7 Exceptional Museums Opening This Fall

Isis Davis-Marks
Aug 20, 2021 11:24PM

Rendering of the Akiko Yamazaki and Jerry Yang Pavilion at the Asian Art Museum, 2020. © Asian Art Museum and wHY. Courtesy of the Asian Art Museum, San Francisco.

After being cooped up inside during the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us are itching to leave home. While some people might want to take a trip to a faraway destination or eat at a new restaurant, many art lovers just want to visit a museum or a gallery. There’s nothing like seeing art in person: You can step towards a painting and move away from it. Then, you can pause to place your hand on your chin quizzically as you stop to think about how the brushstrokes fit together and why the artist chose to apply colors to a surface in a particular way. As much as we may value online viewing rooms and digital features, no screen can capture the contours of a sculpture or evoke the experience of a performance piece.

Now that more of us are venturing outdoors, several museums across North America are either reopening their doors or opening new ones for the first time (even as many museums are instituting new regulations). This fall will be a season filled with several highly anticipated debuts, from the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in Los Angeles, which will be the largest institution in the United States devoted to moviemaking, to the LUME, Indianapolis’s interactive exhibition space featuring floor-to-ceiling projections.

Whether you’re interested in Tibetan Buddhist mandalas, contemporary artists of the Asian diaspora, or new technologies, these eight museums seek to engage, enthrall, and offer novel ways to interact with art.

Smithsonian Arts and Industries Building

Washington, D.C.

Rendered installation view of Futures that Work in “FUTURES” at the West Hall of the Smithsonian Arts and Industries Building, Washington, D.C. Courtesy of Rockwell Group and the Smithsonian.


The Smithsonian’s landmark Arts and Industries Building (AIB) will reopen to the public for the first time in 20 years in late 2021. The historic museum will reopen with “FUTURES,” an experiential exploration of the future that incorporates art, technology, design, history, speculative visions, prototypes, and other features.

“FUTURES” will span 32,000 square feet and include some 150 artifacts, such as a Loon internet balloon, an AI-driven rover from Alphabet’s X that could revolutionize agriculture, and a Planetary Society space sail for deep space travel.

“In a world that feels perpetually tumultuous, there is power in imagining the future we want, not the future we fear,” said Rachel Goslins, director of AIB, in a statement. “For 175 years, the Smithsonian has been helping people better understand who we are, where we have been, and where we want to go. With ‘FUTURES,’ we want to invite all visitors to discover, debate, and delight in the many possibilities for our shared future. There’s no place better to do this than in the Arts and Industries Building, the nation’s original home for big ideas.”

Academy Museum of Motion Pictures

Los Angeles, California

Exterior view of the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, 2021. Photo by Josh White / JWPictures. © Academy Museum Foundation. Courtesy of the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures.

Scheduled to open in Los Angeles on September 30th, the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures will be the largest institution in the U.S. dedicated to arts, sciences, and moviemaking. The museum is located in the Saban Building, formerly the 1939 department store the May Company. The new space will feature seven floors of exhibition galleries, a theater, and a rooftop terrace.

Once it opens, the museum will host several displays, including a permanent show on the history of cinema. The museum’s inaugural temporary exhibition will focus on the work of the acclaimed Japanese director Hayao Miyazaki and will contain more than 300 objects, such as storyboards, posters, and character designs.

In the coming months, the museum also plans to publish catalogues documenting the work of Miyazaki, Spike Lee, and Pedro Almodóvar.

The LUME Indianapolis

Indianapolis, Indiana

Installation view of projections of a Vincent van Gogh artwork at the LUME Indianapolis, 2021. Courtesy of Newfields.

An offshoot of Indianapolis’s Newfields campus, which houses the Indianapolis Museum of Art (IMA), the LUME is the largest exhibition experience in the institution’s 137-year history. The new display, which opened in July, allows museumgoers to step into a space replete with state-of-the-art projections of well-known works of art like Vincent van Gogh’s Starry Night (1889).

“If we can get people to do a deeper dive into Vincent van Gogh or any of the other artists we have in this museum, then I think we’ve made good on our promise as one of Indiana’s best cultural institutions,” said Jonathan Berger, the LUME’s deputy director for marketing and external affairs, recently.

Importantly, the 30,000-square-foot space features galleries that contain both virtual experiences and original paintings, like van Gogh’s Landscape at Saint-Rémy (1889), Paul Cézanne’s House in Provence (1885), and Paul Gauguin’s Landscape near Arles (1888)—all of which are from the IMA collection.

Rubin Museum’s Mandala Lab

New York City

Rendering of the Mandala Lab at the Rubin Museum of Art, New York. © Peterson Rich Office / Rubin Museum of Art. Courtesy of the Rubin Museum of Art.

Another new display slated to open this fall is the Rubin Museum’s new Mandala Lab. Located on the third floor of the New York museum, it will serve as an immersive environment for social and emotional learning facilitated by a Tibetan Buddhist mandala. The space will allow families and schools to interact with the space both in person and virtually.

Executive director Jorrit Britschgi told Time Out: “Our society is struggling right now. We are navigating a pandemic, we are grappling with a climate crisis, and we are confronting longstanding inequities and deep divisions in our society. With the Mandala Lab, our hope is to empower us to face these challenges: to widen our imagination, understand and manage our emotions, enrich our capacity for empathy, and connect with others. Our hope is for the Rubin to be a Museum where art, ideas, research, and our emotions connect.”

Denver Art Museum’s Lanny and Sharon Martin Building

Denver, Colorado

Exterior view of the Lanny and Sharon Martin Building at the Denver Art Museum. Photo by Eric Stephenson. Courtesy of the Denver Art Museum.

This October, the Denver Art Museum will reveal its new and expanded campus, which includes a welcome center and the recently refurbished Lanny and Sharon Martin Building.

The Italian architect Gio Ponti and Denver-based firm James Sudler Associates originally designed the Martin Building, which first opened in 1971. The structure is one of the first high-rise art museums and the only building in North America completed by Ponti.

Once it opens, the building will feature exhibition spaces for architecture, design, and Western American art; works from the museum’s extensive permanent collection; and captivating views of Denver and the Rocky Mountains.

Asian Art Museum Expansion

San Francisco, California

teamLab, installation view of Crows are Chased and the Chasing Crows are Destined to be Chased as well, Flying Beyond Borders in “teamLab: Continuity” at the Asian Art Museum, San Francisco, 2021. © teamLab. Courtesy of the artists and the Asian Art Museum.

This May, San Francisco’s Asian Art Museum opened over 15,000 square feet of space. This new expansion features works from ancient to modern and contemporary Asian and Asian diasporic art.

One highlight of the new space is the museum’s debut of an enveloping display by the Tokyo-based international art collective teamLab. Other notable features of the space will include a new learning center, 31 refurbished galleries, and a large rooftop terrace.

Asian Art Museum director Jay Xu said in an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle that his vision for the expansion can be summed up in one word: connection. “Connection of the art of the past with the art of the present…of Asian art’s global relevance and the rest of the world…[and] of art to life,” he said.

SFER IK Museion

Tulum, Mexico

Installation view at SFER IK Museion. Courtesy of AZULIK.

Located in the heart of the jungle outside of Tulum, Mexico, SFER IK opened in 2019, though it halted many of its exhibitions due to COVID-19. This November, the museum will reopen under the guidance of director Marcello Dantas.

“When people leave art museums, they might feel frustrated, but here, nature and art complement each other to create meditation,” founder Eduardo Neira told Travel+Leisure.

The structure of the museum facilitates human connection with art and the environment: SFER IK is a far cry from a white cube gallery, its walls made up of local wood and vines, as well as concrete resembling the stone of a cave. Plus, it boasts a meditation center.

Isis Davis-Marks
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Jenna Gribbon, Luncheon on the grass, a recurring dream, 2020. Jenna Gribbon, April studio, parting glance, 2021. Jenna Gribbon, Silver Tongue, 2019