By: Paul Laster
Although New York’s major art museums—The Met, MoMA, Guggenheim and Whitney—charge adults a $25 admission fee, exhibitions at the city’s hundreds of art galleries can be accessed free of charge. Nevertheless, it’s not often that galleries meet museum standards for scholarly exhibitions with in-depth investigations into an artist’s body of work and major loans from private and institutional collections to support it, but when they do it can be an enlightening experience.
Rounding up a selection of exceptional exhibitions at Upper East Side and Chelsea galleries, we take you on a timely tour of museum-quality shows that definitely deliver the goods.
2. De Kooning: Five Decades
Mnuchin Gallery, 45 East 78th Street
Through June 15
Highlighting key moments from every decade of Willem de Kooning’s mature career, this smart show offers 28 important paintings, drawings, and sculptures by the modern master. Featuring loans from the Guggenheim Museum, Glenstone, and several private collections, the exhibition follows the Rotterdam-born, New York–based artist from the beginnings of Abstract Expressionism in the late 1940s, when his studio was located at Union Square, to his funky figurative bronzes of the 1970s and the sublime canvases that isolated brushstrokes in patches of soft-white overpainting from the early 1980s, when he was living and working in East Hampton.
There are a nearly a dozen paintings and drawings from his famous “Woman” series, which brought the figure into to his action paintings. Standouts in the series include the painting on paper Woman, which has a second sardonic face emerging from the figure’s torso; Monumental Woman, a dynamic charcoal drawing that the artist dedicated to the venerable art critic Harold Rosenberg; and his prized painting Woman III, where the rambunctious De Kooning wielded his brush like a sword, aggressively attacking the canvas to heroically bring his imaginary femme fatale to life.