It may be that the season’s most important art installation won’t have an opening at all. The Philadelphia Museum of Art’s core 19th-century galleries have been undergoing a complete conceptual revamp — most have reopened, with a few more in the works, and some of the museum’s best-loved paintings have now moved. The van Goghs, for example, now hang together.
In addition to groupings by artist and style, some explore themes such as landscapes and nudes, and others incorporate decorative arts, furniture, prints, and sculpture to embody a moment in taste or commerce.
Overall, the season is blockbuster-free, although a 15-painting Cézanne show at the Princeton University Art Museum offers to break new ground on the artist’s fascination with rocks. That museum is also exhibiting a traveling show it organized on the photojournalism of Life magazine.
Elsewhere, the emphasis is on abstraction, with shows that feature artists from Delaware, India, California, and Ireland. The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts has a big celebration of three important printmaking workshops. And if you think of tapestries as dusty and old, the Barnes Foundation has a surprise, with examples by giants of modern art.
Invisible City: Philadelphia and the Vernacular Avant-garde (through April 4, University of the Arts, Art Alliance, and Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts). A massive project in four separate venues chronicles Philadelphia’s role during the 1960s and 1970s in introducing pop art and postmodernist architecture. (215-717-6481, invisiblecity.uarts.edu)
Karyn Olivier: Everything That’s Alive Moves (through May 10, Institute of Contemporary Art). The first solo exhibition for a Philadelphia-based sculptor whose works often address monumentality and civic expression. Included in the show are a new obelisk sculpture, a carousel for one, a car made of repurposed shoes — gathered for export to poor countries — and a brick wall built using discarded clothing as mortar. (215-898-7108, icaphila.org)
Making Community: Prints from Brandywine Workshop and Archives, Brodsky Center at PAFA, and Paulson Fontaine Press (through April 12, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts). This exhibition spotlights 100 recently acquired prints and includes works by many well-known artists of the last 40 years. It will run concurrently with a small exhibition of prints by Helen Frankenthaler. And coming Feb. 21 is a show of more than 70 works gifted to PAFA by former Philadelphia School Superintendent Constance E. Clayton. (215-972-7600, pafa.org)
A Collector’s Vision: Highlights from the Dietrich American Foundation (through June 7, Philadelphia Museum of Art). This exhibition of 55 pictures and artifacts celebrates a collection that is primarily focused on documents, rather than visual arts. It includes John Singleton Copley portrait, a Paul Revere teapot, and many views of early America. (215-763-8100, philamuseum.org)
Africa in the Arts of Philadelphia: Bullock, Searles, and Twins Seven-Seven (Feb. 8-May 17, Woodmere Art Museum). Barbara Bullock (born 1938), Charles Searles (1937–2004), and Twins Seven-Seven (1944–2011) were the key visual artists involved with Ile-Ife Black Humanitarian Center in North Philadelphia, which was founded in 1969 by dancer and choreographer Arthur Hall. The artists’ works sought to integrate traditional African themes into works that responded to life in the 20th century. (215-247-0476, woodmereartmuseum.org)
Life Magazine and the Power of Photography (Feb. 22-June 21, Princeton University Art Museum). A show organized with Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts on the greatest of the mid-20th-century picture magazines. Based on the magazine’s photo and paper archives, with materials from the archives of the distinguished photographers who contributed, the exhibition will include caption files, contact sheets, and shooting scripts that document the collaborative process behind many now-iconic images and photo-essays. (609-258-3788, artmuseum.princeton.edu)
Marie Cuttoli: The Modern Thread from Miró to Man Ray (Feb. 23-May 10, Barnes Foundation). Cuttoli (1879-1973) is the entrepreneur who convinced such modern artists as Joan Miró and Pablo Picasso to experiment with the antique art of tapestry-making. This is the first exhibition to show works she brought into being and to highlight her influence. (215-278-7000, Barnesfoundation.org)
Fault Lines: Contemporary Abstraction by Artists from South Asia (March 7-Oct. 25, Philadelphia Museum of Art). This exhibition focuses on six artists working in or born in South Asia who explore minimalism in their work. Expect to see paintings, textiles, drawings, and sculptures that feature wavy lines, intended to disorient. (215-763-8100, philamuseum.org)
Cézanne: The Rock and Quarry Paintings (March 7-June 14, Princeton University Art Museum). An exhibition of 15 paintings, along with some watercolors, looks into the post-impressionist master’s fascination with geology. This has been relatively unexplored territory for art historians, and after its Princeton premiere the show will travel to London’s Royal Academy of Arts. (609-258-3788, artmuseum.princeton.edu)
Layered Abstraction: Margo Allman & Helen Mason (March 21-Sept. 6, Delaware Art Museum). Delaware’s main spring exhibition will feature about 140 paintings, sculptures, pieces of jewelry, and other works by two artists who have taught locally and have been influential in the region. (302-571-9590, delart.org)
Samara Golden: Upstairs at Steve’s (April 3–Sept. 27, Fabric Workshop and Museum). This is the debut of a major new work by the Los Angeles-based artist known for creating topsy-turvy funhouse environments, often by using mirrors. “Upstairs at Steve’s” is set in a seashore, dunelike environment intended to give viewers an overpowering feeling, FWM says, that “something happened here.” (215-561-8888, fabricworkshopandmuseum.org)
Susan Phillipsz Installation at the Woodlands (opens April 4, The Woodlands, 4000 Woodland Ave.). Philadelphia’s grandest federal-era house will be the site of an installation by Susan Philipsz, a Glasgow-based artist who works in sound. Her work seeks to use sound as a trigger for lost memory and to focus on both the past and the future of the sites she selects. Philadelphia Contemporary, the organization behind the 2018 Jane Irish pop-up show at Lemon Hill in Fairmount Park, is sponsoring this, along with the Woodlands. (philadelphiacontemporary.org)
Rising Tides: Contemporary Art and the Ecology of Water (April 4-Aug. 23, Michener Art Museum). In observance of the 50th anniversary of the first Earth Day, Michener is mounting a group show of Philadelphia-area artists whose work considers the impact of global warming, climate change, pollution, and other threats to bodies of water and aquatic species. Among those represented will be ceramicist Paula Winokur and painters Diane Burko and Emily Brown. (215-340-9800, michenerartmuseum.org)
Bruce Beasley: 60 Year Retrospective (1960-2020) (May 3-Jan. 10, Grounds for Sculpture, Hamilton, N.J.). This is a major retrospective for the distinguished California-based sculptor, including more than 60 works. They range from early pieces that applied the principles of abstract expressionism to metal sculpture to more recent piece including new works in stainless steel and bronze created using virtual reality and his first monumental paper collages. (609-586-0616, groundsforsculpture.org)