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Top Can’t Miss Exhibits in Philadelphia

November 28, 2022

Philadelphia is filled with wonderful art museums and galleries to explore, many of which have recently reopened with new health and safety measures in place. Below is a roundup of some of the exciting exhibits that are on view now or coming soon around the region.

Disney100: The Exhibition at The Franklin Institute

A whistle and a book of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs placed on pedestals in front of a dark blue backdrop reading Disney 100: The Exhibition taken at a media preview event

‘Disney100: The Exhibition’ is set to open at The Franklin Institute on February 18, 2023. Photo by J. Ryan for PHLCVB.

A world premiere exhibition set to open on February 18, 2023 at The Franklin Institute will celebrate 100 years of the Walt Disney Company. Disney100: The Exhibition will commemorate a century of innovation and imagination from the creative empire, while also honoring its founder Walt Disney’s legacy. The anniversary exhibit will showcase extraordinary objects, including Disney’s “Crown Jewels” – more than 250 rarely-seen original artworks and artifacts, costumes and props, and other memorabilia. Using immersive technology, the characters and stories that the Walt Disney Company has brought to life from 1923 to 2023 will also be incorporated into the 15,000-square-foot exhibit featuring behind-the-scenes looks at the creation of some of the most popular Disney films, shows, and attractions.

Modigliani Up Close at the Barnes Foundation

The Barnes Foundation Detail Room 19, North Wall. Image © The Barnes Foundation Philadelphia. Photo by S. Murray.

Opening October 16, 2022, Modigliani Up Close will give visitors to the Barnes Foundation a closer look at how Amedeo Modigliani created his paintings and sculptures. The exhibit will explore the iconic artist’s working methods and materials, which contributed to his unique style. Modigliani Up Close will be on view October 16, 2022 through January 29, 2023.

Medieval Treasures from the Glencairn Museum and Matisse in the 1930s at the Philadelphia Museum of Art

Three women, one standing pushing another woman in a wheelchair as the three individuals look at two massive, colorful paintings by Matisse on a white wall in a gallery.

‘Matisse in the 1930s’ at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Photo by J. Ryan for PHLCVB.

Medieval Treasures from the Glencairn Museum is on view at the Philadelphia Museum of Art while the Glencairn Museum – which is located in Bryn Athyn, just north of Philadelphia – undergoes renovations. Visitors to the Philadelphia Museum of Art will have the chance to view exquisite treasures, works of medieval art, and architecture from the Glencairn Museum, while making connections to similar works of art on display in the museum’s permanent galleries. Medieval Treasures from the Glencairn Museum will be on view at the Philadelphia Museum of Art through fall 2023.

In collaboration with the Musée de l’Orangerie in Paris and the Musée Matisse Nice, the Philadelphia Museum of Art will present the first major exhibition devoted to the pivotal decade of the 1930s in the art of Henri Matisse. Opening October 20, 2022, Matisse in the 1930s will present more than 100 works, ranging from both renowned and rarely seen paintings and sculptures, to drawings and prints, to illustrated books. It will also feature documentary photographs and films. Matisse in the 1930s will be on view October 20, 2022 through January 29, 2023.

Rodin’s Hands at the Rodin Museum

A sculpture of two hands, one reaching up to the sky
'Two Hands,' modeled 1904 by Auguste Rodin, French, 1840–1917; cast 1925 by the founder Alexis Rudier (French, 1874–1952). Bronze, 18 x 20 7/8 x 12 3/4 inches (45.7 x 53 x 32.4 cm). Bequest of Jules E. Mastbaum, 1929. Image courtesy Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2021.

Now on view at the Rodin Museum along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Rodin’s Hands highlights Auguste Rodin’s mastery in conveying emotion and storytelling through the sculpting of hands. The exhibition features fifteen bronzes and plasters — many of which are rare or unique to the Philadelphia collection — which join the other masterpieces on view, both inside and outside the museum, as part of one of the largest collections of the sculptor’s work outside of Paris. Rodin’s Hands will be on view through December 2023.

Black Founders: The Forten Family of Philadelphia, and The Declaration’s Journey: 250 Years of America’s Founding Document at the Museum of the American Revolution

Museum of the American Revolution plaza and building exterior. Photo courtesy of Museum of the American Revolution.

Upcoming exhibits to the Museum of the American Revolution include Black Founders: The Forten Family of Philadelphia and The Declaration’s Journey: 250 Years of America’s Founding Document. Coming to the museum in February 2023, Black Founders: The Forten Family of Philadelphia will tell the story of Forten and his descendants, and how they lived during the American Revolution and cross-racial relationships in Philadelphia. Visitors will also learn how the Forten family went on to become leaders in the abolition movement leading up to the Civil War. The exhibit will be on view February 11 through November 26, 2023. Opening in the fall of 2025, The Declaration’s Journey: 250 Years of America’s Founding Document will explore how the Declaration of Independence became one of the most world-renowned statements of political rights in human history.

Ocean Bound at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University

'Ocean Bound' will be on view through January 15, 2023. Photo courtesy of Sciencenter.

A key part of the Academy and Drexel’s Water Year 2022 celebration is Ocean Bound, which opens August 20, 2022 at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University. This new exhibition will show how we all affect the ocean, no matter where we live. Visitors of all ages will have the chance to learn what a watershed is through hands-on activities and videos. Guests will be able to make it rain in a 3-D watershed model and pilot a life-sized “submersible” from a mountain stream to the ocean, all while discovering and learning about aquatic life and their habitats along the way. Guests will also learn more about the threats to watersheds, as well as how to identify solutions and implement change by changing their own habits on land. Ocean Bound will be on view through January 15, 2023.

Downstream at Science History Institute

Downstream. Photo Credit Science History Institute, Conrad Erb.

Downstream at the Science History Institute in Old City invites guests to learn more about how water moves and what it carries as it constantly flows around us. The exhibit will also dive more into the ways in which waterways can be threatened, as well as the choices we can make to protect streams, rivers, and oceans. Downstream will be on view through July 31, 2023.

Negotiating Grids, Gift/Deeds: Collectors at PAFA, Strange Sensations: The Startling and Surreal in PAFA’s Permanent Collection, and Making American Artists: Stories from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, 1776–1976 at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA)

Negotiating Grids at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA) examines the use of grids through contemporary art while highlighting the different ways that artists have used the visual structure throughout history. Paintings and sculpture in this exhibition will dive deeper into how order, power, and belonging are defined within or outside of these structures. Negotiating Grids will be on view through December 31, 2022.

PAFA’s new exhibition series Gift/Deeds: Collectors at PAFA features 20th-century and contemporary art selections gifted to the institution by six Philadelphia art collectors. The exhibition highlights the importance of these various donated pieces and how they have strengthened PAFA’s permanent collection. Gift/Deeds: Collectors at PAFA will be on view through January 8, 2023.

By drawing inspiration from surrealism and magical realism, artists featured in Strange Sensations: The Startling and Surreal in PAFA’s Permanent Collection reveal the enchanting nature of the unknown. Both 20th- and 21st-century works of art that consider mysterious and otherworldly energies through a post-Surrealist lens will be on display. The works are also said to collectively highlight the human experience of finding beauty and humor in the face of death and pain. Strange Sensations: The Startling and Surreal in PAFA’s Permanent Collection will be on view through April 2, 2023.

In the fall of 2022, Making American Artists: Stories from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, 1776–1976 will open at PAFA. Some of the most iconic works in the museum’s collection will be presented alongside pieces by traditionally underrepresented artists. The exhibit will examine what it meant to be an American artist when the institution was founded, as well as what it meant to be an American artist by the late-twentieth century. Making American Artists: Stories from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, 1776–1976 will be on view October 6, 2022 through April 2, 2023.

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

Photo courtesy of the National Constitution Center.

2020 commemorated the centennial of the women’s suffrage movement and the ratification of the 19th Amendment, which guaranteed women the right to vote. The National Constitution Center chronicled this pivotal period in American history with the debut of a new permanent exhibit, The 19th Amendment: How Women Won the Vote, now on view. Inside the 3,000-square-foot exhibit, visitors will find nearly 100 artifacts that highlight some of the many influential women who were a prominent part of the 70-year movement, including Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Alice Paul, and Ida B. Wells.

U-2 Spy Planes & Aerial Archaeology and Eastern Mediterranean Gallery: Crossroads of Cultures at the Penn Museum

Ur, Iraq. One of the earliest cities in southern Iraq, the main settlement mounds of Ur (Tell al-Muqayyar) were surrounded by a wall that enclosed nearly 148 acres. Soil discoloration visible in the U-2 photographs suggest the city was originally much larger and incorporated several suburbs. Photo courtesy of Penn Museum.

U-2 Spy Planes & Aerial Archaeology opens August 20, 2022 at the Penn Museum, focusing on “top-secret aerial reconnaissance materials from the Cold War.” The exhibition will feature declassified photos captured in the 1950s and 1960s by the world’s most famous spy planes. U-2 Spy Planes & Aerial Archaeology uncovers the United States military’s intelligence gathering during that time using U-2s, which soared at altitudes that sometimes allowed them to avoid detection. This exhibition – stemming from a larger research project by scholars at Penn and Harvard – shows how archaeologists are able to use aerial and satellite images to recover lost histories, while yielding new insights today. U-2 Spy Planes & Aerial Archaeology is set to be on display through fall 2023.

The Penn Museum also unveiled its Eastern Mediterranean Gallery: Crossroads of Cultures on Saturday, November 19, 2022. The 2,000-square-foot gallery houses 400 artifacts from the Penn Museum’s excavations throughout the Eastern Mediterranean, ranging from the Middle and Late Bronze Age (2,000 to 1,200 BCE) to the 1800s. The new gallery highlights the creativity of the region’s distinctive material culture, one that has been shaped by both conflict and collaboration. Guests are encouraged to explore the gallery’s interactive and multi-sensory elements, along with a near life-sized section of a ship based on a vessel that capsized in the Mediterranean Sea during the 14th century BCE. Guests have the chance to peek inside the ship’s cargo hold containing ivory, glass, pottery and more evidence of international commerce and cultural exchange. Visitors will encounter various themes, including Creativity and Change, Power and Conflict, as well as Coexistence and Connection.

Centennial Innovations and Albert M. Greenfield Makerspace at the Please Touch Museum

Centennial-Innovations. Photo courtesy of Please Touch Museum.

Two new permanent exhibits are now on view at the Please Touch Museum in West Philadelphia. Inspired by the 1876 Centennial World’s Fair in Philadelphia — for which Memorial Hall, the home of the Please Touch Museum, was constructed — Centennial Innovations engages children throughout the space, asking them “If you could change the world… What would you create? Who would you become? What would a new world look like?” Centennial Innovations features several colorful installations and multi-sensory interactives, including a stage to share ideas and the City of Philadelphia’s historic Centennial Fairgrounds Model. The Albert M. Greenfield Makerspace is intentionally found just across from Centennial Innovations and continues children’s creative journey, exploring more of how kids are creating and empowering them as inventors. The Makerspace’s design is driven by STEM principles and features adjustable height workbenches and stools, as well as resources such as hammers, screwdrivers, drills, hot glue guns, measuring tape, and other tools that will aid in the child’s vision.

truth* at the National Liberty Museum

Opening September 9, 2022 truth* will examine how questions of truth lie at the heart of our social and political divide. This exhibit will explore how truth is defined, by whom, and for what purpose. Guests will be invited into an immersive and interactive space where current thoughts, questions, and debates will be brought into focus. With the help of tools to kickstart such critical conversations, “truth* invites us to consider how the quest for truth opens our minds to new ideas and perspectives, leading to a more connected and understanding world.” truth* will be on view September 9, 2022 through February 5, 2023.

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

Unseen is a featured exhibition currently on view at the Mütter Museum. Photo courtesy of Mütter Museum.

The Mütter Museum — dedicated to displaying fascinating discoveries about the human body with unique specimens, models and instruments — has new exhibitions on view: Unseen and Spit Spreads Death: The Influenza Pandemic of 1918-19 in Philadelphia.

Unseen offers rare glimpses of 85% of the Mütter Museum‘s collection that is typically locked away in storage and not accessible to the public. Images taken by forensic photographer Nikki Johnson during a behind the scenes tour of the museum’s storage spaces and back rooms are on view in Thomson Hall alongside other rarely-seen items.

Philadelphia had the highest death rate of any major American city during the influenza pandemic of 1918–19. Spit Spreads Death: The Influenza Pandemic of 1918-19 in Philadelphia explores how neighborhoods in Philadelphia were impacted, how the disease spread, and what could happen in future pandemics.

Walk This Way: Footwear from the Stuart Weitzman Collection of Historic Shoes and (re)Frame: Community Perspectives on the Michener Art Collection at Michener Art Museum

More than 100 pairs of shoes are now on display at Michener Art Museum for Walk This Way: Footwear from the Stuart Weitzman Collection of Historic Shoes. This exhibit focuses on the women who designed, manufactured, sold, and collected footwear as shoes have become representations of culture. Walk This Way examines this phenomenon, and how shoes can express complicated meanings of femininity, power, and aspiration. Walk This Way: Footwear from the Stuart Weitzman Collection of Historic Shoes will be on view September 24, 2022 through January 15, 2023.

The Michener Art Museum is inviting the community to help reinterpret the museum’s permanent collection through its exhibition called (re)Frame: Community Perspectives on the Michener Art Collection. Various “frames” are spread out throughout the museum’s galleries, prompting visitors to share their own perspectives on selections from the museum’s collection. (re)Frame: Community Perspectives on the Michener Art Collection will take place June 18, 2022 through March 5, 2023.

Just In: Recent Acquisitions of Photography at Woodmere Art Museum

On view at Woodmere Art Museum is Just In: Recent Acquisitions of Photography. This exhibition tells the story of photography and how it has evolved across our region. Guests will be invited to explore the broad range of creative practices and experimentation throughout the photographic process. Just In: Recent Acquisitions of Photography will be on view through March 5, 2023.

Don’t miss out on Woodmere Art Museum‘s four ongoing exhibits: La Cresta: A Land-Sculpting Installation by Syd Carpenter and Steve Donegan inspired by the horticultural practice of hügelkulture and part of a larger landscape plan on Woodmere’s grounds, Expressionism in Bronze: The Sculpture of Viorel Farcas which delves into the emotional crossover from spiritual to physical through Viorel Farcas’ figurative, expressionist creations, Sculpture and Nature also known as “Woodmere’s Outdoor Wonder” which blends art, horticulture, and environmental science, and lastly, Free Interpretation of Plant Forms Harry Bertoia’s monumental fountain sculpture that was re-installed at Woodmere in partnership with the City of Philadelphia.

Sissel Tolaas: RE____, Carolyn Lazard: Long Take, and Terence Nance: Swarm at Institute of Contemporary Art

Opening September 16, 2022 at the Institute of Contemporary Art at the University of Pennsylvania, Sissel Tolaas: RE____ will expose audiences to air currents and smells from various sources as a way to challenge the idea of artwork as a physical object. Sissel Tolaas – an artist and smell researcher – believes smell is an important and underappreciated tool of communication. Through her work, Tolaas researches and explores the complex topic of smell, while using it as a medium of artistic expression. Tolaas activates a different type of engagement and perception in her audiences through smell because as invisible messages go to the brain, smells can trigger emotions and memories. Through this practice, concepts of process, time, and change run like a unifying thread. Sissel Tolaas: RE____ will be on view September 16 through December 30, 2022.

Carolyn Lazard: Long Take will open March 10, 2023 at ICA, marking the first US solo museum presentation of New York/Philadelphia-based artist and writer Carolyn Lazard’s work. In this exhibition, Lazard “responds to the legacy of dance for the camera, considered through the lens of accessibility as a creative tool.” Guests will experience the exhibition while listening to a sound installation of a dance within a gallery covered with vinyl flooring mats – just like those typically found in a dance studio. The artist presents the dance sonically rather than visually, and “intentionally blurs the boundaries between instruction, description, and translation, asking us to consider where and in what form an artwork resides.” Carolyn Lazard: Long Take will be on view March 10 through July 9, 2023.

Also on view at ICA March 10 through July 9, 2023 is filmmaker, writer, actor, and musician Terence Nance’s first solo exhibition, Terence Nance: Swarm. The exhibition will shine a spotlight on Nance’s interdisciplinary style. Nance’s film and media work includes Random Acts of Flyness, an HBO comedy series that examines contemporary Black life in America. The series also won a Peabody Award, which “honors excellence in storytelling that reflects the social issues and the emerging voices of our day.”

Vision & Spirit: African American Art | Works from the Bank of America Collection at The African American Museum in Philadelphia

African American Museum in Philadelphia. Photo by P. Loftland for PHLCVB.
African American Museum in Philadelphia. Photo by P. Loftland for PHLCVB.

Opening October 1, 2022 at The African American Museum in Philadelphia (AAMP) is Vision & Spirit: African American Art | Works from the Bank of America Collection. This exhibition will feature more than 100 paintings, prints, drawings, photographs, and mixed-media works created by close to 50 different artists throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. With a focus on talent, strength, and spirit, the exhibit will showcase the creative forces who continue to shape our understanding of the world around us. All of the artists featured in this exhibition are known to look forward and contribute to progress, while guiding visitors toward greater equity and understanding. Guests will encounter a common theme of resilience and how African American artists have shown this through their work. Vision & Spirit: African American Art | Works from the Bank of America Collection will be on view October 1, 2022 through February 19, 2023.

Becoming Weatherwise: A History of Climate Science in America at American Philosophical Society Library & Museum

The American Philosophical Society Library & Museum is located in Philadelphia's Old City. Photo by K. Huff for PHLCVB.

Becoming Weatherwise: A History of Climate Science in America at the American Philosophical Society Library & Museum explores the ways we study the weather and climate. The exhibit takes a closer look at the questions and methods that have driven weather- and climate-related research in the Western world from the mid-eighteenth century to today. Guests will also examine how ideas and views have changed over time. Studying the weather is critical to certain industries such as agriculture, as well as in the interest of human health and safety. Guests will also learn more about the role the American Philosophical Society and its members have had in the history of weather and climate study. Becoming Weatherwise: A History of Climate Science in America will be on view through December 31, 2022.

Fragile Earth: The Naturalist Impulse in Contemporary Art at the Brandywine River Museum of Art

Artist Courtney Mattison standing in front of her work, Our Changing Seas III, 2014. Glazed stoneware and porcelain, 108 x 156 x 24 in. Courtesy of the artist, Photograph by Arthur Evans for the Tang Museum.

Opening September 24, 2022, Fragile Earth: The Naturalist Impulse in Contemporary Art at the Brandywine River Museum of Art will showcase the wide range of approaches that ecologically concerned artists take to bring awareness to important environmental causes, while highlighting the powerful role that artists play in advocating for the planet. These carefully selected artists strive to make visible the human role in global climate change. This exhibit will include two galleries of striking works reflecting on the vulnerability of the environment, while guests will be encouraged to think about their own daily choices and how they may be endangering our planet’s future. Fragile Earth: The Naturalist Impulse in Contemporary Art will be on view September 24, 2022 – January 8, 2023.

The Future Will Follow the Past: An Exhibition by Jonathan Horowitz at Weitzman National Museum of American Jewish History

Exterior shot of museum in city
Weitzman National Museum of American Jewish History. Photo by Barry Halkin/Halkin Photography.

The Weitzman National Museum of American Jewish History reopened May 13, 2022 with a special exhibition called The Future Will Follow the Past: An Exhibition by Jonathan Horowitz. The exhibit explores the transformative changes America has experienced since 2020, as well as the issues the country has been grappling with for decades, including antisemitism, racial violence, immigration, women’s rights, LGBTQ+ rights and more. The exhibit also offers new perspectives on history and raises questions related to themes, ideas, and events found in The Weitzman’s core exhibition, which interprets over 360 years of American Jewish life. The Future Will Follow the Past: An Exhibition by Jonathan Horowitz will be on view through December 2022. The Weitzman is also offering free admission through the rest of 2022.

Figuring Space at The Clay Studio

Figuring Space at The Clay Studio will feature full-scale, clay representations of human figures made by some of the top clay artists in the U.S. The works will touch on the issues that permeate American art and social culture, with cultural critiques through lenses of race, gender, class, and anti-war ideas. Figuring Space will be on view January 12 – April 16, 2023.

The Big Graph and Prisons Today: Questions in the Age of Mass Incarceration at Eastern State Penitentiary

The Big Graph at Eastern State Penitentiary. Photo by R. Hashem.

A new column representing 2020 incarceration rates has been added to The Big Graph at Eastern State Penitentiary. The Big Graph is a 16-foot-tall, 3,500-pound plate steel sculpture illustrating three sets of statistics: the unprecedented growth in U.S. incarceration rates since 1900, the racial breakdown of the American prison population in 1970 and today, and every nation in the world charted both by rate of incarceration and by policies around capital punishment. The Big Graph is on view during all public hours. Prisons Today: Questions in the Age of Mass Incarceration is a companion exhibit to The Big Graph. Prisons Today: Questions in the Age of Mass Incarceration sheds light on the issues surrounding incarceration. With 2.2 million citizens in prison or jail, the U.S. has the highest incarceration rate in the world – a phenomenon driven by changes in laws, policing, and sentencing, not by changes in behavior. The exhibit also highlights how poor and disenfranchised communities (mostly communities of color) have been disproportionately impacted throughout these historic changes, which remain nearly invisible to many Americans. Prisons Today: Questions in the Age of Mass Incarceration is also open to visitors during all public tour hours.

Deconstruct: Arinze Stanley Solo Exhibition at Corridor Contemporary

Opening September 2, 2022 at Corridor Contemporary in Fishtown is Deconstruct: Arinze Stanley Solo Exhibition. Works by renowned Nigerian artist Arinze Stanley will be on display. Arinze Stanley is constantly exploring contemporary matters that affect society and feels compelled to embody the spirit of the youth through art. The artist is determined to dismantle the stereotype around Nigerian youth and believes our leaders of tomorrow are the biggest assets of today.

Art for All: The Swedish Experience in Mid-America at the American Swedish Historical Museum

Birger Sandzén, Sunset in the Mountains, 1923, Birger Sandzén Memorial Gallery. Photo courtesy of American Swedish Historical Museum.

Opening July 21, 2022 at the American Swedish Historical Museum, the oldest Swedish museum in the United States, Art for All: The Swedish Experience in Mid-America will showcase paintings and sculptures by Swedish-American artists of the late-19th and early-20th centuries. This exhibition will be full of color and emotive Impressionist art reflecting its own time, while interpreting nature and landscape. By the 1930s, “Art for all” had become a catchphrase as local artists strived to offer affordable paintings so that every person could have art in their home. Guests will learn more about how these young artists left a significant impact on their communities and American art while exploring the exhibit. Art for All: The Swedish Experience in Mid-America will be on view July 21, 2022 through February 19, 2023.

The Mashrabiya Project at The Center for Art in Wood

Hoda Tawakol, Mashrabiya #…try” series, 2017. Wood. Photo courtesy of the artist.

In spring 2023, The Mashrabiya Project – an international exhibition with interactive programming, a shared making experience, and publication showcasing and exploring the significance of the Egyptian wood-turned mashrabiya – is coming to The Center for Art in Wood. This will be the first U.S. exhibition examining the Egyptian wood-turned mashrabiya, its prominence in Islamic and Egyptian craft, and its greater cultural significance. The multi-disciplinary exhibit will feature commissioned, never-before-seen works created by six international artists. The Mashrabiya Project will be on view March 3 to July 23, 2023.

Cover photo: Watershed Moment. Photo by R. Torres.

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