Two exhibits in Manhattan, taken collectively, offer what might be this year’s most rewarding aesthetic and learning experience. I stated a while ago that for the first time in a long time (possibly ever), America has a peer country in China. The contemporary Chinese art overview in the Guggenheim is the single best demonstration of this point I have seen, and the show is further evidence that China already may have surpassed the United States in the visual arts. Read this NYT review: “…a powerful, unmissable event, and an invaluable window onto a world of contemporary art, politics and history that we still, decades on, barely know.” This is not complacent art, and some of it was so disturbing it had to be removed before the show opened (NB: the Chinese were not the ones censoring).
At the still underrated Morgan Library, you will find Master Drawings from the Thaw Collection, in two large rooms. Are drawings and watercolors better than paintings? Per dollar spent, for sure. I cannot think of a better, more easily digestible survey of the brilliant visual intelligences behind the last few centuries of Western art. This NYT review also has quality visuals.