15 of the USA’s best exhibitions in 2024

Immerse yourself in art, culture and history with our selection of the best museum displays across the States…

Jacqui Agate
31 January 2024

The USA is packed tight with museums – including revered institutions showcasing the works of Old Masters and lesser-known galleries focused on avant-garde contemporary displays.

From fun explorations of pop culture to deep-dives into the world’s most important art movements, we reveal the exhibitions you should make a trip for in 2024…

1. Dining with the Sultan: The Fine Art of Feasting – Los Angeles County Museum of Art, California and Detroit Institute of Arts Museum, Michigan

Dining with the Sultan installation at Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)

When: 17 December 2023 – 4 August 2024 (LA) lacma.org; 22 September 2024 – 5 January 2025 (Detroit) dia.org

This wonderfully indulgent and sensory exhibition offers a deep-dive into the relationship between Islamic art and fine dining – from South Asia to Arabia. You’ll gaze upon ornate dinnerware sets, centuries-old recipe books and paintings depicting extravagant royal banquets. The show began at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art last year and will be on display until the summer – then it’ll take centre stage at the too-often underrated Detroit Institute of Arts Museum.

2. REVISIT/REIMAGINE: The Civil Rights Era in Maryland and Parallels of Today – Banneker-Douglass Museum, Annapolis, Maryland

When: 24 February 2024– 4 January 2025, bdmuseum.maryland.gov

It’s been 60 years since the Civil Rights Act was signed into law and this exhibition celebrates the Civil Rights leaders whose actions made change in Maryland and beyond. The exhibition first looks backwards – displaying poignant historical photographs from the era – and then into the present, highlighting the work of contemporary artists who use their craft to interrogate social injustices.

3. Vertigo of Color: Matisse, Derain, and the Origins of Fauvism – Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas

When: 25 February-27 May 2024, mfah.org

After a stint at New York City’s Met Museum last year, this vibrant exhibition comes to Texas’s largest city for 2024. The display explores the roots of Fauvism, a bold art movement spearheaded by French artists Henri Matisse and André Derain at the beginning of the 20th century. The exhibition celebrates the fruitful partnership – which was born in the summer of 1905 in dinky Mediterranean fishing port, Collioure – with a series of colourful oil paintings and sketches.

4. The Harlem Renaissance and Transatlantic Modernism – The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City

Outside the MET at night (Kate Glicksberg/NYC & Company)

When: 25 February-28 July 2024, metmuseum.org

This landmark exhibition will pull visitors back to the first half of the 20th century, when the Great Migration saw African Americans push north from the rural South in their millions. The result was a Black-led cultural and artistic boom in the USA’s northern urban hubs – including in New York City’s Harlem.

This exhibition will put this fertile creative era – and its integral role in the evolution of international modern art – in the spotlight. Expect more than 150 works from artists including Charles Henry Alston, best known for his vivid oil paintings depicting the lives of African Americans, and James Van Der Zee, a prominent photographer who documented the Harlem Renaissance.

5. 25 Million Stitches: One Stitch, One Refugee, various locations

When: 1 March-28 July 2024 (Wisconsin), 25millionstitches.com

Textile artist Jennifer Kim Sohn draws attention to the global refugee crisis in this moving exhibit, which comprises panels of fabric contributed by more than 2,300 people across the globe. The panels feature messages of hope, human scenes and patterns, with each hand-sewn stitch representing a displaced person. The roving exhibit spent time in San Diego at Mingei International Museum last year, and will enter the Midwest at the Wisconsin Museum of Quilts and Fiber Arts for 2024.

6. Rebellious Spirits: Prohibition and Resistance in the South – New Orleans Museum of Art, Louisiana

When: 1 March 2024-5 January 2025, noma.org

There’s arguably no better place in the USA for a cocktail than New Orleans – the Big Easy’s heady spirits scene is world class and plenty of tipples (including the signature Sazerac) were invented right here. Even during Prohibition – the period from 1919 through to 1933 when the sale and manufacture of liquor was banned in the US – the South, and in particular NOLA, was never truly dry.

Swing by this exhibition to explore this intriguing slice of American history through material objects such as vintage cocktail shakers, and stirring photography from the era.

7 . Hallyu! The Korean Wave – Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Massachusetts

When: 24 March-28 July 2024, mfa.org

Discover how Korea is influencing pop culture worldwide through this vibrant exhibition exploring the concept of ‘hallyu’, or the Korean Wave. Displays celebrate the global explosion of Korean music, film and fashion – from cult TV series such as Squid Game to mega girl bands such as aespa. Pore over statement outfits by designers like Minju Kim, and look backwards with treasures such as a traditional moon jar produced during the 18th century.

8. Fashioning Aloha – Honolulu Museum of Art, Hawaii

When: 12 April-18 August 2024, honolulumuseum.org

This fascinating exhibition interrogates the deep cultural significance of aloha wear and its traditional Hawaiian roots – from holokū (gowns) to mu’umu‘u (a style of dress). You’ll learn how Native Hawaiian culture has informed contemporary fashion around the world – and spurned icons such as the ‘Hawaiian’ shirt. Highlights of the displayed collection include traditional quilts and an intricate Hawaiian bark cloth.

9. Space Maker: Indigenous Expression and a New American Art – Crystal Bridges Museum of Art, Bentonville, Arkansas

Crystal Bridges Museum will host this new exhibition inspired by Indigenous cultures (Courtesy of Crystal Bridges)

When: 13 April-30 September 2024, crystalbridges.org

Bentonville’s Crystal Bridges Museum of Art is criminally underrated, but this exhibition focusing on the mid-century Indian Space Painters and modern Native art should provide ample reason to visit. Artists such as Peter Busa popularised a painting style inspired by tribal motifs and this exhibition interrogates the development of modern American art and its roots in Indigenous cultures. It brings in contemporary Native artists such as Benjamin Harjo Jr, of Absentee Shawnee and Seminole heritage.

10. New Worlds: Women to Watch in 2024 – National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, DD

When: 14 April-11 Aug 11 2024, nmwa.org

Reopened last fall after major renovations, DC’s National Museum of Women in the Arts is the nation’s only museum focused solely on female artists – and this landmark collection showcases works by trailblazing creators hailing from the USA, Japan, Mexico and beyond. The multidisciplinary artists cover themes from race and cultural rituals to feminism and gender identity.

11. Phoenix Kingdoms: The Last Splendour of China’s Bronze Age – Asian Art Museum, San Francisco, California

When: 19 April-22 July 2024, asianart.org

Those who have a combined love of art and ancient history will appreciate this exhibition telling forgotten tales of China’s Bronze Age. Displays highlight elaborate treasures from the Zeng and Chu states, whose stories were punctuated by the onset of imperial rule.

Recent excavations have uncovered a slew of ornate treasures and intricate artefacts (from wine vessels to paintings), which reveal the deep spirituality and enduring creativity of these overlooked cultures.

12. Georgia O’Keeffe: “My New Yorks” – The Art Institute of Chicago, Illinois

Georgia O’Keeffe. East River from the 30th Story of the Shelton Hotel, 1928 (Courtesy of The Art Institute of Chicago)

When: 2 June-22 September 2024, artic.edu

O’Keeffe is most readily associated with New Mexico, where she was inspired by the expansive panoramas of the American Southwest – yet the late artist turned her hand to cityscapes too. She spent a substantial period of her life living in the Big Apple and her interpretations of New York’s concrete jungle are as mesmerising as her natural works. This exhibition brings together a collection of her finest urban paintings and drawings

13. 1692: The Salem Witch Trials – Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Massachusetts

When: 6 July 2024-1 June 2026, pem.org

At the end of the 17th century, 25 people died during the Salem Witch Trials, a series of investigations that saw hundreds of innocent people accused of witchcraft. This period of persecution is seared into American history and this confronting exhibition will bring it into sharp focus. Displays chronicle the proceedings through centuries-old artefacts including court documents and items such as an original walking stick.

14. Afrofuturistic Visions: Dreamscapes of Sicasso – Frist Art Museum, Nashville, Tennessee

Afrofuturistic Visions: Dreamscapes of Sicasso (Frist Art Museum)

When: 11 August 2023-28 July 2024, fristartmuseum.org

Enter a surreal and psychedelic world at Music City’s top art museum with this exhibition dedicated to Afrofuturism, which combines the Black experience and ideals of freedom and liberation with concepts of science fiction and technology. The installation is the work and vision of Sicasso, an abstract artist whose bright, dream-like paintings celebrate African-American power and beauty.

15. Paris 1874: The Impressionist Moment – National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC

The Railway, 1873, Édouard Manet (Shutterstock)

When: 8 September 2024 – 19 January 2025, nationalgallery.org.uk

In 1874, in Paris, the Anonymous Society of Painters, Sculptors, Printmakers, Etc – a cooperative of then relatively unknown and disillusioned artists, including Claude Monet and Pierre-Auguste Renoir – curated an exhibition designed to push the boundaries of contemporary art at the time. There was little fuss made over their efforts then, but fast-forward 150 years and the world is celebrating the spark that ignited the Impressionism movement.

In the USA, the greatest ode to the movement – which is characterised by bold, loose brush strokes and al fresco painting – will be at the US capital’s National Gallery. Works from that very first exhibition will be reunited in a 130-strong display that celebrates Impressionist masters including Paul Cézanne and Edgar Degas and interrogates the historical backdrop against which the movement unfolded.

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