Alex Bag, with puppet
Whitney Museum of American Art
Jan. 9-May 1, 2009
The Whitney Museum once again demonstrates its connection to freewheeling contemporary art with an exhibition of a new video work by the caustic media artist Alex Bag. Presented in the museum’s lobby gallery, The Patchwork Family is Bag’s update of a small-time syndicated kid’s TV show from the ‘70s featuring puppets, songs and a chipper hostess -- who was Bag’s own mother. Watch for guest spots by an "abstract artist," a "wizard" and a "psycho-pharmacologist."

Anneè Olofsson
Evil Eye (still)
Mia Sundberg Galleri, Stockholm
Grey Art Gallery, New York University
Jan. 13-Apr. 4, 2009
This framework for a new trend in contemporary art comes from co-curators Terrie Sultan, David Pagel and Colin Gardner, in a show that debuted at the Blaffer Gallery in Houston (and that subsequently appears at the Parrish Art Museum on Long Island). Whatever the overheated title might mean -- perhaps it partakes in what New Yorker art critic Peter Schjeldahl called a "fashion for sensationalized moral seriousness" (in his review of "Marlene Dumas" at the Museum of Modern Art) -- the show does gather together 15 interesting artists: Richard Billingham, Berlinde De Bruykere, Edward Burtynsky, Sophie Calle, Petah Coyne, Angelo Filomeno, Jesper Just, Mary McCleary, Florian Maier-Aichen, Wangechi Mutu, Julia Oschatz, Anneè Olofsson, David Schnell, and the team of Ryan Taber and Cheyenne Weaver. The exhibition is accompanied by a 136-page catalogue.

Tim Walker
Alice Gibb and Olga Sherer, Sennowe Park, Norfolk, England
International Center for Photography
Jan. 16-May 3, 2009
What happens when fashion and art collide? Advertisements, that’s what! Featuring ca. 20 photos plus hundreds of tearsheets, "Weird Beauty" includes  such delights as Cindy Sherman’s "Merci Cindy!" series for Balenciaga, from French Vogue; Nan Goldin’s work for Kid’s Wear; and Collier Schorr’s fashion shoots for magazines like i-D and Numéro Homme. Also look for an ad campaign for Marc Jacobs by Juergen Teller, featuring American photo legend William Eggleston cavorting with actress Charlotte Rampling. Organized by Carol Squiers and Vince Aletti, the exhibition is one of four fashion surveys opening this month at the ICP.

Hans Hofmann
Sketch -- Chimbote Mosaic Cross
The Renate, Hans and Maria Hofmann Trust
Rose Art Museum, Brandeis
Jan. 15-Apr. 5, 2009
Hans Hofmann made a group of nine painting studies for murals for Catalan architect Josep Sert’s utopian 1949 design for Chimbote, a mining town on Peru’s Pacific coast. Now the works go on public view for the first time, along with two dozen other Hofmann works from 1950, one of the artist’s most productive years. The show is organized by Rose director Michael Rush and guest-curator Catherine Morris, who say that the series is "a concise and inspired example of the depth of Hofmann’s strengths as an abstract painter and modernist visionary."

Robert Frank
Parade -- Hoboken, New Jersey
Private Collection, San Francisco
National Gallery of Art
Jan. 18-Apr. 26, 2009
Curator Sarah Greenough pays homage to the 50th anniversary of Robert Frank’s legendary photo-essay The Americans via a display of all 83 seminal photographs, alongside material exploring the work’s roots in Frank’s earlier photos and its impact on his later art. The exhibition, which is accompanied by a 384-page book (published in 2008), travels to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, May 16-Aug. 23, 2009, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Sept. 22-Dec. 27, 2009.

Tehching Hsieh’s Cage Piece (1978-79)
Museum of Modern Art
Jan. 21-May 18, 2009
As the Museum of Modern Art commits itself to contemporary art performance -- witness the recent report in New York magazine of the tortuous process that added a work by Tino Sehgal to its collection -- MoMA presents a show about New York artist Tehching Hsieh’s infamous Cage Piece (1978-79), documenting the artist’s year spent locked inside a cage via a suite of 365 photographs. The exhibition, organized by Klaus Biesenbach and Jenny Schlenzka, inaugurates a new MoMA series focusing on classic art performances.

Bruce Nauman
Double Poke in the Eye II
Collection of Lois and Steve Eisen
Contemporary Art Museum, Saint Louis
Jan. 23-Apr. 19, 2009
Long an avatar of avant-garde American art, Bruce Nauman has been tapped for the U.S. pavilion at the 2009 Venice Biennale (in a show organized by the Philadelphia Museum). In the meantime, we have this Midwestern survey, which focuses on Nauman’s humor via neon works, drawings, prints, photographs and videos. Taking its title from a character in a Buster Keaton film, "Dead Shot Dan" emphasizes "a comic take on the tragic," according to CAM chief curator Anthony Huberman.

A.R. Penck, Der Übergang (Passage)
Sammlung Ludwig, Aachen
Los Angeles County Museum of Art
Jan. 25, 2009-Apr. 19, 2009
Tracing the complex post-war battle between Western liberal democracy and the communist dictatorship of the proletariat, "Cold War Cultures" presents some 300 works by 120 artists, who worked "at times in accord with their political cultures, at other times in opposition to them." The first special exhibition to go on view in LACMA’s new Broad Contemporary Art Museum, the show is co-organized by LACMA senior curator Stephanie Barron and Eckhart Gillen of the Kulturprojeckte Berlin, and subsequently appears in Nürnberg and Berlin.

Pierre Bonnard
Before Dinner
Metropolitan Museum of Art
Metropolitan Museum of Art
Jan. 27, 2009-Apr. 19, 2009
Dita Amory, curator of the Met’s Robert Lehman Collection, assembles approximately 80 late works by Pierre Bonnard, focusing on paintings, drawings and watercolors made by the Nabi artist in a converted upstairs bedroom in his pink stucco house overlooking the Mediterranean in the village of Le Canet. "These luminous late interiors define Bonnard’s modernism" and serve as "compelling metaphors for a range of sensations." The show is accompanied by a 200-page catalogue

Arthur Wesley Dow
August Moon
ca. 1905
Collection of Edgar O. Smith
Guggenheim Museum
Jan. 30-Apr. 19, 2009
The Guggenheim Museum turns to Asia with a vengeance via curator Alexandra Munroe’s exploration of the impact of Asian philosophies and art practices on Western culture, from Impressionism to the recent past. The show -- part of the museum’s 50th anniversary celebration -- features 260 works by 114 American and Asian-American artists, and is accompanied by a 465-page catalogue.