Source: © Ushio and Noriko Shinohara/Courtesy of the Tate Modern

The 10 Best Must-See Museum Shows This Fall, Worldwide

From Los Angeles, to Paris, to Kanazawa, Japan, consider these exhibitions necessary stamps in your cultural passport.

As the world's major museums roll out an extraordinary lineup of shows this fall, there's a lot to be excited about. Some of them are blockbusters that have already garnered significant (expected) attention—MoMA's Picasso show has received almost uniformly gushing reviews—and others, such as the Hammer Museum's quiet but superb exhibition of jewel-like landscape paintings by little-known artist Lawren Harris, promise to be the season's sleeper hits.

Not everyone can be everywhere, of course, so we've compiled a list of some of the most exciting shows from around the globe. Consider it your cultural passport for fall.


The Best Designed Books of 2014, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, Through Oct. 25

Installation view, the best designed books of 2014

Installation view, The Best Designed Books of 2014

Photographer: Gert-Jan van Rooij/Courtesy of the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam

Questionable as it might seem to institutionalize books as design objects rather than things to be read, the Stedelijk's Best Designed Books exhibition is a nice reminder that there's an art to good design. The annual competition—in place since 1932—is a concise, usually rewarding shortcut to discovering the tomes that the industry's own leaders consider the best of the best.


Lee Miller at the Museo de Arte Moderno, Mexico City, Through Feb. 21

Exhibition catalog, lee miller, surrealist photographer

Exhibition catalog, Lee Miller, Surrealist Photographer

Source: Courtesy of the Museo de Arte Moderno

Lee Miller managed the remarkable feat of shifting from surrealist photography to war photography. (Although she sometimes blurred the two, as in this photo of herself in Hitler's bathtub in Munich.) Inarguably she's one of the most accomplished photographers of the 20th century. Lee Miller: Surrealist Photographer comprises a number of her earlier works, many of which were part of a trove of 60,000 negatives discovered in her attic after her death.


Picasso Sculpture at the MoMA, New York, Through Feb. 7

Pablo picasso, she-goat, 1950

Pablo Picasso, She-Goat, 1950

Source: © 2015 Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Not always the case when it comes to exhibitions conceived and executed as "blockbusters," the superlatives heaped on Picasso Sculpture by the world's critics ("a dumbfounding triumph") are totally deserved. More than 100 sculptures large and small and in every conceivable medium—clay, bronze, steel, wood, even cardboard—are spread across the fourth-floor galleries. The only downside to the show? The crowds, which have been (unsurprisingly) unrelenting. 


The World Goes Pop at the Tate Modern, London, Through Jan. 24

Ushio shinohara, doll festival, 1966

Ushio Shinohara, Doll Festival, 1966

Source: © Ushio and Noriko Shinohara/Courtesy of the Tate Modern

Finally, a show about pop art where women are the artists and not the objects. Sure, The World Goes Pop isn't exclusively about female artists, but its mission—displaying pop art by underrepresented practitioners of the genre—includes 25 women artists and is stronger for it. It's always refreshing when a blockbuster show puts the record straight, and this one, which includes artists from around the globe, promises to correct, or at least amend, conventional narratives.


Who Interprets the World? at the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa, Japan, Through Dec. 13 

El anatsui, perspectives, 2015

El Anatsui, Perspectives, 2015

Photographer: KIOKU Keizo/© El Anatsui /Courtesy of the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa

Exhibitions grappling with The Contemporary always have the potential to be fraught or boring, or both. But Who Interprets the World?, a group show that involves such artists as El Anatsui, Pedro Reyes, and Susanta Mandal, promises to be an interesting variation on the theme, and the Kanazawa museum building—a gorgeous, low-slung glass circle—is worth a visit no matter what's inside.


Elisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun at the Grand Palais, Paris, Through Jan. 11

Elisabeth louise vigée le brun, marie-antoinette en chemise ou gaulle, circa 1783

Elisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun, Marie-Antoinette en chemise ou en gaulle, circa 1783

Source: © Hessische Hausstiftung, Kronberg im Taunus/Courtesy of musées nationaux-Grand Palais

Unbelievably, France has never before held a retrospective for Le Brun, who rose from a relatively modest background to become a painter at the court of Marie Antoinette. It would be a remarkable story in itself, but the fact that she was a woman makes her achievement even more astonishing. (Her massive portrait of Antoinette, surrounded by her three children, is arguably her most famous painting.) Elisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun, comprising more than 150 pictures, is one of the most anticipated fall shows in Europe.


Jim Shaw at the New Museum, New York, Oct. 7—Jan. 10

Jim shaw, seven deadly sins, 2013

Jim Shaw, Seven Deadly Sins, 2013

Source: Courtesy of the New Museum

The New Museum has been on a roll recently, with exceptional solo exhibitions of Sarah Charlesworth and Albert Oehlen. Now they've organized the first New York retrospective of the L.A. artist Jim Shaw, whose cartoon-like drawings, paintings, videos, and roomsize installations interrogate and occasionally subvert mainstream American culture.  will fill the second, third, and fourth floors of the museum.


Lawren Harris at the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, Oct. 11–Jan. 24

Lawren harris, lake superior, c. 1923

Lawren Harris, Lake Superior, c. 1923

Source:National Gallery of Canada; Purchased 1930. ©Family of Lawren S. Harris. Photo ©NGC

Often, when a museum introduces someone from outside of the well-trodden western canon of modern art, it can feel like a novelty for novelty's sake. But the Hammer's exhibition, The Idea of North: The Paintings of Lawren Harris, has unearthed that rare gem: an astonishingly gifted painter with whom many people in the U.S. are unfamiliar. 


Ancient Egypt Transformed: The Middle Kingdom at the Metropolitan Museum, New York, Oct. 12–Jan. 24

Head of a statue amenemhat iii wearing the white crown, egyptian, middle kingdom, dynasty 12, reign iii, ca. 1859–1813 b.c.

Head of a Statue of Amenemhat III Wearing the White Crown, Egyptian, Middle Kingdom, Dynasty 12, reign of Amenemhat III, ca. 1859–1813 B.C.

Source: Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen/Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art

It doesn't matter if you're an academic or a 5-year-old: The wonderful thing about the Met's Egyptian exhibitions is that the material is so superb, and so stunningly beautiful, that you can enjoy it no matter what. A major international exhibition, Ancient Egypt Transformed: The Middle Kingdom, includes 230 objects from the Met's collection and from 37 lenders across the U.S. and Europe. 


Alfred Stieglitz and the 19th Century at the Art Institute of Chicago, Oct. 31–March 27

Alfred stieglitz's portrait of georgia o'keeffe's hands, 1919, as displayed at the national gallery art in washington, dc's 2009 exhibition 'in darkroom: photographic processes before digital age.'

Alfred Stieglitz's portrait of Georgia O'Keeffe's hands, 1919, as displayed at the National Gallery of Art in Washington in the 2009 exhibition In the Darkroom: Photographic Processes Before the Digital Age.

Photographer: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

The Art Institute has one of the best photography collections in the country, which is due in no small part to the Stieglitz Collection, which Georgia O'Keefe donated to the museum in 1949. Drawing exclusively from this collection, "Alfred Stieglitz and the 19th Century" contains gems from such masters as Julia Margaret Cameron and the Scottish duo David Octavius Hill and Robert Adamson.

Correction: The original version of the story had an incorrect photo caption for the Metropolitan Museum of Art's "Ancient Egypt Transformed: The Middle Kingdom" exhibition. 

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.