‘SCENES FROM THE COLLECTION’ at the Jewish Museum. After a surgical renovation to its grand pile on Fifth Avenue, the Jewish Museum has reopened its third-floor galleries with a rethought, refreshed display of its permanent collection, which intermingles 4,000 years of Judaica with modern and contemporary art by Jews and gentiles alike — Mark Rothko, Lee Krasner, Nan Goldin, Cindy Sherman and the excellent young Nigerian draftswoman Ruby Onyinyechi Amanze. The works are shown in a nimble, nonchronological suite of galleries, and some of its century-spanning juxtapositions are bracing; others feel reductive, even dilettantish. But always, the Jewish Museum conceives of art and religion as interlocking elements of a story of civilization, commendably open to new influences and new interpretations. (Farago)
212-423-3200, thejewishmuseum.org

‘TOLKIEN: MAKER OF MIDDLE-EARTH’ at the Morgan Library & Museum (through May 12). J. R. R. Tolkien did more than write books like “The Hobbit” and the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy; he invented an alternate reality, complete with its own geography, languages, religion and an era-spanning history. This exhibition of his artwork, letters, drafts and other material reminds visitors that the stories Tolkien wrote, however impressive, represent only a fraction of his efforts, and it highlights his unparalleled ability to create an immersive experience using only words and pictures. After a visit you, too, may find yourself believing in Middle-earth and the hobbits, elves, dwarves, orcs and wizards that live there. (Peter Libbey)
212-685-0008, themorgan.org

‘T. REX: THE ULTIMATE PREDATOR’ at the American Museum of Natural History (through Aug. 9, 2020). Everyone’s favorite 18,000-pound prehistoric killer gets the star treatment in this eye-opening exhibition, which presents the latest scientific research on T. rex and also introduces many other tyrannosaurs, some discovered only this century in China and Mongolia. T. rex evolved mainly during the Cretaceous Period to have keen eyes, spindly arms and massive conical teeth, which could bear down on prey with the force of a U-Haul truck; the dinosaur could even swallow whole bones, as affirmed here by a kid-friendly display of fossilized excrement. The show mixes 66-million-year-old teeth with the latest 3-D prints of dino bones, and also presents new models of T. rex as a baby, a juvenile and a full-grown annihilator. Turns out this most savage beast was covered with — believe it! — a soft coat of beige or white feathers. (Farago)
212-769-5100, amnh.org

‘NARI WARD: WE THE PEOPLE’ at the New Museum (through May 26). The persistent and liberating message in Ward’s sculpture and room-size installations is that art can be made from virtually anything. In this midcareer retrospective, anything means old carpets, plastic bags, bottles, zippers, bed springs, keys and furniture. Although the exhibition includes a number of large installations, Ward is best as a creator of curious and discrete sculptures, ones that remind us that our world is filled with potentially magical objects. We enter museums expecting to be transformed, but if we shift our perspective and look around us, we’ll see that everyday life is really just art waiting to happen. (Schwendener)
212-219-1222, newmuseum.org

‘THE WORLD BETWEEN EMPIRES: ART AND IDENTITY IN THE ANCIENT MIDDLE EAST’ at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (through June 23). The Met excels at epic-scale archaeological exhibitions, and this is a prime example. It brings together work made between 100 B.C. and A.D. 250 in what we now know as Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and Yemen. In the ancient world, all were in the sphere of two competing superpowers — Rome to the west and Parthia to the east — and though imperial influence was strong, it was far from all-determining. Each of the subject territories selectively grafted it onto local traditions to create distinctive new grass-roots cultural blends. Equally important, the show addresses the fate of art from the past in a politically fraught present. (Cotter)
212-535-7710, metmuseum.org



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