Here are five museum shows in New York that I’m really looking forward to this summer, in no particular order:

Age of Empires: Chinese Art of the Qin and Han Dynasties (221 B.C. – A.D. 220) currently on view at the Met Museum (through July 16)

Bronze chariot from the Qin dynasty
Half-life-size bronze chariot from the Qin dynasty. Image courtesy Met Museum.

This show features over 160 objects from 32 museums and archaeological institutions in the People’s Republic of China. Most of them have never before been seen in the West. The famous terra cotta army warriors are here, along with textiles, ceramics, sculptures, paintings, metalwork, and calligraphy from this rich era of Chinese artistic exploration.

Irving Penn: Centennial currently on view at the Met Museum (through July 30)

Marcel Duchamp, New York, by Irving Penn (1948)
Marcel Duchamp, New York, by Irving Penn (1948). Image courtesy Met Museum.

While you’re at the Met, check out this comprehensive retrospective of over 200 photos by Irving Penn. While the photos were taken in places ranging from Cuzco, Peru, to New Guinea, Penn always photographed in a studio setting and one of his backdrops is on view. These striking portraits of celebrities and ordinary people still have compelling power in an era that’s saturated with images.

World War I Beyond the Trenches currently on view at the New-York Historical Society (through September 3)

Exhibition poster featuring John Singer Sargent's "Gassed."
Exhibition poster featuring John Singer Sargent’s “Gassed.” Courtesy the New-York Historical Society.

It’s the centennial of the U.S.’s involvement in World War I, and this exhibition examines how artists responded to the conflict. It features works by John Singer Sargent, Georgia O’Keeffe, Childe Hassam, George Bellows, and others, along with artifacts from the museum’s collection that provide historical context, such as propaganda posters, a soldier’s letters, uniforms, and military gear.

Scher Collection of Portrait Medals currently on view at the Frick Collection (through September 12)

Cecilia Gonzaga having tamed a unicorn on the reverse of her medal by Pisanello. Notice how the artist has signed his work on the panel behind the animal.
Cecilia Gonzaga with a unicorn on a medal by Pisanello. Photo Michael Bodycomb, Courtesy the Scher Collection at the Frick.

I previously wrote a blog post about this exceptional collection of portrait medals from the Renaissance and beyond. This art form was developed in Renaissance Italy and features beautiful details and decorations. Artists created remarkably individualized likenesses in these medals, which commemorate some of the most significant historical figures of their era.

Making Space: Women Artists and Postwar Abstraction currently on view at MoMA (through August 13)

Lee Krasner's abstract painting "Gaea" (1966)
Lee Krasner, “Gaea” (1966). Courtesy MoMA, © 2017 Pollock-Krasner Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

Women artists have frequently been written out of the history of American abstraction (consider the famous photo published in Life in 1951 featuring only one woman, Hedda Sterne), yet they were essential members of the movement, as shown by this exhibition of nearly 100 pieces drawn entirely from MoMA’s collection. It features works by artists including Helen Frankenthaler, Joan Mitchell, Louise Bourgeois, Eva Hesse, and Lee Krasner, wife of Jackson Pollock and an exceptional artist in her own right, as discussed in Gail Levin’s masterful biography from 2011.