass-baritone Sir Willard White, one of the best-loved and most versatile opera stars of the past 40 years, makes his company debut in Hans Werner Henze’s El Cimarrón (The Runaway Slave). Not to be missed is “Late Night Snacks,” a pop-up cabaret series produced in partnership with The Bearded Ladies Cabaret and FringeArts.

Mural Arts Tours

Photo by S. Weinik for Mural Arts.

Learn about the power of public art in the City of Murals. Mural Arts Philadelphia, the largest public art program in the United States, activates locations all across the city with about 50-100 pieces created each year. Guided or self-guided tours are offered year-round of just some of the over 4,000 colorful pieces that have been created over 35 years. Philadelphia’s outdoor art gallery is part of the city’s landscape and has become internationally recognized for its art education, rehabilitation and restorative justice programs. October is Mural Arts Month with 31 days of thought-provoking performances, dedications, celebrations and more.

Philadelphia Fringe Festival

Philadelphia Fringe Festival 2018: Le Super Grand Continental by Sylvain Émard on the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Photo courtesy of FringeArts.

The Fringe Festival takes over Philadelphia September 10 through October 4. This four-week long, city-wide celebration of innovation and creativity offers more than 1,000 performances that activate every neighborhood of Philadelphia. See something that may never happen again in settings that range from the intimate to the dramatic with artistically daring, interactive, curated and self-produced works by national and international performers.


Cover photo: 5 Postcards, 2011, by Jasper Johns. Encaustic on canvas, 36 x 24 in. (91.4 x 61 cm). Philadelphia Museum of Art: promised gift of Keith L. and Katherine Sachs. © Jasper Johns / Licensed by VAGA at Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

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