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

Jan 6, 2021

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, Homage to Romare (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.

The High Museum of Art is located at 1280 Peachtree St NE, Atlanta


Francisco de Goya, Bullfight in a Divided Ring (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.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art is located at 1000 Fifth Avenue, New York


Vincent van Gogh, Tree Trunks in the Grass (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.

MFA Houston is located at 5601 Main Street, Houston 

The artist’s 25-year career has made an indelible mark on the contemporary art scene (and the market) and this year’s KAWS célèbre (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.

The Brooklyn Museum is located at 200 Eastern Parkway, New York


Niki de Saint Phalle, Tarot Garden (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.

MoMA PS1 is located at 22–25 Jackson Avenue, New York


Christina Quarles, Can Yew Feel? Tha Days Are Gettin’ Shorter (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.

MCA Chicago is located at 220 E Chicago Avenue, Chicago


Julie Mehretu, Retopistics: A Renegade Excavation (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.

The Whitney is located at 99 Gansevoort Street, New York


Sam Francis, Towards Disappearance (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. 

LACMA is located at 5905 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles


Laura Owens, Untitled (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.

The Transformer Station is located at 1460 West 29th Street, Cleveland