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30 Must-See Exhibitions in Philadelphia for Summer 2017

Revolutionary street art, nature photography, kinetic sculptures and more

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This summer, Philadelphia museums are buzzing with new exhibitions and installations.

From free public art in Philadelphia’s Historic District to virtual reality exploration at the Institute of Contemporary Art to the study of 5,000-year-old mound-building techniques of North Americans at the Penn Museum, the exhibitions on display in Philly this summer cover a diverse array of subject matters and mediums.

Read on for our picks of must-see exhibitions throughout the summer in Philadelphia.

01

General Washington's Headquarters Tent at the Museum of the American Revolution

Museum of the American Revolution exterior Museum of the American Revolution exterior
— Photo by J. Fusco for the Museum of the American Revolution

Ongoing

The drama unfolds exhibit by exhibit at the brand-new Museum of the American Revolution. Just two blocks from Independence Hall — the command center for the Revolution — the newest addition to America’s most historic square mile documents the strategic wins, crushing losses and world-altering consequences of the war for We the People. Visitors learn stories of well-known and everyday people who experienced the tumult through galleries, engaging films and a collection of Revolutionary-era weapons, personal items, diaries and works of art, including an iconic piece of history — General Washington’s Headquarters Tent — the place where the commander slept and made world-changing decisions.

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02

Mound-Builders: Ancient Architects of North America at the Penn Museum

Ongoing

A new comprehensive exhibition at the Penn Museum covers more than 5,000 years of Native American mound building. Photos, excavation records and more than 60 artifacts shape the story of the social, religious and political lives of the Native peoples of North America and the significance of the mounds throughout history.

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03

Myths of the Marble and Ginny Casey & Jessi Reaves at the Institute of Contemporary Art

Institute of Contemporary Art Institute of Contemporary Art
— Photo by J. Fusco for Visit Philadelphia

Through August 6, 2017

The Institute of Contemporary Art presents two exciting, free exhibitions this summer. Myths of the Marble explores virtual reality and the not-always-clear line between analog and digital through painting, sculpture, installations and 16mm film from artists from around the world. Ginny Casey & Jessi Reaves examines the relationship between contemporary painting and sculpture, domestic objects and decorative surfaces with more than 30 works by painter Ginny Casey and sculptor Jessi Reav.

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04

Transparency: An LGBTQ+ Glass Art Exhibition at the National Liberty Museum

Through August 6, 2017

As part of Pride Month, the National Liberty Museum welcomes a first-in-the-nation exhibition of art glass exclusively by LGBT artisans. Transparency: An LGBTQ + Glass Art Exhibition features stunning works that explore the themes of identity and freedom.

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05

The Mary Schafer Collection: A Legacy of Quilt History at the Mercer Museum

Through August 13, 2017

This exhibition focuses on Mary Schafer, an Austrian-born designer who emigrated to the United States and later became part of an important group that fought to keep quilting alive into the 1970s. More than 20 quilts that she collected, including the ones she made herself, will be on display at the Mercer Museum this summer.

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06

Winter at the Philadelphia Zoo

Head to the Philadelphia Zoo this summer to experience winter at the zoo's newest exhibition. — Photo courtesy Philadelphia Zoo

Through August 20, 2017

Cool off this summer — literally — at the Philadelphia Zoo‘s winter wonderland. Winter includes a 20-foot high slide, a Snow Zone perfect for snow ball fights and a cafe serving up light bites and beverages.

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07

Leah Modigliani: The City in Her Desolation at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts

Through August 23, 2017

Leah Modigliani, the artist in residence at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, creates an installation based on two sculptures, William Wetmore Story’s Jerusalem in Her Desolation and G.B. Lombardi’s Deborah. In the installation, Modigliani considers the reclamation of these works, while examining the fate of cities and social inequality.

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08

Philadelphia Assembled

Citywide: Through August 2017
Perelman Building: September 10 – December 10, 2017

How can we reimagine our tomorrow? That’s the question that several activists, artists, community members and more try to answer through a series of installations, conversations and events throughout the city at Thomas Jefferson University, the Paul Robeson House and more. Philadelphia Assembled will culminate with a presentation in the museum’s Ruth and Raymond G. Perelman building in the fall.

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09

Becoming the Detective: The Making of a Genre at the Free Library of Philadelphia

Through September 1, 2017

Inside its Rare Book Department, the Free Library of Philadelphia hosts Becoming the Detective: The Making of a Genre, taking a deep dive into Edgar Allan Poe’s novel of the same name as well as other detective-style stories. The exhibition explores story development within the genre and the integral role that the reader plays while also taking a look at detective stories on stage, radio, film, television and in board games like Clue.

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10

Clever Criminals and Daring Detectives at the Rosenbach of the Free Library of Philadelphia

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Through September 1, 2017

An exhibition at the Rosenbach of the Free Library of Philadelphia invites you to explore the literary world of murder mysteries and criminal detective stories. Clever Criminals and Daring Detectives looks at both criminal and detective characters across a wide historical landscape and offers visitors the chance to test their own sleuthing skills in an interactive display.

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11

Subversion and Surrealism in the Art of Honorè Sharrer at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts

Through September 3, 2017

This summer, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts examines Honorè Sharrer’s works as a bridge between surrealist techniques and those associated with Pop artists. More than 40 of her paintings, photos, sketches and more will be on display in this new exhibition.

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12

Magic in the Ancient World at the Penn Museum

Through September 4, 2017

The Penn Museum is ready to cast a fascinating learning spell on visitors at its latest exhibition, Magic in the Ancient World. Museum-goers are invited to discover how magic permeated the daily lives of ancient cultures, including those of Mesopotamia, Greece, Rome and Egypt, and to explore a presentation of objects associated with magical practices from the Penn Museum’s own collections.

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13

Backyard Adventures at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University

Academy of Natural Sciences — Photo by W. Klein for Visit Philadelphia

Through September 10, 2017

The backyard can be an ideal place for exploration, as seen in the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University‘s newest exhibition, Backyard Adventures, featuring a rideable “bee bike,” a nectar-collecting station and more. The all-ages experience also brings opportunities to dress up like living creatures and learn about how organisms live in and interact with their environments.

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14

PhilAesthetic: 40 Years of Collecting African American Art at the African American Museum in Philadelphia

Philadanco, the Clef Club, the New Freedom Theatre Company and more team up to celebrate the Black Arts Movement this summer. — Photo courtesy The African American Museum in Philadelphia

Through September 17, 2017

The African American Museum in Philadelphia continues to celebrate its 40th year with PhilAesthetic: 40 Years of Collecting African American Art, a curated, two-gallery exhibition showcasing the Philadelphia Black Arts Movement. The exhibition also features pop-up events, workshops and more at locations like the New Freedom Theatre and the Clef Club to embrace the energy and social impact of the movement in Philadelphia.

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15

Andrew Wyeth: In Retrospect at the Brandywine River Museum of Art

More than 100 of Andrew Wyeth's works are on display at the Brandywine River Museum of Art this summer. — B. Krist for Visit Philadelphia

Through September 17, 2017

Not since 1973 has an exhibition so deeply explored Andrew Wyeth’s work. The Brandywine River Museum of Art celebrates the 100th anniversary of Wyeth’s birth with Andrew Wyeth: In Retrospect, featuring more than 100 of the artist’s works on canvas and paper.

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16

Wild: Michael Nichols at the Philadelphia Museum of Art

The Philadelphia Museum of Art showcases Michael Nichols' stunning nature photography this summer. — Wild: Michael Nichols. Moonbow, Yellowstone National Park, 2014, by Michael Nichols (Courtesy of the artist

Through September 17, 2017

Don’t miss your chance to get up close and personal with Michael Nichols’ stunning nature photography this summer at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Wild features Nichols’ photographs of nature, including animals, landscapes and more. Additionally, the exhibition offers a look at the relationship between nature and humankind.

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17

Mohamed Bourouissa: Urban Riders at the Barnes Foundation

Costumes, drawings and more from Mohamed Bourouissa's visit to Philadelphia make up this new exhibition. — Mohamed Bourouissa, Horse Day, 2015. Stills. Vidéo diptyque.13 minutes 28. © ADAGP Mohamed Bourouissa. Courtesy the artist and kamel mennour, Paris/London.

Through October 2, 2017

Urban Riders is inspired by — and was created during — Mohamed Bourouissa’s stay in Philadelphia in 2014. It features more than 80 works — including costumes, drawings, video and more — as his response to a North Philadelphia neighborhood revitalization effort.

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18

Morris Arboretum in Motion: The Kinetic Sculptures of Lyman Whitaker

Through October 9, 2017

More than 50 kinetic sculptures have been installed at Morris Arboretum for its latest exhibition, Morris Arboretum in Motion, featuring artworks by Lyman Whitaker. Designed to move entirely by the wind, each piece becomes a mesmerizing sight intended to make observers think about their surroundings and their own relationship to nature.

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19

Philadelphia Rowing: Breaking Barriers at the Independence Seaport Museum

Learn about Philadelphia's expansive history of rowing in a new exhibition at the Independence Seaport Museum. — M. Fischetti for Visit Philadelphia

Through October 9, 2017

It’s easy to spot rowers gliding along Philadelphia’s Schuylkill River on any given morning, but the history of rowing in Philadelphia stretches all the way back to the 18th century. The Independence Seaport Museum seeks to explore that history in Philadelphia Rowing: Breaking Barriers. Museum visitors will also discover how innovations in the water sport have broken barriers of class, gender and race through time.

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20

Big Bling on Kelly Drive

Sculptor Martin Puryear's largest outdoor sculpture on Kelly Drive Sculptor Martin Puryear's largest outdoor sculpture on Kelly Drive
— Photo courtesy C. Martin for the Association for Public Art

Through November 2017

The Association for Public Art (aPA) presents Big Bling, a remarkable sculptural installation now on display on Kelly Drive. The creation comes from acclaimed sculptor Martin Puryear and stands as his largest temporary outdoor sculpture yet. On view through November 2017, the multi-tier wood structure appears to be part animal, part abstract sculpture and part meditation piece.

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21

Marcel Duchamp and the Fountain Scandal at the Philadelphia Museum of Art

Through December 3, 2017

What could be coined one of the most famous (or infamous) urinals of all time, Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. In honor of the monumental centennial, the Philadelphia Museum of Art presents Marcel Duchamp and the Fountain Scandal, an exhibition that tells the story of the porcelain piece and its impact on modern art through period photographs, publications and other readymades from the museum’s Duchamp collection.

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22

Curious Revolutionaries: The Peales of Philadelphia at the American Philosophical Society Museum

Though December 30, 2017

The Peale family were early American Enlightenists who created the nation’s first successful public museum, housed in Philadelphia’s American Philosophical Society from 1794 to 1810. Revisiting its roots, the museum takes a look back in its latest exhibition, Curious Revolutionaries, which is broken into three major sections: “Nationhood,” “The Philadelphia Museum” and “The Peale Family Legacy.”

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23

John Marshall: Patriot, Statesman, Chief Justice at the National Constitution Center

Through December 31, 2017

The National Constitution Center is teaming up with the John Marshall Foundation to illustrate the story of our nation’s fourth Chief Justice of the United States. John Marshall: Patriot, Statesman, Chief Justice puts on display 50 artifacts from museums and historical organizations around the country to deliver the story of Marshall and the federal judiciary he helped mold into a co-equal branch of government.

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24

George Sotter: Light and Shadow at the Michener Art Museum

The James A. Michener Art Museum exterior The James A. Michener Art Museum exterior
— Photo by B. Krist for Visit Philadelphia

Through December 31, 2017

Catch a glimpse of popular Philadelphia artist George Sotter’s stunning paintings of landscapes at the Michener Art Museum this summer. In addition to landscapes, the exhibition also introduces his work as a stained glass artist.

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25

Inside Out throughout Philadelphia

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Through December 2017

The Philadelphia Museum of Art brings the art to your neighborhood during their Inside Out exhibition. Recreations of popular works from the museum’s collection will be on display in Manayunk, Media, East Passyunk and more this summer.

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26

Lisa Nilsson: Connective Tissue at the Mutter Museum

Through January 4, 2018

In Connective Tissue, Lisa Nilsson uses a technique consisting of rolled Japanese mulberry paper to create works that illustrate the complexity of human anatomy. The exhibition also considers the relationship between art, beauty and anatomical accuracy.

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27

Things Fall Apart at the Chemical Heritage Foundation

Through February 2, 2018

Toys lose their plasticity; damaged paintings get carefully restored and housewares that break and get fixed reveal ideas, emotions and science behind decay at the always-free Chemical Heritage Foundation in Philadelphia’s Historic District. An app-guided neighborhood walking tour and decay-themed works from local artists round out the exhibit.

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28

Cultures in the Crossfire: Stories from Syria and Iraq at the Penn Museum

A post shared by Penn Museum (@pennmuseum) on

Though November 26, 2018

Coinciding with current events, an exhibition at the Penn Museum examines the rich cultural heritage and achievements of Syria and Iraq as well as the movements and displacements of both people and objects caught in the crossfire. More than 50 objects from the museum’s Near East and Mediterranean collections will be on display along with a range of Arabic manuscripts from the University of Pennsylvania Libraries, cultural music and documentary film clips.

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29

Beyond Boundaries: Feminine Forms at PAFA and Bryn Mawr College

September 15, 2017 – January 28, 2018

The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and Bryn Mawr College team up to create this comprehensive, two-site exhibition. Beyond Boundaries: Feminine Forms features over 80 works focusing on an artistic strategy that challenges the stereotypes women artists face.

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30

Revolutionary: A Pop-Up Street Art Exhibition in Philadelphia's Historic District

Find more than a dozen public works of art in Philadelphia's Historic District as part of Revolutionary: A Pop-Up Street Art Exhibition. — A. Ricketts for Visit Philadelphia

Through July 4, 2017

A revolutionary art exhibit has spread across Philadelphia’s Historic District. Through July 4, Revolutionary: A Pop-Up Street Art Exhibition showcases free public artwork at 13 locations — one chosen for each of the stars featured on the original American flag. Created by an array of forward-thinking artists and curated streetsdept.com founder and editor Conrad Benner, Revolutionary features pieces designed as an interpretation of “revolution” and how that concept might challenge the social and political status quo.

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31

MoPar or No Car at the Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum

Through July 9, 2017

The Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum opens a special exhibition this summer to celebrate MoPar, one of America’s oldest car manufacturers. MoPar or No Car includes an exciting collection of Mopar cars, featuring models made in the 1960s as well as ones made today.

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32

Charles Sheeler: Fashion, Photography, and Sculptural Form at the Michener Art Museum

Through July 9, 2017

Recognized as one of the founding figures of American modernism for his pioneering work as a painter and a photographer, Charles Sheeler takes center stage at the Michener Art Museum. On display is a body of work from Sheeler’s robust career, analyzing the fashion-focused photography that he produced for Condé Nast between 1926 and 1931. Critics have dismissed this set of imagery as purely commercial, but the exhibition seeks to prove that Sheeler’s work was actually crucial to his artistic development.

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33

American Spirits: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition at the National Constitution Center

American Spirits is back at the National Constitution Center with over 100 artifacts from the Prohibition era. — Photo courtesy the National Constitution Center

Through July 30, 2017

Back by popular demand, American Spirits: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition is back at the National Constitution Center for the first time since 2012. The 5,000-square-foot display includes over 100 rare artifacts from the temperance movement, including a hatchet used by Carrie Nation, original ratification copies of the 18th and 21st amendments and a Prohibition Bureau Badge issued by the Department of Justice.

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34

1917: How One Year Changed the World at the National Museum of American Jewish History

This spring, browse artifacts from a groundbreaking year in U.S. history at the National Museum of American Jewish History. — National Museum of American Jewish History | 1996.51.5. Gift of Marilyn Lavin Tarr

Through July 16, 2017

Travel back 100 years to when the world underwent major political and cultural changes that still impact us today. 1917: How One Year Changed the World at the National Museum of American Jewish History includes artifacts like an original draft of the Balfour Declaration, Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis’ judicial robes and more.

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