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Top Can’t Miss Spring/Summer Exhibits in Philadelphia

February 25, 2020

Philadelphia is filled with wonderful art museums and galleries to explore.

A roundup of some of the exciting exhibits that are happening this spring and summer.

Marie Cuttoli: The Modern Thread from Miro to Man Ray at the Barnes Foundation

Marie Cuttoli: The Modern Thread from Miro to Man Ray is on display at the Barnes Foundation through May 10. Photo by K. Huff for PHLCVB.

Home to one of the world’s greatest collections of Impressionist, post-Impressionist and modern European paintings, the Barnes Foundation traces the pioneering career of groundbreaking entrepreneur Marie Cuttoli, through May 10. Marie Cuttoli: The Modern Thread from Miro to Man Ray is the first major exhibition to celebrate her 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. The exhibit is significant to the Barnes Foundation as Dr. Albert C. Barnes was one of Cuttoli’s most vocal advocates and patrons.

Designs for Different Futures at the Philadelphia Museum of Art

Photo courtesy of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

This show explores visionary and even controversial designs that could transform how people live, eat, heal, travel and find love. From lab-grown food to robotic companions, the Philadelphia Museum of Art showcases imaginative ideas that respond to civilization’s future needs, desires and fears, through March 8. Also on view is Off the Wall: American Art to Wear, a major exhibition highlighting a distinctive American art movement that emerged in the late 1960s and subsequently grew in the following decades. The exhibit features over 130 one-of-a-kind works by more than sixty artists, drawn from the museum’s collection and loans from private collections, through May 17. A Collector’s Vision: Highlights from the Dietrich American Foundation, featuring a rare selection of American art from the 1700s and 1800s, includes portraits of George Washington, a teapot made by Paul Revere, and silver from colonial Philadelphia, from the collection of H. Richard Dietrich Jr., through June 7.

Groundbreaking exhibits at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA)

Awakened in You: The Collection of Dr. Constance E. Clayton, features paintings, works on paper and sculptures by African American artists. Photo by K. Huff for PHLCVB.

Invisible City: Philadelphia and the Vernacular Avant-Garde invites audiences to see Philadelphia as a “city of firsts” and highlights the significant contributions to visual culture from 1956 through 1976 with works by major architects, photographers, sculptors, painters and conceptual artists of the period, along with a publication and performances. The exhibit is in conjunction with the Rosenwald-Wolf Gallery at the University of the Arts and the Philadelphia Art Alliance, through April 5. Also on view is At One Stroke: Prints by Helen Frankenthaler, an exhibit that brings together 17 prints by one of the great American artists of the twentieth century, widely credit for her pivotal role in the transition from Abstract Expressionism to Color Field painting, through April 12. Awakened in You: The Collection of Dr. Constance E. Clayton, features paintings, works on paper and sculptures by African American artists, from the collection by the Philadelphia arts advocate who donated 76 pieces to PAFA in 2019. Artists featured include Sam Gilliam, Jacob Lawrence, Augusta Savage, along with PAFA alumni such as Barkley L. Henricks, Henry O. Tanner, Laura Wheeler Waring and more, through July 12.

Through His Eyes: Youth Activism in Philadelphia’s Civil Rights Era at the African American Museum in Philadelphia

Courtesy of the African American Museum in Philadelphia.

The museum that is committed to telling the story of all aspects of African Americans offers an exhibit that encourages viewers to reframe their understanding of the Civil Rights Era. Through His Eyes: Youth Activism in Philadelphia’s Civil Rights Era pulls the from Jack T. Franklin photographic collection at the museum to explore Philadelphia’s often overlooked civil rights activists, through June 1. Opening March 20, Anna Russell Jones: The Art of Design, highlights the first African American woman from Philadelphia to join the Armed Forces during World War II and the first African American graduate of the Philadelphia School of Design for Women, now Moore College of Art and Design, through May 31.

Survival of the Slowest at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University

Survival of the Slowest can be seen through September 20 at the Academy of Natural Sciences at Drexel University. Photo by K. Huff for PHLCVB.

Survival of the Slowest comes to the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University, exploring the fascinating adaptations that certain animals have evolved over millions of years. Learn about the surprising survival strategies of a dozen species including Linnaeus’s two-toed sloth, the African pygmy hedgehog, veiled chameleon, green iguana, green basilisk, ball python, and more, presented in both Spanish and English. The exhibit features nearly a dozen natural-looking habitats with live animals, plants and rocks, with live animals and an animal keeper stationed in the exhibit, through September 20. Also catch Wildlife Photographer of the Year, one of the longest running and most prestigious photography competitions in the world, stopping in Philadelphia, March 28 through August 23.

XOXO: An Exhibit About Love at the Please Touch Museum

XOXO: An Exhibit About Love photo courtesy of the Please Touch Museum.

An exhibit at the Please Touch Museum encourages children to explore their feelings through a variety of interactive components designed to help to understand the power of articulating emotions in honest, constructive ways. XOXO: An Exhibit About Love is on loan from the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh through May 10. Opening April 3 is a new permanent gallery, Centennial Innovations, exploring how the 1876 Centennial World’s Fair was celebrated and understood with a new 5,000 square-foot exhibit.

Dr. Franklin, Citizen Scientist at the American Philosophical Society

Chart of the Gulf Stream, Benjamin Franklin and Timothy Folger, 1786. American Philosophical Society.

Inspired by Benjamin Franklin’s commitment to the pursuit of knowledge for the “benefit of mankind in general” and his belief that all people could engage with science, the American Philosophical Society, the oldest learned society in the U.S., presents an exhibition highlighting his work and that of lesser-known contributors to 18th century science. Dr. Franklin, Citizen Scientist includes Franklin’s chart of the Gulf Stream made with his cousin Timothy Folger, a set of Leyden jars reportedly used by Franklin in his electrical experiments, and the only known portrait of Deborah Franklin, April 3 through December 27.

Places for the People: An Exhibit of WPA Travel Posters at Carpenters’ Hall

Photo courtesy of Carpenters' Hall.

Carpenters’ Hall hosted the First Continental Congress in 1774 and in 1857, the National Historic Landmark was the first private building to open to the public as a historic site and museum. This connection to travel and tourism is celebrated with an exhibit, Places for the People, featuring posters of iconic Philadelphia and Pennsylvania landmarks including Carpenters’ Hall, Independence Hall, the Betsy Ross House and others. The posters, on loan from the Free Library of Philadelphia, were commissioned in the 1930s by the Federal Art Project of the Works Progress Administration to stimulate travel and tourism. Several of the posters were never documented by the federal government and have not been seen by the public in over 80 years. The exhibit, on view May 1-29, is produced in partnership with Posters for the People, which documents and presents the most comprehensive record of posters created under the U.S. Government’s Federal Art Project during the New Deal (1936-43).

Spilling, Breaking Waves at Fabric Workshop and Museum

Lorna Simpson, in collaboration with The Fabric Workshop and Museum, Standing in the water, (detail), 1994. Pigment on wool felt, etched glass, video monitors, and audio track. Three panels: 1 1/2 x 172 x 52 inches (3.81 x 436.88 x 132.08 cm) each. Photo by A. Igler, courtesy of Fabric Workshop and Museum.

Fabric Workshop and Museum is an internationally acclaimed contemporary art space devoted both to the creation and presentation of innovative works of art. Through its Artist-in-Residence program, FWM collaborates with mid-career and established artists to expand their practices while documenting the course of artistic production from inspiration to realization. On display is Lorna Simpson: Spilling, Breaking Waves, through August 9. The centerpiece of the exhibition, Standing in the Water, is a room-size multi-media installation of video, sound, and a silkscreen printed industrial felt floor sculpture, set to a track of water sounds and complemented by pieces from Simpson’s studio.

The 19th Amendment: How Women Won the Vote at the National Constitution Center

Declaration of Sentiments from the first women's rights convention at Seneca Falls, 1848, courtesy of the National Constitution Center.

Get an understanding of the long fight for women’s suffrage with a new exhibit opening June 10 at the National Constitution Center. The 19th Amendment: How Women Won the Vote traces the successes and struggles that led to the ratification of the 19th Amendment, which extended the Constitution’s promise of equal citizenship to women and spotlights some of the many visionary women, such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Alice Paul, and Ida B. Wells, who transformed constitutional history to secure this landmark amendment, which prohibits discrimination in voting rights “on account of sex.” The exhibit is a continuation of the Center’s newest permanent exhibit, Civil War and Reconstruction: The Battle for Freedom and Equality, and examines how the women’s rights movement grew alongside the anti-slavery movement.

ICA Spring Exhibits

Michelle Lopez: Ballast & Barricades, on display at the Institute of Contemporary Art at the University of Pennsylvania. Photo courtesy of ICA Philadelphia.

On display at the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) at the University of Pennsylvania is Michelle: Ballast & Barricades, critiquing symbols of nationalism, power and consumption and a selection of recent sculptures alongside a monumental, site-specific installation that creates a suspended cityscape reduced to rubble. The artist is known for her sculptural works that recast histories of minimalism and everyday objects through a feminist lens. Also on display is Trevor Shimizu: Performance Artist and Karyn Olivier: Everything That’s Alive Moves, through May 10.

BRICKLIVE and The Secret Life of Bugs at The Franklin Institute

The Secret Life of Bugs comes to The Franklin Institute June 6, 2020 through January 3, 2021. Photo © Te Papa courtesy of The Franklin Institute.

The Franklin Institute presents two new immersive experiences: BRICKLIVE features a highly interactive pop-up experience with 4 million bricks across brick pits, themed specialist build zones, and animal creations, for a limited five week run, May 2 through June 5. Step inside a bug’s world June 6 with The Secret Life of Bugs, a high-impact look inside four extraordinary insects designed and built by Weta Workshop, known for their award-winning design and physical effects in The Lord of the Rings) and Te Papa, New Zealand’s world famous museum. Real specimens from the Insectarium will be available as part of the exhibit, through January 3, 2021.

Votes for Women: A Visual History at the Brandywine River Museum of Art

Photo by Harris Ewing Library of Congress, courtesy of Brandywine River Museum of Art.

The Brandywine River Museum of Art deciphers the imagery of the suffrage movement with an exhibit commemorating the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Votes for Women: A Visual History focuses on the decade prior to ratification in 1920, examines how the “look” of women’s rights developed and highlights the success of these efforts, while underscoring how the imagery of the movement penetrated American culture, creating a renewed momentum toward ratification, through June 7. Also on view is Witness to History: Selma Photography of Stephen Somerstein, exploring the historic 1965 civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, featuring 55 photographs taken when the photographer was 24 years old, documenting this pivotal moment in history.

Africa in the Arts of Philadelphia: Bullock, Searles, and Twins Seven-Seven at Woodmere Art Museum

The Spirits of My Reincarnation Brothers and Sisters, 2006-7, by Twins Seven-Seven (Woodmere Art Museum: Museum purchase with funds provided by Robert and Frances Kohler, 2018).

On display at Woodmere Art Museum is Africa in the Arts of Philadelphia: Bullock, Searles, and Twins Seven-Seven, an exhibit celebrating three artists instrumental in developing the Ile-Ife Black Humanitarian Center in North Philadelphia, the city’s primary conduit for sharing and celebrating the traditions of Africa. Barbara Bullock, Charles Searles and Twins Seven-Seven participated in the Center, established in 1969 by dancer and choreographer Arthur Hall, which offered visual arts, performance, and musical arts classes and programs with the goal of focusing on educating audiences in traditional African culture and aesthetics and infusing African and African-inspired art forms into contemporary Philadelphia experience. Through May 17.

Spit Spreads Death: The Influenza Pandemic of 1918-19 in Philadelphia at the Mütter Museum

To Prevent Influenza! Illustrated Current News, New Haven, Conn., 1918. Credit: U.S. National Library of Medicine. Courtesy of the Mütter Museum.

Philadelphia had the highest death rate of any major American city during the influenza pandemic of 1918–19. A five-year exhibit, Spit Spreads Death at the Mütter Museum — dedicated to displaying fascinating discoveries about the human body with unique specimens, models and instruments — explores how neighborhoods in Philadelphia were impacted, how the disease spread, and what could happen in future pandemics. Now open.

Rethinking the Modern Monument at Rodin Museum

Rodin Museum photo by K. Huff for PHLCVB.

A thought-provoking exhibit examines sculptor Auguste Rodin’s legacy in public monuments and traces his impact on monument design and modern sculpture, through December 2021. The Rodin Museum houses one of the largest collections of the famed sculptor’s work outside of Paris.


Cover photo of The Secret Life of Bugs coming to the Franklin Institute. © Te Papa

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