Top Can’t Miss Exhibits in Philadelphia

Philadelphia is filled with wonderful art museums and galleries to explore, many of which have recently reopened with new health and safety measures in place. Below is a roundup of some of the exciting exhibits that are on view now or coming soon around the region.

Explore Hagrid’s Hut (pictured above) at Harry Potter: The Exhibition at The Franklin Institute. Photo by J. Ryan for PHLCVB.

Harry Potter: The Exhibition is now open at The Franklin Institute and promises to be “the most comprehensive touring exhibition ever presented about the Wizarding World.” With its World Premiere underway in Philadelphia, the experience invites wizards, witches and muggles of all ages to explore a collection of authentic film props and costumes along with plenty of spellbinding surprises. The groundbreaking exhibition spans thousands of square feet and features 10 distinct areas, including Hogwarts castle and Hagrid’s Hut. Prior to exploring these immersive environments, guests are able to choose their house and wand at the beginning of the experience — decisions which will deliver a magical, personalized journey as they encounter the characters, moments, beasts and settings from the Harry Potter, Fantastic Beasts, and expanded Wizarding World franchises. Tickets are available now.

Water, Wind, Breath: Southwest Native Art in Community will be on view February 20 – May 15, 2022. Photo by J. Ryan for PHLCVB.

Water, Wind, Breath: Southwest Native Art in Community at the Barnes Foundation features art made by Pueblo and Diné (Navajo) peoples in the mountains, valleys, and mesas of present-day New Mexico and Arizona. Pottery, textiles, and jewelry all created with intricate designs are on display. In the Southwest, the practice of making such beautiful objects holds underlying cultural values that sustain health and well-being. The exhibition is a testament to these living traditions, exploring the flow of energy that animates all existence, and the practices that nourish life. This exhibit also shows visitors that through hardship and colonization, art has helped people endure and that creating is central to staying well. Water, Wind, Breath: Southwest Native Art in Community will be on view through May 15, 2022.

The Dead Girl, 1938, by Juan Soriano ( Mexican, 1920–2006). Oil on panel, 18 1/2 x 31 1/2 inches; framed: 27 x 39 3/4 x 4 inches. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Henry Clifford, 1947-29-3. Image courtesy of Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2022.

On view through July 24, 2022, Elegy: Lament in the 20th Century at the Philadelphia Museum of Art showcases how artists have responded to tragedy, grappled with mortality, and commemorated those who have passed through their artwork. Visitors will have the chance to dwell on works of art centered around the powerful conditions and emotions that come with grief and loss. There is also a space set aside in one of the galleries that is dedicated to reflection, as this exhibition may spark a range of reactions and emotions from visitors.

‘Liberty: Don Troiani’s Paintings of the Revolutionary War’ at the Museum of the American Revolution. Photo by K. Huff for PHLCVB.

On view through September 5, 2022, Liberty: Don Troiani’s Paintings of the Revolutionary War brings together over 45 paintings by renowned historical painter — and alum of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts — Don Troiani, whose career has been dedicated to recreating scenes from the Revolutionary War by referencing sources, archaeology, artifacts and additional research. The works, which are on public display together for the first time in the Museum of the American Revolution‘s Patriots Gallery, are paired with artifacts that either inspired or are featured in Troiani’s paintings, including weapons, textiles, and more, presenting viewers with a one-of-a-kind snapshot of key moments from the war. Key works on view include the artist’s 2017 painting of the Boston Massacre, which is paired with an original copy of Paul Revere’s engraving of the event, as well as a new commission, Brave Men as Ever Fought, featuring a young African American sailor from Philadelphia observing Black and Native American troops in the Continental Army marching past Independence Hall. Now, people from all over the world can experience this special exhibition in a new 360-degree virtual tour that brings the exhibit to life. To learn more about the exhibition, click here.

Invisible World of Water. Photo courtesy of the Academy of Natural Sciences.

On view through May 1, 2022, Invisible World of Water at the Academy of Natural Sciences explores the hidden beauty of one of life’s most precious resources — water. Specifically, the exhibition educates visitors about two mesmerizing, microscopic natural occurrences — snow crystals and diatoms — utilizing artwork, animations, holographic light field displays, sculptures, rare books, images, videos and more. Visitors can peer through microscopes themselves to analyze these artistic phenomena, or view scanning electron microscope images from the Academy of Natural Science’s diatom collection — the second largest in the world. To learn more, click here.

Joan Semmel, Abeyance, 1986. Oil on canvas, 68 x 96 in. ©Joan Semmel/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo: Alexander Gray Associates/Dan Bradica.

Now on view through April 3, 2022, the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts (PAFA) presents the first-ever retrospective of iconic painter Joan Semmel in the museum’s Samuel M.V. Hamilton Building. The exhibition features approximately 40 paintings that trace Semmel’s career through five decades, including her early abstract-expressionist works and groundbreaking feminist art, with current works placed at the beginning and ending of the exhibition — a nod to the artist’s ongoing, active career despite her work being presented as a retrospective. Divided into four main categories — erotic abstraction, the self, expressive figuration, and photography and painting — the work on view speaks to female empowerment, equal representation for women, and a woman’s power to make decisions on her own body and sexuality.

‘Portals + Revelations Richard J. Watson: Beyond Realities’. Photo courtesy of African American Museum in Philadelphia.

Portals + Revelations features the work of artist and civil rights crusader Richard J. Watson, who is also a graduate of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and serves as artist-in-residence and exhibits manager for the African American Museum in Philadelphia (AAMP). AAMP’s longest-serving staff member, Watson is known for his pastoral scenes and other works, such as a mural inside the Philadelphia’s Church of the Advocate, a mosaic at the Creative and Performing Arts High School and a portrait of former Philadelphia mayor W. Wilson Goode, which hangs within the Mayor’s Reception Room of City Hall. On view through March 6, 2022, the special exhibition at AAMP explores Watson’s artistic evolution throughout his time at the museum, with over 50 works created over the span of three decades, including paintings of landscapes and mixed media collages that serve as “visual portals,” inviting the viewer to “explore their recollections of childhood, Black history, and heroes.”

Photo courtesy of the National Constitution Center.

2020 commemorated the centennial of the women’s suffrage movement and the ratification of the 19th Amendment, which guaranteed women the right to vote. The National Constitution Center chronicled this pivotal period in American history with the debut of a new permanent exhibit, The 19th Amendment: How Women Won the Vote, now on view. Inside the 3,000-square-foot exhibit, visitors will find nearly 100 artifacts that highlight some of the many influential women who were a prominent part of the 70-year movement, including Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Alice Paul, and Ida B. Wells.

Mang Pao (Dragon Robe) Costume of an opera singer in China during the Qing Dynasty, 19th century CE (Object 29-96-160A). Photo by E. Sucar, University of Pennsylvania Communications.

The Penn Museum is showcasing 2,500 years of style from civilizations from around the globe via a 3,700-square-foot exhibition, The Stories We Wear, on view through June 12, 2022. Through a collection of approximately 250 objects including attire, jewelry, uniforms, regalia, and tattoos, the exhibition examines the role clothing and accessories play as expressions of identity in different societies, while inviting visitors to discover common themes throughout time and in different languages and cultures. The exhibition is organized into five different themes, highlighting how people dressed for ceremonies, performances, battles, work and play, and to rule, with artifacts including a 19th century opera robe from China, a samurai sword dating back to 1603, and contemporary objects such as a full Philadelphia Eagles uniform loaned by former linebacker Connor Barwin.

Rube Goldberg: The World of Hilarious Invention! on view now through May 8, 2022. Photo courtesy of Please Touch Museum.

Rube Goldberg: The World of Hilarious Invention! allows little learners to explore the humorous story-telling of Rube Goldberg and learn through play at the Please Touch Museum. This traveling exhibit is a nod to the Pulitzer Prize-winning humorist and inventor, with hands on, interactive components and chain-reaction contraptions inspired by Goldberg’s illustrations. Rube Goldberg: The World of Hilarious Invention! will be on view through May 8, 2022. Two new permanent exhibits are also now on view at the Please Touch Museum in West Philadelphia. Inspired by the 1876 Centennial World’s Fair in Philadelphia — for which Memorial Hall, the home of the Please Touch Museum, was constructed — Centennial Innovations engages children throughout the space, asking them “If you could change the world… What would you create? Who would you become? What would a new world look like?” Centennial Innovations features several colorful installations and multi-sensory interactives, including a stage to share ideas and the City of Philadelphia’s historic Centennial Fairgrounds Model. The Albert M. Greenfield Makerspace is intentionally found just across from Centennial Innovations and continues children’s creative journey, exploring more of how kids are creating and empowering them as inventors. The Makerspace’s design is driven by STEM principles and features adjustable height workbenches and stools, as well as resources such as hammers, screwdrivers, drills, hot glue guns, measuring tape, and other tools that will aid in the child’s vision. To plan your visit to the Please Touch Museum, click here.

Deconstructing Bowie: Freedom in Eccentricity. Photo by J. Ryan for PHLCVB.

Deconstructing Bowie: Freedom in Eccentricity opened at the start of Philadelphia’s annual Philly Loves Bowie Week. This special exhibition celebrates the legacy of the influential, genre-defying musician, David Bowie, by displaying artwork created by multiple generations of artists who were inspired by the cultural icon. The artwork on display is available for purchase, with portions of the proceeds benefiting the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). Deconstructing Bowie: Freedom in Eccentricity is on view through April 15, 2022.

Designing Motherhood at Mütter Museum. Photograph by Constance Mensh for DM and the Mütter Museum.

The Mütter Museum — dedicated to displaying fascinating discoveries about the human body with unique specimens, models and instruments — has three new exhibitions on view: Designing Motherhood, Unseen, and Spit Spreads Death: The Influenza Pandemic of 1918-19 in Philadelphia. On view in the Mütter Museum’s Cadwalader Gallery through May 2022, Designing Motherhood is the inaugural exhibition of a larger project that spans an additional exhibition (now open at Philadelphia’s Center for Architecture and Design), a book, design curriculum, oral history project and public programs, such as talks and workshops, that examine how the designs of tools, systems, techniques and customs shape and define the public perception and realities of human reproduction and birth. The exhibition analyzes designs of reproductive health, as well as the medicalization of reproduction. Objects on view include a breast pump flange, twenty-first-century silicone pessary, women’s health magazines and other items. Unseen offers rare glimpses of 85% of the Mütter Museum‘s collection that is typically locked away in storage and not accessible to the public. Images taken by forensic photographer Nikki Johnson during a behind the scenes tour of the museum’s storage spaces and back rooms are on view in Thomson Hall alongside other rarely-seen items. Lastly, Spit Spreads Death: The Influenza Pandemic of 1918-19 in Philadelphia. Philadelphia had the highest death rate of any major American city during the influenza pandemic of 1918–19. The exhibit explores how neighborhoods in Philadelphia were impacted, how the disease spread, and what could happen in future pandemics.

‘Two Hands,’ modeled 1904 by Auguste Rodin, French, 1840–1917; cast 1925 by the founder Alexis Rudier (French, 1874–1952). Bronze, 18 x 20 7/8 x 12 3/4 inches (45.7 x 53 x 32.4 cm). Bequest of Jules E. Mastbaum, 1929. Image courtesy Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2021.

Now on view at the Rodin Museum along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Rodin’s Hands highlights Auguste Rodin’s mastery in conveying emotion and storytelling through the sculpting of hands. The exhibition features fifteen bronzes and plasters — many of which are rare or unique to the Philadelphia collection — which join the other masterpieces on view, both inside and outside the museum, as part of one of the largest collections of the sculptor’s work outside of Paris. Rodin’s Hands will be on view through December 2023.

A new exhibition at the oldest Swedish museum at the United States explores the last 150 years of tattooing in America, tracing how the once polarizing visual language of the skin has become more popular and commonplace in modern times. On view through May 1, 2022, Tattoo: Identity Through Ink will feature artifacts from significant American tattooers, plus interactive elements such as life-size replica arms that guests can decorate with their own unique designs. A core portion of the exhibition is dedicated to the story of Amund Dietzel, a Norwegian immigrant who received his first tattoo as a sailor at the age of 14 and would later go on to became one of the most influential tattoo artists of the 20th century.

Wayne Thiebaud, Pies, Pies, Pies, 1961. Oil on canvas, 20 x 30 in. Crocker Art Museum, gift of Philip L. Ehlert in memory of Dorothy Evelyn Ehlert, 1974.12. © 2022 Wayne Thiebaud / Licensed by VAGA at Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY. Photo courtesy of Brandywine River Museum of Art.

On view at the Brandywine River Museum of Art through April 10, Wayne Thiebaud 100: Paintings, Prints, and Drawings celebrates Wayne Thiebaud’s remarkable career spanning seven decades. Thiebaud worked briefly for Walt Disney Studios and on Madison Avenue before gaining national and international recognition for his paintings of desserts in the early 1960s. This exhibition highlights Thiebaud’s full range of work depicting not only sweets, but also figures and landscapes. Initially created to honor Thiebaud’s 100th birthday, the exhibition now serves as a fitting tribute to the American artist’s remarkable career following his recent death at the age of 101 years old on December 25, 2021.

Neon Currents at the Neon Museum of Philadelphia

Vanity Trap by Eve Hoyt. Photo courtesy of Neon Museum of Philadelphia.

On view at the Neon Museum of Philadelphia, Neon Currents combines the work of eight neon artists from across the region. The creators include neon glass blowers, designers, and instructors. This exhibit highlights the artists’ ability to use neon art beyond signage. Neon Currents will be on view through March 20, 2022.

Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel: The Exhibition. Photo by J. Ryan for PHLCVB.

On view through March 18, 2022 at Fashion District Philadelphia, Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel: The Exhibition gives guests the opportunity to see the artist’s work like never before. This exhibit features life-sized reproductions of the famous ceiling paintings from the Sistine Chapel. Visitors have the chance to see the detail of the timeless masterpiece up close with each photo accompanied by informative signage. Audio guides are also available.

Backs and Fronts, 1981, by Sean Scully. Oil on linen and canvas, 8 x 20 feet. Collection of the artist. Image courtesy of Courtesy Magonza, Arezzo. Photographer: Michele Sereni. © Sean Scully. Photo courtesy of Philadelphia Museum of Art.

This spring, the work of Sean Scully, deemed one of the leading abstract artists of our time, will be on display at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Opening April 11, Sean Scully: The Shape of Ideas will highlight the artist’s unique contributions to contemporary art through his signature stripes and bold experimentation with scale and composition. The exhibition has been expanded to include additional paintings throughout several galleries, totaling more than 100 of Scully’s works, dating from the early 1970s to the present. Sean Scully: The Shape of Ideas will be on view through July 31, 2022. Waiting for Tear Gas will be on view from March 12 – July 17, 2022 and offers visual representations of political protests. Guests will be encouraged to examine the artists’ involvement in, and responses to, moments of political protest and unrest. Lastly, Pictures in Pictures – also on view from March 12 – July 17, 2022 – will give visitors the chance to examine how artists have created images that include other images.

Woman and girl looking at blue and purple jellyfish for Extreme Deep: Mission to the Abyss exhibit
Extreme Deep: Mission to the Abyss will be on view April 2 – July 24, 2022. Photo credit Evergreen Exhibitions.

Opening April 2, 2022 at the Academy of Natural Sciences, Extreme Deep: Mission to the Abyss will reveal the mysteries of the ocean’s greatest depths. Visitors will get the chance to explore newly discovered life forms, bubbling thermal vents, deep-sea research submersibles, and shipwrecks including the Titanic. Guests will learn about the amazing creatures that thrive in total darkness, as well as the technology that only recently has allowed scientists to travel to the ocean floor in order to discover creatures no one knew existed. Extreme Deep: Mission to the Abyss will be on view through July 24, 2022.

Pool: A Social History of Segregation investigates the role of public pools in the United States with the goal of deepening understanding of the connection between water, social justice and public health. Opening September 2021 in Philadelphia, situated in the former Kelly Pool (pictured, circa 1962) in the National Historic Landmark Fairmount Water Works. Visit poolphl.com for more information.

The historic Fairmount Water Works — once the sole water pumping station for the City of Philadelphia — will reopen to the public on World Water Day, March 22, 2022, and will feature a new, multi-disciplinary exhibition, Pool: A Social History of Segregation (POOL). POOL will be hosted in the former John B. Kelly swimming pool found within the historic building and will explore segregated swimming in the United States and the relationship between public pools, racial discrimination, public health, and social justice. The installations and experiences featured throughout the 4,700-square-foot exhibition will be comprised of audio and video vignettes of swimming icons, activists and scholars projected onto the surface of the pool, in addition to photographs, films and other work by Philadelphia-area artists. POOL will be on view through September 2022.

Opening March 12, 2022, Keith Haring: A Radiant Legacy will give visitors the chance to see a private collection of more than 100 works by the acclaimed Pop Art icon. The traveling exhibition will include many of Keith Haring’s icon print series, along with two rare subway drawings. Born in Reading, Haring became fascinated by the colorful graffiti art found on city streets, which influenced his own style. Both an artist and activist, Haring created art for causes in cities around the world. Many of his works were designed for charities, hospitals, daycare centers, and orphanages. Keith Haring: A Radiant Legacy will be on view through July 31, 2022.

Photo by Allan Tannenbaum.

Cover image: African American Museum in Philadelphia. Photo by J. Ryan for PHLCVB.

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