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New York's best museum exhibitions 2013

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2013 was quite a year for museums. We've seen everything from flowing Spanish gowns on display organized by the designer Oscar de la Renta, shipwrecked treasures rescued from the depths of the ocean, Dutch masterpieces including the famously enigmatic and beautiful Girl with a Pearl Earring, we've had jewelry made of hair, and multimedia watercolors of Central Park created by an 82-year-old artist.

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Without a doubt, this year has seen some fascinating artworks and research. But there are a few shows that stand out this year, and we're here to remind you of them. Most are still on view for a short time, so be sure to catch the top exhibitions before it's too late! Read on for your list of the top six exhibitions of 2013. Perhaps you'll be motivated to even prepare ahead for 2014's most anticipated exhibitions...

Metropolitan Museum of Art's Matisse: In Search of True Painting

Organized by curator Rebecca Rabinow, this Matisse show was, without a doubt, the absolute best of the year. You couldn't ask for more: a blockbuster artist, perfect pairings of artworks, a full-color glossy catalog, accompanying informative website, in-depth labels, and even a bit of digital fun thrown in the mix. The show was based on the fascinating thesis that Matisse often created the same scene in multiple paintings, and that scene often had subtle (or sometimes not-so-subtle) changes over the years. The organization was simple: place each work chronologically next to its "copied" counterpart. When reviewing the show in January, we pronounced this "the exhibition of the year" all those months ago - and that title has certainly stuck. There was no better displayed or organized exhibition this year and the Met did a superb job. In Search of True Painting traveled to two other museums (Copenhagen’s Statens Museum for Kunst, and Paris’ Centre Pompidou) and received rave reviews throughout its tour.

Rubin Museum of Art's Count Your Blessings: The Art of Prayer Beads in Asia

What's that? You haven't been to the Rubin Museum before? Wait, you haven't even heard of the museum before? For shame! The RMA is one of the best museums in all of New York City and is worth the trip down to Chelsea even if it's just to grab a bite to eat in their cafe Serai, or wander through their eclectic gift shop, or hop up to the second level for a moment of solitude at the Tibetan Shrine Room. Or, if you have a chance before March 24, 2014, head down to the basement level to see a few pieces of religious jewelry on display. Also a simple (and comparatively small) exhibition, Count Your Blessings displays over 50 captivating prayer beads used mainly in the Buddhist tradition. These beads are anything from precious stones like jade and tiger's eye to coral, human bone, snake skeleton, various shaped seeds and shells, and other exotic materials. Despite the fact that most audiences will likely have no knowledge of the Buddhist tradition or have ever used prayer beads, the Rubin does a stellar job of teaching visitors everything they need to know through the beads themselves, informative wall panels, and even a touch station and interactive computer station that tells the story of a few beads on display. Check it out before it's too late!

Museum of Biblical Art's Sacred Visions: Nineteenth-Century Biblical Art from the Dahesh Museum

We know the Bible stories - David and Goliath, the three wise men, Jesus teaching to the children - we've read them all a hundred times. But you've never seen them like this. The Dahesh Museum is an institution that collects 19th-century art but doesn't have a place to display it all, so they send special exhibitions out to other museums that will host them. In this, Sacred Visions, hosted at the little-known but always-enlightening Museum of Biblical Art, the Dahesh is displaying highlights of their Biblical art collection from the period. We are graced with the academic accomplishment of The Death of Moses, the oversized and newly conserved Christ and the Children, and the sweet scene of the Adoration of the Magi. Each work on display has something to offer the audience, and each was purposefully chosen by the curators, not only telling Biblical stories, but also telling the story of how the image of Christ and the painting of scenes form the Bible had changed in just one century. This exhibition is on view through February 16, 2014.

Discovery Times Square's The Art of the Brick

In our history of art classes we are taught of the masterpieces made throughout time, from Leonardo's David to Van Gogh's Starry Night, from Munch's The Scream to Easter Island's towering statues. But you never thought that those iconic works of art could be made of Lego bricks, did you? Artist Nathan Sawaya has made a living off of his love of Lego bricks, and this particular exhibition has been hailed one of the "top ten global exhibitions." Both kids and adults alike will marvel at the works on view in the massive Times Square space - recreated art masterpieces combine with plays on the human form, a construction of a Tyrannosaurus Rex granted his own room in the show, and other creative creations. This exhibition is pure fun and is only open through January 5, 2014.

The Frick Collection's Precision and Splendor: Clocks and Watches at the Frick Collection

The Frick has produced a number of enviable exhibitions this year, including the special exhibition of Vincent van Gogh's Portrait of a Peasant and the current popular exhibition of Dutch masterpieces on loan from the Mauritshaus in Vermeer, Rembrandt, and Hals. While not surpassing the immediate draw and attention of museum visitors, the Frick's collection of antique clocks and watches is well worth a second, third, and fourth look. In a unique exhibition displayed on the new Portico, golden timepieces (small painted pocketwatches, a terracotta sculpture of nymphs underneath a globe-encased clock, a blue-faced piece encased in an intricately woven golden cage) glitter in the daylight as they tell the story of the passage - and creation - of time. Some of the earliest timepieces ever created - dating back to the 16th century - are here on display. Curated by Charlotte Vignon, Precision and Splendor lets visitors fall back into a period of innovation and creation, a time when "time" wasn't really known as we use it today. The clocks and watches on view, ranging in size from hand-held to display-case, are indeed splendid, created over those first centuries for only those who could afford it, and the collection amassed here is fascinating. It remains on view through February 2, 2014.

New York Public Library's The ABC Of It: Why Children's Books Matter

The New York Public Library's main branch at 42nd Street rarely fails to entertain and enlighten its visitors with well-developed and executed exhibitions, and their latest is no exception. In The ABC Of It, adults are reminded of childhood favorites like Goodnight Moon, The Poky Little Puppy, or A Wrinkle in Time. Interactive stations like the car from The Phantom Tollbooth, the rabbit hole from Alice in Wonderland, and video clips from famous books-made-film are all part of the show, still on view through March 23, 2014. Curator Leonard S. Marcus hopes through the exhibition, that we are reminded of what makes children's literature so great - what makes those books stick with us even into adulthood. In many cases, these books are what taught us right from wrong, happy from sad, red from yellow, up from down. This show will have you running to your bookcase full of classics to gobble up your own old favorites all over again.

Like what you read? To stay up-to-date with future exhibitions and art events throughout the city and beyond, subscribe to Jennifer's site via the link at the top of the page.


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