The new year offers hope and excitement for the museum world. If the pandemic doesn’t stymie plans, the Smithsonian has dozens of exhibitions in its lineup, from one highlighting portraits of Nigeria’s biggest film stars at the National Museum of African Art, to a display of actor Leonard Nimoy’s prosthetic Spock ears, which will join other “Star Trek” memorabilia already on display at the National Air and Space Museum. And in May of 2022, the Smithsonian Latino Center will be opening its 4,500-square-foot Molina Family Latino Gallery, within the National Museum of American History, with the exhibit, “¡Presente! A Latino History of the United States.” More than 200 artifacts telling the storied history of the Latino experience will be on display, from a registration form for slaves in Puerto Rico to a raft used by refugees fleeing communist Cuba. It's the first step for a center that “always saw itself as a museum without a museum,” wrote Smithsonian correspondent Eddy Martinez in December.
Outside of the Smithsonian’s museum complex, this year will also see the long-awaited opening of the Grand Egyptian Museum in Giza, Egypt, which was originally scheduled to start welcoming visitors in 2020. Despite the delay, it joins a roster of highly anticipated museum openings in 2022. If all goes accordingly, there's a new museum dedicated to the life of singer-songwriter Bob Dylan opening in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and another highlighting the history and identity of African slaves and their descendants in Charleston, South Carolina. Norway's National Museum will be greeting patrons this June, while those traveling to Frankfurt, Germany, can immerse themselves in the sensory offerings of a museum dedicated solely to electronic music and club culture this April. From South Asian photography to British medieval history to Broadway memorabilia, these ten museums offer plenty to discover and learn.
The National Museum; Oslo, Norway
Eight years in the making, Norway’s new National Museum is finally scheduled to open its doors to the public on June 11, 2022. This enormous state-owned space, a touchstone of Oslo’s revitalized waterfront, houses the collections of Norway’s National Gallery, its Museum of Contemporary Art, and the Museum of Decorative Arts all together under one roof, making it the largest museum in the Nordic countries. The impressive slate-covered structure is also part of Norway's FutureBuilt pilot program, one of dozens of pilot projects designed to reduce the country’s greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50 percent of current standards.
Visitors can peruse approximately 5,000 works from the museum’s 400,000-piece collection, spread across two floors and nearly 90 rooms. These include a range of ancient and contemporary items, from a nearly 1,000-year-old Baldishol tapestry to works by prominent artists such as Vincent van Gogh and Norwegian sculptor Gustav Vigeland, whose bronze and granite human figures adorn the city’s own Frogner Park. The museum will also be the new home to a selection of Edvard Munch’s works, including the Norwegian painter’s iconic masterpiece, The Scream.
Special exhibits will take place in the museum’s cutting-edge Light Hall, a rooftop space equipped with 9,000 adjustable LED lights that illuminate the night sky.
Museum of Broadway; New York, New York
The first-ever permanent museum dedicated to the “Great White Way” and its legacy of musicals, plays and theaters, as well as the pioneering figures—from actors to costume designers—who helped shape it opens this summer in Times Square. The multi-floor Museum of Broadway will be a blend of both immersive installations (which are still in the works) and traditional displays that tell the history of this legendary theater district, from its 1735 beginnings to present-day shows such as Hamilton. This meshing of art and technology will be broken up into three sections: a map room of Broadway utilizing immersive video projections; a visual Broadway timeline, along which viewers will delve into the stories behind such groundbreaking musicals as Hair and Rent, and learn how women led the way in much of Broadway’s early storytelling; and a behind-the-scenes look at the making of a Broadway show, from set design to lighting. An on-site retail store sells show-specific swag, as well as bespoke Broadway souvenirs.
Bob Dylan Center; Tulsa, Oklahoma
In 2016, Tulsa businessman George Kaiser’s family foundation partnered with the University of Tulsa to purchase the Bob Dylan archive, a more than 100,000-piece collection spanning the entire length of the iconic singer and songwriter’s career. This exclusive treasure trove of Dylan memorabilia is now the centerpiece to the Bob Dylan Center, a three-story museum that’s opening in Tulsa’s budding Arts District this May. The museum tells the story of Dylan— widely considered to be one one of the greatest songwriters in history, as well as a prolific visual artist—through everything from handwritten manuscripts to unreleased concert recordings, following the trajectory of his life from his early days in Duluth, Minnesota, to his 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature.
Visitors to the curated space can experience what it was like to be present at the production of legendary songs like “Tangled Up in Blue,” watch clips of Dylan documentaries and performances, and hear the earliest known Dylan recording of “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right,” which he sang with alternate lyrics. Public programs, performances and lectures will also be par for the course.
The museum is an easy walk to the Woody Guthrie Center, another project of the George Kaiser Family Foundation. Guthrie’s music was a major influence on Dylan, so the proximity is fitting.
Ad Gefrin Visitor Center; Northumberland, England
In the mid-20th century, archaeologists uncovered what would become one of the most significant early medieval finds in North East England: a great hall and a series of other timber buildings that were once part of the royal summer palace for 7th century Northumbrian kings and queens, including Oswald of Northumbria, who later became Saint Oswald. The Yeavering excavations, as they’re called, were a part of an Anglo-Saxon “Golden Age,” a time of classical renaissance that focused on international trade and cultural exchange. These excavations and their history remain largely unknown to many. However, that’s all about to change.
Opening this fall, the nearby Ad Gefrin Visitor Center will tell the story of this royal complex through a multimedia experience that blends audio-visual technology with archaeological artifacts—both some that have been excavated onsite at Yeavering and others on-loan from international collections. The center will be an immersive recreation of the great hall, utilizing projected films to bring to life the royal court and its residents.
But that’s not all. Along with an on-site bistro and gift shop, this Ad Gefrin attraction is also the home of Northumbrian County’s first (legal) whisky distillery in 200 years. Guided tours and tastings are in the works.
The Institute of Contemporary Art San Francisco; San Francisco, California
ICA San Francisco is a non-collecting contemporary art museum, meaning there will be no permanent works on display this fall when the institute opens to the public. Instead, the focus here is on the artists themselves: a 50/50 split between emerging Bay Area artists on-the-verge of national or international attention, and more established local and international artists. ICA’s 11,000-square-foot warehouse space, which was most recently a fitness center, has the capacity to host large-scale installations or pieces with atypical proportions. Its shift away from acquisitions allows the museum a greater ability to create programs that respond to the moment.
Inagural shows will include an exhibition of new works from Choctaw-Cherokee artist Jeffrey Gibson, known for his abstract artworks utilizing traditional Native American patterns and materials, and a group show of Bay Area artists curated by the local See Black Womxn collective.
Museum Of Modern Electronic Music; Frankfurt Germany
In the 1980s and ‘90s, electronic music was flourishing in European cities like London, Berlin and Frankfurt, where digitized rhythmic beats crossed language barriers and created a series of musical subgenres, including techno, trance, and drum and bass. Opening this April, Frankfurt’s Museum of Modern Electronic Music (MOMEM) pays homage to these types of electronic music and club culture through everything from live audio-visual light shows to incredible art installations, including the works of London-based graphic artist, Optigram, whose abstract and geometric designs adorn album sleeves. Once inside, you’ll be able to indulge in endless DJ spins, peruse club flyers and electronic music cover art, and relive your club memories beneath a massive disco ball installation.
Even the building itself is futuristic, with a high-tech 360-degree sound wave panorama that visitors can activate and manipulate through various touch screens.
Hong Kong Palace Museum; Hong Kong
In its first ever collaboration outside of the Chinese mainland, Beijing’s Palace Museum has partnered with Hong Kong’s West Kowloon Cultural District Authority to create a museum of Chinese art, history and culture in Hong Kong, where traces of a pro-democracy movement are diminishing. Set to open in July, the seven-story Hong Kong Palace Museum on the Victoria Harbour waterfront will feature nearly 82,000 square feet of exhibit space and hundreds of Palace artifacts (some never publicly shown) ranging from ancient Chinese jade to rare manuscripts, alongside contemporary works as well.
The architecture of the museum blends classic and contemporary styles, a mix of historic Chinese art and urban Hong Kong environment. It also boasts a central core of three glass atriums, each one atop the next, that offers views of the harbour; the architectural feature is in reference to the Forbidden City’s central axis, which is also the central axis of Beijing.
International African American Museum; Charleston, South Carolina
Nearly half of all African slaves brought to the U.S. came through Charleston’s Gadsden’s Wharf, where the International African American Museum is slated to open in late 2022. The new museum aims to tell never-before-told stories of the African American journey, as well the history of enslaved Africans and free blacks, and their descendants, in South Carolina’s Lowcountry. Visitors can learn about historic figures and events dating back to the start of slavery, the role of South Carolina in the development of the international slave trade, and the spread of African American culture and its worldwide impact, including the ways in which African Americans have shaped politics and the ongoing fight for racial justice and equality.
The museum’s Center for Family History provides members of the African diaspora an opportunity to trace their genealogy, while a free-to-the-public African Ancestors Memorial Garden, with lush botanic gardens and artist installations, provides a place of reflection along the same shoreline where tens-of-thousands of captive Africans first set foot.
Qatar Open-Air Museum; Qatar
A museum without walls is the intention behind Qatar’s Open-Air Museum, an initiative of government entity Qatar Museums to place more than 40 new public works throughout Doha, the country’s capital city, and beyond in time for November’s World Cup in Qatar. It’s a series of “free art” that will be viewable in local metro stations, shopping areas, parks, and even some of the stadiums that are slated to host the World Cup games.
Most of the works were commissioned specifically for this project, which highlights artists ranging from Qatar’s own Mohammed Al-Ateeq, known for his mixed media pieces, to Brazilian conceptual artist Ernesto Neto, whose installations often involve multisensory experiences. One of the first works on display was Dutch artist Tom Claassen’s enormous sculpture, Falcon, an abstract rendering of Qatar’s national bird, set up just outside the departures hall of Hamad International Airport in July 2021. Since then, others including Spooning (2009), a sculpture consisting of two massive silver spoons—each one more than eight-feet-long—placed one on top of the other, by Indian artist Subodh Gupta, and German artist Katharina Fritsch’s bright blue, 14-foot-tall sculpture of a rooster, Hahn/Cock, have also been erected. The remaining works will be announced as they’re unveiled.
The Museum of Art & Photography; Bangalore, India
Prominent Indian philanthropist Abhishek Poddar’s collection of Indian art, photography and textiles is the basis for this nonprofit museum, which features an ever-growing assemblage of more than 18,000 artworks that date from the 10th century up until present day. While the physical five-story museum is scheduled to open sometime later this year, it’s currently operating online through a series of digital exhibitions, including “Rock City,” an audio-visual display highlighting rock and pop concerts held in Bangalore, Delhi and Mumbai in the early 2000s.
The bulk of the museum’s works are from South Asia and include such diverse pieces as a watercolor illustration of the sacred text, Bhagavata Purana, from 1800; a 19th century Kalamkari Prayer Mat; and a film poster from the 1957 Hindu-language epic drama, Mother India. Another cool museum feature is the digital M F Husain: An AI Experience, in which viewers can ask a “digital persona” of the late Progressive Artists’ Group painter, M F Husain, questions, and receive a well-researched answer from his simulated voice, created using speech synthesis softwares. All can be accessed via the museum’s website and soon, in person.