10 Best US Art Shows Of The Decade

IMPORTANT: My trusty laptop is being taken in for battery repair today. I’ll be offline for about a week. In the meantime, Happy New Year, Happy New Decade. I’ll be back in your inbox in 2020!

I’ve traveled far and wide over the last decade and seen some phenomenal art. I’ve whittled down my favorite exhibitions to these ten. Each has had a major impact on me, from giving me the spiritual chills to total freak-out awesomeness.

There was also a seminal development in 2010 that has changed the art world forever. Can you guess what it was?

Scroll down to find out.
The answer?
Instagram! It launched in 2010.

And it has dramatically changed everything about the art world. Instagram influences what kind of art gets shown as well as how it’s exhibited. And, of course, it has fundamentally changed our expectations of what comprises a great art experience.

Top 10 art shows
1. Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty – at the MET (2011)

This was the first fashion exhibit I willingly waited in line (for hours!) to see. It set a new standard for art installations and established fashion as an art form. If I recall, no-photos were allowed – which is why there is so little online about it now. The show opened not long after McQueen’s untimely death.

Kudos to Andrew Bolton (head curator fashion) for this visionary and influential show.

2. Kara Walker’s “A Subtlety”/”The Marvelous Sugar Baby” at the former Domino Sugar Factory in Brooklyn (2014)

Huge thanks to Creative Time for staging this project. Kara Walker is without a doubt one of the most important artists of our era. Sited in the sprawling industrial relics of Brooklyn’s legendary Domino Sugar Factory, Walker’s physically and conceptually expansive installation—a massive, sugar-coated sphinx-like woman—responded to the building and its history.

3. Ugo Rondinone “Seven Magic Mountains” Las Vegas (2016)

This large scale desert artwork by Swiss artist Ugo Rondinone is located approximately ten miles south of Las Vegas. According to Rondinone, the location is physically and symbolically mid-way between the natural and the artificial: the natural is expressed by the mountain ranges, desert, and Jean Dry Lake backdrop, and the artificial is expressed by the highway and the constant flow of traffic between Los Angeles and Las Vegas.

Seven Magic Mountains is produced by NY’s Art Production Fund and the Nevada Museum of Art, Reno. The installation site is a short distance from where Michael Heizer and Jean Tinquely created legendary land art works in the 1960s.

The exhibition opened May 11, 2016 and has been extended thru the end of 2021.

4. Life Is Beautiful Festival, Downtown Las Vegas (2016)

One of my favorite art experiences EVER has to be the annual Life Is Beautiful Festival. Each year has been magnificent but I considered 2016 a particularly awesome year. I’m not a big music fan but I made it a point to come to this festival for 5 years running (since its inception in 2013). I came strictly for the art that transformed Downtown Las Vegas into an urban art gallery curated brilliantly by Charlotte Dutoit of JUSTKIDS.

Artist: Felipe Pantone
Artists: D Face and Fafi
Mike Ross’ Big Rig Jig: Originally commissioned for Burning Man and later displayed in the UK at Banksy’s Dismaland project, this installation has become a permanent fixture within the festival footprint.
The Pinata Motel – by Justin Favela
5. Kerry James Marshall, MET Breuer (2016)

Major painting show. The exhibition included 72 absolutely exquisite paintings. The artist is known for his large-scale narrative history paintings featuring black figures. Sean “Diddy” Combs was revealed to be the buyer of Marshall’s monumental painting Past Times (1997), which sold for $21.1 million at Sotheby’s. The result is a world auction record for the artist, and is thought to be the highest price ever paid for an artwork by a living African-American artist.

6. Yayoi Kusama “Infinity Mirror Rooms,” Hirshhorn Museum, DC (2017)

I traveled to DC specifically to see this show. Tickets were impossible to get. We tried for two days and finally made it. While most museums boast having “an” Infinity Room, there is nothing like seeing an entire museum dedicated to Kusama’s works with multiple infinity rooms. It was an extraordinary way to experience her entire body of work. And it’s crazy that a 90-year old artist is the mega-star of Instagram!

7. Hilma Af Klint “Paintings for the Future,” Guggenheim (2018)
Here’s how amazing this show was:
  • It was the most popular show in the Guggenheim’s entire 60 year history attracting over 600,000 visitors.
  • Museum membership increased by 34% during the run of the show.
  • More than 30,000 copies of the catalogue were sold, surpassing the previous record set by the 2009 catalogue Kandinsky.
  • Hilma af Klint–inspired merchandise flew off the shelves – accounting for 42% of all Guggenheim Store sales.

And on top of that I had a totally freaky experience while at the show – and I wasn’t the only one. I was reading the text about the artist’s mystical practices and séances when my hair literally stood on end and I got goosebumps – I was experiencing what’s known as the spiritual chills.

  • Hilma af Klint turned to spiritualism after the loss of her sister. Working with a group of women called the Five, she committed herself, in near-secret, to an epic cycle of mediumistically inspired abstract paintings.
  • I had never experienced anything like it before at any museum or gallery. However, when I broached the subject with one of the docents, she readily filled me in on how many people had the exact same experience.
8. Desert X Biennial, Palm Springs (2019)

I was excited to see Desert X but found it a bit disorganized and hard to find many of the installations that were set up “somewhere” in the desert. However, two artists stood out above the rest. Absolutely loved Ruby Sterling’s fluorescent orange monolith, SPECTER, that appears like an apparition in the desert. Nancy Baker Cahill’s two augmented reality pieces, likewise, were spectacular (and only visible through a smartphone screen using the 4th Wall app.

Ruby Sterling, Specter
Nancy Baker Cahill, Salton Sea
9. Basquiat at the Brant Foundation, East Village NYC (2019)

Peter Brant bought this building in 2014 after Walter de Maria’s death in 2013. This former Con Ed power station had served as the legendary artist’s home and studio for over 30 years.

Four years later, after a major overhaul, the space reopened with an absolutely stunning Basquiat show organized in collaboration with the Fondation Louis Vuitton.

Tickets sold out in a nanosecond but I got myself on several wait lists and saw this show several times. In writing this, I’m hyperventilating just remembering how good it was!

10. Beyond The Streets NYC (2019)

This epic show blew the Whitney Biennial out of the water. Absolutely brilliant and impeccably installed. Kudos to all involved but especially to curator and street art historian, Roger Gastman.

Bottom Line.

Wow. And this doesn’t even scratch the surface of all the amazing art I saw over the last 10 years.

And this is just in the U.S. One of my goals for the coming decade will be to travel more and see what artists are doing in other parts of the world.

Happy New Year. Wish me luck with my laptop repairs and see you all in 2020.

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