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Philadelphia Museum of Art

by Emily Nathan
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If you’re looking for a worthwhile day trip, you can always consider Philadelphia. As a handful of enthusiastic curators from the Philadelphia Museum of Art made clear during a press briefing at the Standard Hotel restaurant in New York, May 11, 2012, the museum -- which is currently undergoing a slew of renovations and additions helmed by architect Frank Gehry -- has an exhibition line-up that should compel even the most committed New Yorker to cross state lines.

“Let’s be honest,” declared curator Carlos Basulado while we finished our desserts. “The theme of all of these shows is basically girls and boys misbehaving!”

Interested? Herewith, a selection of highlights from the upcoming schedule.

* Cy Twombly: Sculptures, through March 2013. Six white-washed bronzes whose motifs are drawn from Twombly’s 1978 painting suite, Fifty Days at Illiam, in the artist’s last planned installation before his death in July 2011. Conceived in collaboration with curator Carlos Basualdo, who describes it as a “meditation on conflict and war,” the show is exhibited in the museum’s Skylit Atrium.

* Sol LeWitt’s Lines in Four Directions in Flowers, May 24, 2012-Summer 2014. LeWitt as garden designer, via Lines in Four Directions in Flowers, a project featuring four flowerbeds with different colored blooms in directional rows, planted on the museum’s grounds. Lewitt designed the work in 1981, but it has only now been realized for the first time by the design firm OLIN in partnership with Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates. Sprawling across 18,850 square feet, one-third the length of a football field, it includes some 7,000 plants. A time-lapse film of the blooming process is also in the works.

* Gauguin, Cezanne, Matisse: Visions of Arcadia, June 20-Sept. 3, 2012. “What, exactly,” curator Joe Rishel asked the press as they dined on Arctic Char, “has kept art history’s masters -- Cezanne, Matisse, Gauguin, Poussin, and the list goes on -- returning incessantly to the same motif: a bunch of people without any clothes on, standing around together under trees?” “Visions of Arcadia,” features three monumental paintings on the theme by Cezanne, Gauguin and Matisse, as well as related works by 20 other artists.

* Philadelphia’s Rodin Museum opens its renovated quarters on July 13, 2012, re-presenting the 1929 building, designed by Paul Cret and Jacques Greber, restored to its original state. Monumental sculptures -- including the Burghers of Calais (1889) -- are reinstalled outdoors, as the artist intended, and a new selection of 90 works surveys the genesis of The Gates of Hell.

* Shipwreck! Winslow Homer and The Life Line, Sept. 22-Dec. 16, 2012. “I thought I was going to have to stand up here and convince you all to be interested in boats,” confessed exhibition curator Kathleen A. Foster. “But I wasn’t counting on the 100th anniversary of the Titanic.” Anchored by Winslow Homer’s The Life Line (1884), the show presents 30 works by Homer, preparatory and otherwise, as well as watercolors, etchings, engravings and ceramics made by other artists from the mid-17th to the early-20th century.

* Full Spectrum: Prints from the Brandywine Workshop, Sept. 22-Dec. 16, 2012. Celebrating the workshop’s 40th anniversary, the show presents 50 works by a range of artists, including John Biggers, Edgar Heap of Birds, Mei-linh Hom and Ibrahim Miranda. In all, the museum collection holds 100 prints by 89 artists from the workshop, donated in 2009 in memory of the late director Anne d’Harnoncourt.

* Dancing Around the Bride: John Cage, Merce Cunningham, Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, and Marcel Duchamp, Oct. 30, 2012-Jan. 21, 2013. “Let me assure you, The Large Glass is not going anywhere, ever!” curator Carlos Basulado told the press. “So if you’d like to see it, you gotta come to us.” Marcel Duchamp’s American legacy is explored via 100-plus artworks, as well as music by John Cage and a program of performances of Merce Cunningham dances. The show is conceived in collaboration with artist Philippe Parreno, and highlights formative moments, such as Rauschenberg and Johns’ 1958 visit to the Philadelphia Museum to see Duchamp’s The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even (The Large Glass) (1915-23), and the paintings they created in response to it.

* Great and Mighty Things: Art from the Jill and Sheldon Bonovitz Collection, March-May 2013. Nearly 200 paintings, sculptures, assemblages and drawings by 27 American Outsider Artists, all bequeathed to the museum by Philadelphia collectors Jill and Sheldon Bonovitz in 2011. Artists in the show include Martin Ramirez, who spent his life in a California mental institution; William Edmondson, the first black man to have a solo exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art; Bill Traylor, who was born into slavery in Alabama; and James Castle, who was born deaf and blind to a farming family in Idaho.

* Fernand Léger and the Modern City, opening in 2013. Organized by Anna Vallye and anchored by Léger’s monumental 1919 painting The City, this exhibition of 100 paintings celebrates depictions of the new urban landscape after World War I, along with works by Le Corbusier, Francis Picabia, Man Ray, Gerald Murphy and others. Also featured are examples of film, theater, design, architecture and the decorative arts by the artist and his colleagues.

* And last but not least, watch out for a retrospective of the American photographer and filmmaker Paul Strand, scheduled for fall 2014.

EMILY NATHAN is assistant editor of Artnet Magazine. She can be reached at Send Email