Past feature exhibitions

Serious Play: Design in Midcentury America
September 28, 2018–January 6, 2019

Serious Play: Design in Midcentury America explores the projects of over 40 designers who advocated for playfulness and whimsy within their creations for corporations, domestic interiors, and children. The exhibition presents play as a serious form of inspiration, experimentation, and problem solving. In midcentury America, such playful design occurred against the backdrop of a booming consumer market and as a counterbalance to Cold War–era anxiety. Furniture, toys, textiles, films, posters, ceramics are among the objects featured. Serious Play: Design in Midcentury America is co-organized by the Milwaukee Art Museum and the Denver Art Museum. This project is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts


William Kentridge: More Sweetly Play the Dance
June 22, 2018–August 19, 2018

William Kentridge: More Sweetly Play the Dance is an immersive, multisensory experience from the famed South African artist (b. 1955). Combining drawing, filmmaking, and animation with a spirited soundtrack, the celebrated work runs the length of the galleries, engaging visitors in a brass band–led danse macabre (or medieval “dance of death”) that speaks to issues around life, mortality, migration, and displacement. The installation features the eight-channel projection and sculptural components, including school chairs for visitors to sit in and large megaphones through which part of the soundtrack is played.

More Sweetly Play the Dance is fourteen minutes long and plays on a continuous loop.


Coming Away: Winslow Homer and England
March 1, 2018–May 20, 2018

Explore this pivotal moment in the career of America’s most important nineteenth-century painter, when he traveled to England to observe and capture life along the waterfront, changing the course of the rest of his career.


Degas to Picasso: Creating Modernism in France
November 4, 2017–January 28, 2018

Degas to Picasso: Creating Modernism in France tells the story of modern art as it evolved during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, through 150 works representing transformative movements such as Impressionism and Cubism. This exhibition focuses especially on drawings, shown alongside important paintings, sculptures, and prints, to highlight the crucial role that process and materials played in the experimentation and development of modern art.


Rashid Johnson: Hail We Now Sing Joy
June 23, 2017–September 17, 2017

Hail We Now Sing Joy presents new paintings and sculptures by Chicago native Rashid Johnson (b. 1977), who uses materials such as shea butter, black soap, and white ceramic tile to explore themes of race, identity, and escape. Fourteen works fill the exhibition space—their impact as monumental as their size. Antoine’s Organ, the largest of the artist’s architectural grid installations ever shown in the United States, conceals a piano that musicians will perform at scheduled times.


Milwaukee Collects
March 10, 2017–May 21, 2017

With the exhibition Milwaukee Collects, the Milwaukee Art Museum celebrates the breadth of art treasures in the Greater Milwaukee area—works of art that are typically not on public view. Drawing from both well-known collections and newly discovered gems, the exhibition features artworks that span centuries, media, and artistic styles.


Nature and Opulence: The Art of Martin Johnson Heade
November 18, 2016–February 26, 2017

Martin Johnson Heade was one of the most varied and inventive painters of the nineteenth century and is now recognized as one of the most important American artists of his generation. Heade devoted equal time to a great many subjects, from powerful canvases of thunderstorms at sea to exquisite small studies of South American hummingbirds, portraits to still lifes.


Haunted Screens: German Cinema in the 1920s
October 21, 2016–January 22, 2017

Haunted Screens: German Cinema in the 1920s, features set designs, drawings, photographs, posters, and more from masterworks of German Expressionist cinema. Influenced by the highly charged emotionalism of the Expressionist movement, German filmmakers employed geometrically distorted set designs, dramatic lighting, off-kilter framing, strong shadows and distorted perspectives to express a sense of uneasiness and discomfort.


American Epics: Thomas Hart Benton and Hollywood
June 10, 2016–September 5, 2016

Step into the screen-worthy melodramas, war sagas, and western spectacles captured in the paintings and murals of this quintessential American artist. Early Hollywood, with its new, captivating way of telling stories, gripped the imagination of the young painter, who applied the larger-than-life techniques of moviemaking to depict compelling narratives in paint. American Epics is the first major exhibition on this important twentieth-century painter in more than twenty-five years.


Nature and the American Vision
February 26, 2016–May 8, 2016

Nature and the American Vision is a landmark exhibition featuring nearly fifty masterpieces from the New-York Historical Society’s acclaimed collection of landscape paintings, the most revered in the country. In addition to the beauty and historic value of the paintings, the exhibition charts the emergence of the Hudson River School, considered the nation’s first original artistic movement, and includes iconic works by luminaries alongside rarely seen masterpieces.


Larry Sultan: Here and Home
October 23, 2015–January 24, 2016

The exhibition includes more than 200 photographs ranging from Sultan’s conceptual and collaborative works of the 1970s to his solo works in the decades following. Sultan never stopped challenging the conventions of photographic documentation, exploring themes of family, home, and façade throughout his career.


Van Gogh to Pollock: Modern Rebels
Masterworks from the Albright-Knox Art Gallery

June 18, 2015–September 20, 2015

Works by the biggest names in art from the late nineteenth century to now—including Marc Chagall, Salvador Dali, Edgar Degas, Frida Kahlo, Georgia O’Keeffe, Pablo Picasso, and Andy Warhol—bring focus to those artists whose acts of creative rebellion shaped the course of modern art.


Inspiring Beauty: 50 Years of Ebony Fashion Fair
February 5, 2015–May 3, 2015

Inspiring Beauty showcases nearly one hundred objects, including stunning gowns and ensembles by haute couture designers such as Yves St. Laurent, Pierre Cardin, and Patrick Kelly, as it explores the fifty-year history of the pioneering charity fashion fair. The traveling fair and its director-producer, Eunice W. Johnson, helped redefine the concepts of beauty, style, and empowerment for African Americans.


Of Heaven and Earth: 500 Years of Italian Painting from Glasgow Museums
October 2, 2014–January 4, 2015

Bellini, Botticelli, Titian—great masters of European art feature prominently in this exhibition. Experience the full breadth of Italy’s rich painting tradition. See paintings of the late Middle Ages and Renaissance, and Neoclassical and genre paintings of the nineteenth century, in a rare viewing of this extraordinary collection, at its only Midwest venue.


Kandinsky: A Retrospective
June 5, 2014–September 1, 2014

This retrospective exhibition celebrates Wassily Kandinsky (Russian, 1866–1944), one of the key figures in Modern art, and showcases the extraordinary collection of Kandinsky’s works in the Centre Pompidou, Paris, and the world-class holdings of the related Blaue Reiter movement in the Mrs. Harry Lynde Bradley Collection at the Milwaukee Art Museum.


Uncommon Folk: Traditions in American Art
January 31, 2014–May 4, 2014

This exhibition features an unprecedented selection of American paintings, drawings, sculptures, photographs, textiles, furniture, and decorative arts from the Milwaukee Art Museum’s world-class collection of folk and self-taught art. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, as American art struggled to find its own voice separate from the classical European style that dominated the art world, an authentically American artistic expression was identified in the work of folk and self-taught artists.


Thomas Sully: Painted Performance
October 11, 2013–January 5, 2014

American Old Master painter Thomas Sully created dynamic characters that play their parts on canvas, in performances staged in paint. See nineteenth-century celebrities, from President Andrew Jackson to stars of the international stage, and theatrical classics, from Cinderella to Macbeth, beautifully brought to life in this original Museum exhibition.


30 Americans
June 14, 2013–September 8, 2013

30 Americans is a dynamic exploration of contemporary American art. Paintings, sculptures, installations, photographs, video, and more made by African American artists since 1970 raise questions of what it means to be a contemporary artist and an African American today. Whether addressing issues of race, gender, sexuality, politics, or history—or seemingly remaining silent about them—these works offer powerful interpretations of cultural identity and artistic legacy.


Color Rush: 75 Years of Color Photography in America
February 22, 2013–May 19, 2013

Color Rush presents approximately 140 color photographs made between 1907, when the Lumière Brothers began marketing the autochrome, and 1981, when the use of color photography in art was no longer as contentious as it once had been.


Rembrandt, Van Dyck, Gainsborough: The Treasures of Kenwood House, London
October 12, 2012–January 13, 2013

The Milwaukee Art Museum is delighted to be one of four museums in the United States to present Rembrandt, Van Dyck, Gainsborough: The Treasures of Kenwood House, London, an exhibition of forty-eight masterpieces on tour from the Iveagh Bequest collection.


Posters of Paris: Toulouse-Lautrec and His Contemporaries
June 1, 2012–September 9, 2012

Posters of Paris examines the story of the French artistic poster in all its complexity. In addition to the posters themselves, this exhibition features rare preparatory drawings and watercolors, maquettes, and proofs to show how the artist went from idea to final execution. The show will highlight work and artists well known to the public—Toulouse-Lautrec, Bonnard, Mucha—as well as artists less familiar but equally powerful in their impact on the affiche artistique in fin-de-siècle Paris.


Accidental Genius: Art from the Anthony Petullo Collection
February 10, 2012–May 6, 2012

This exhibition celebrates the gift to the Milwaukee Art Museum of more than 300 works from the Anthony Petullo Collection. This generous gift greatly enhances the Milwaukee Art Museum’s significant holdings of self-taught material. Petullo, a retired Milwaukee businessman and current Board of Trustees member, built his collection over a span of over thirty years. The collection’s strength is in European work, an area represented in few American collections.


Impressionism: Masterworks on Paper
October 14, 2011–January 8, 2012

Impressionism: Masterworks on Paper presents 125 drawings, watercolors and pastels by some of the greatest artists in the history of Western Art. Active in France during the second half of the nineteenth century and closely associated with avant-garde movements, artists such as Manet, Degas, Renoir, Pissarro, Seurat, Gauguin, Cezanne, Van Gogh, and Toulouse-Lautrec created works on paper that may be less well-known than their paintings but which are just as significant. Organized by the Museum in partnership with the Albertina in Vienna, the exhibition demonstrates how these artists chose to emphasize drawing, thereby ceasing to recognize the traditional distinction between drawing and painting.


Summer of CHINA
June 11, 2011–September 11, 2011

This summer, enter a realm of majesty and mystery. Experience three thousand years of Chinese art and culture in five exhibitions at the Milwaukee Art Museum. This ambitious series, titled the Summer of CHINA, is part of a year-long celebration honoring the ten-year anniversary of the Museum’s Santiago Calatrava—designed Quadracci Pavilion.


Frank Lloyd Wright: Organic Architecture for the 21st Century
February 12, 2011–May 15, 2011

Experience over 150 objects designed by “America’s greatest architect,” Frank Lloyd Wright, in the new exhibition Frank Lloyd Wright: Organic Architecture for the 21st Century at the Milwaukee Art Museum. Featuring thirty-three never-before-shown drawings by the Wisconsin legend, as well as rare home movies, this forward-looking exhibition of the celebrated architect is on view February 12 through May 15, 2011.


European Design Since 1985: Shaping the New Century
October 9, 2010–January 9, 2011

Objects surround us. They help us cook, rest, organize, clean, and more. Through thoughtful design, these items also have the power to inspire, please, and confound. Explore more than 200 quintessential contemporary objects that blur the line between fine art, craft, and design, and celebrate the technical innovations and artistic creativity of their designers.

These are not just objects.


American Quilts: Selections from the Winterthur Collection
May 22, 2010–September 6, 2010

More than 40 outstanding quilts on exhibit from Winterthur document women’s political, social, and cultural lives in the formative period of the early American republic (1760-1850). With skillful needlework, graphic patterning, and an eye for color, quiltmakers transformed both common and exotic textiles into extraordinary works of art.


Street Seen: The Psychological Gesture in American Photography, 1940–1959
January 30, 2010–April 25, 2010

Abstract Expressionism, film noir, Beat poetry, and the New Journalism are all widely recognized aftershocks of World War II, representing a broad aesthetic revolution that championed spontaneity and subjective interpretation as the guiding principles of creative practice. Postwar photographers in many ways set the rhythm and tenor of this new approach, not least because the hand-held camera was naturally suited to chance discoveries and impulsive gestures.


Andy Warhol: The Last Decade
September 26, 2009–January 3, 2010

Andy Warhol: The Last Decade is the first U.S. museum survey exhibition to explore the work that this seminal American artist produced during the final years of his life. Warhol entered a period of renewed vigor and enthusiasm in the 1980s that resulted in what was arguably the most productive period of his career.


American Originals
June 6, 2009–August 23, 2009

See two groundbreaking exhibitions on artists who are deemed true “American originals”: The Artistic Furniture of Charles Rohlfs, featuring forty of the American designer’s finest furniture and decorative art pieces, begins its five-venue national tour at the Milwaukee Art Museum. The Eight and American Modernisms brings together for the first time more than fifty paintings and approximately thirty works on paper by the group of American artists dubbed The Eight—artists now emerging as the first generation of early American modernists.


Jan Lievens
February 7, 2009–April 26, 2009

Daring and innovative as a painter, draughtsman, and printmaker, Dutch artist Jan Lievens (1607-1674) created a number of memorable character studies, genre scenes, landscapes, formal portraits, and religious and allegorical images. This exhibition will, for the first time, present an overview of the full range of Lievens’ career, with about 45 of his finest paintings and a select group of his drawings and prints.


Act/React Interactive Art
October 4, 2008–January 11, 2009

This first-of-its-kind exhibition presents installation artwork dependent upon and subject to the intuitive and nontechnical physical actions of the visitor. Among the works featured are talking tables, virtual snowstorms, and glowing pools of organic patterns by artists Janet Cardiff, Brian Knep, Liz Phillips, Daniel Rozin, Scott Snibbe, and Camille Utterback.


Gilbert & George
June 14, 2008–September 1, 2008

Gilbert and George, two sculptors who met in college, have been creating work for the last forty years that, according to TimeOut London, "tap into public opinion at just the right time." Confronting the punk anger and racial tensions of the '70s to consumer capitalism in the '80s to the terrorism fears of today, the artists' brightly colored photomontages are raw examinations of human experience.


Foto: Modernity in Central Europe, 1918–1945
February 7, 2008–May 4, 2008

In the 1920s and 1930s, photography became an immense phenomenon across Austria, Czechoslovakia, Germany, Hungary, and Poland. It fired the imagination of hundreds of progressive artists, provided a creative outlet for thousands of devoted amateurs, and became a symbol of modernity for millions through its use in magazines, newspapers, advertising, and books.


Martín Ramírez
October 6, 2007–January 13, 2008

Martín Ramírez (1895–1963) left his native Mexico in 1925 with the aim of finding work in the United States and supporting his wife and children back home in Jalisco. Unable to communicate in English and apparently confused, he was soon picked up by the police and committed to a psychiatric hospital, where he would eventually be diagnosed as a catatonic schizophrenic. Ramírez spent the second half of his life in a succession of mental institutions in California.


Pissarro: Creating the Impressionist Landscape
June 9, 2007–October 9, 2007

This exhibition will explore the remarkable transformation of Camille Pissarro's landscape paintings over the course of an important decade in his career, from 1864 to 1874. During this time, he moved from being a student of the Barbizon school to becoming one of the leaders of the emerging Impressionist movement. This critical period of his evolution as an artist laid the groundwork for an entire generation of painters, many of whom were influenced by his experimental techniques and vision.


Francis Bacon: Paintings from the 1950s
January 27, 2007–April 15, 2007

Francis Bacon: Paintings from the 1950s is the first exhibition to look in detail at this extraordinarily fertile decade in Bacon's life and affords the viewer unprecedented insight into the artist's imaginative powers as well as his constantly evolving sources and techniques. Although the most fruitful years in Bacon's career, they were also the most tumultuous and tortured in the artist's unsettled existence; Bacon was regularly without a fixed address, borrowing rooms and changing studios with bewildering frequency.


Biedermeier: The Invention of Simplicity
November 16, 2006–January 1, 2007

This touring international loan exhibition focuses on the Biedermeier period in Central Europe from 1815 to 1830. It brings together for the first time almost 300 outstanding examples of German, Austrian and Czechoslovakian paintings, furniture, related decorative arts and works on paper that document in depth the innovative character of the period and demonstrate how it is a precursor to modernism. This is the first exhibition on the subject in North America and will offer a fresh exploration for European audiences.


Masters of American Comics
April 29, 2006–August 13, 2006

Masters of American Comics is the first art museum exhibition to examine comic strips and books on this expansive scale. Each artist is represented by in-depth groupings presented as a series of individual retrospectives featuring a range of each artist's works from conceptual sketches and finished drawings to printer's proofs, tear sheets, printed newspapers, comic books and graphic novels.


Elusive Signs: Bruce Nauman Works with Light
January 28, 2006–April 9, 2006

Bruce Nauman deals with the big questions of life, in the words of his 1983 neon: Life, Death, Love, Hate, Pleasure, Pain. Nauman's work focuses on the essential elements of the human experience. Elusive Signs: Bruce Nauman Works with Light, premiering at the Milwaukee Art Museum January 28 – April 9, is Nauman's first solo exhibition in Wisconsin, the state in which he was raised. Bruce Nauman has been recognized since the early 1970s as one of America's most innovative and provocative contemporary artists.


Rembrandt and His Time: Masterworks from the Albertina, Vienna
October 8, 2005–January 8, 2006

This fall, the Milwaukee Art Museum and Wisconsin Energy Foundation present some of the greatest drawings and paintings ever produced by Netherlandish artists in the exhibition Rembrandt and His Time: Masterworks from the Albertina, Vienna. Including 115 drawings and prints from the Albertina and 15 related paintings, the exhibition explores the pivotal and influential role of Rembrandt as a draftsman in mid-seventeenth-century Holland.


CUT/Film as Found Object
June 25, 2005–September 11, 2005

UT/Film as Found Object is a fascinating installation consisting of 14 video works by some of today's most influential artists. CUT explores how contemporary artists use excerpts from pre-existing films and television to create new narratives, different emotional content and new musical scores. Artists featured include Christian Marclay, Pierre Huyghe and Douglas Gordon. The exhibition is organized by the Milwaukee Art Museum with the assistance of the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), North Miami.


Degas Sculptures
February 19, 2005–June 5, 2005

Degas Sculptures presents a rare opportunity to view in a single exhibition all 73 bronze sculptures by the great French Impressionist master, Edgar Degas. The exhibition explores one of the most fascinating aspects of the work of this seminal painter and sculptor whose innovative compositions, skillful drawing and perceptive analysis of movement made him one of the late 19th-century masters of modern art.


Masterpieces of American Art, 1770 - 1920: From the Detroit Institute of Arts
October 23, 2004–January 30, 2005

This fall, visitors to the Milwaukee Art Museum have an unprecedented opportunity to celebrate America's best art and trace the country's early history and culture through a visually stunning exhibition of painting and sculpture from the period in which American art came into its own.


Magnetic North: The Landscapes of Tom Uttech
July 10, 2004–October 3, 2004

One of the most widely admired landscape painters in America, Tom Uttech merges 19th-century notions of the ideal landscape with aspects of surrealism and photo-realism to create his unique vision of the North Woods. The artist re-establishes the wilderness as a mystical and magical place where the animal kingdom reigns, the colors of nature flourish and the various forces of nature are played out.


American Fancy: Exuberance in the Arts, 1790-1840
April 10, 2004–June 20, 2004

Brilliant colors and wild patterns will be on view at the Milwaukee Art Museum April 3 - June 20, 2004. Organized by the Milwaukee Art Museum, American Fancy: Exuberance in the Arts, 1790-1840 features more than 200 of the most ornamental and emotionally engaging artifacts ever produced in this country.


Defiance Despair Desire: German Expressionist Prints from the Marcia and Granvil Specks Collection
January 17, 2004–March 14, 2004

The nearly 200 prints featured in the exhibition Defiance Despair Desire: German Expressionist Prints from the Marcia and Granvil Specks Collection are among the most dramatic artworks of the 20th century.


Industrial Strength Design: How Brooks Stevens Shaped Your World
June 7, 2003–September 7, 2003

Milwaukee industrial designer Brooks Stevens and Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava were made for each other. The swooping, streamlined aesthetic that Stevens helped to pioneer in the 1930s is reflected in the lines of Calatrava's beautiful Quadracci pavilion at the Milwaukee Art Museum. Industrial Strength Design How Brooks Stevens Shaped Your World will give visitors a chance to experience the museum's galleries in a new way: filled with custom cars and futuristic boats that bring home the excitement of one of America's greatest designers.