Arts institutions here and everywhere are still recovering from the devastating personal and economic impact of COVID-19, while also responding to the social upheaval that followed the killings of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and too many others. At a time when survival takes on new meaning, some caution might be anticipated.

Instead, our museums and galleries are fostering art that upsets conventions and champions the marginalized, and planning shows of old and new works that illustrate and reinforce those notions. Scanning the range of exhibitions set to open this fall, you can’t miss the abundance of BIPOC and Latine artists in substantial showcases. Institutions in Brooklyn, the Bronx and Queens are providing invaluable exposure to artists whose work toes the line between engagement and confrontation. But even in ostensible box-office catnip like “The Tudors” at the Met comes the unmistakable message that the best art has always benefited from cultural cross-pollination and resistance to dogmatic institutions.

“Really Free: The Radical Art of Nellie Mae Rowe”
Brooklyn Museum
September 2nd – January 1st, 2023

Organized by Atlanta’s High Museum of Art, “Really Free” examines the life and work of Nellie Mae Rowe, a self-taught artist who discovered creative expression as a child, only to set it aside to satisfy the demands of employment and domestic life in the South during and after the civil rights movement. Rowe resumed her artistic path during the late 1960s, transforming her home into a “Playhouse” filled with exuberant drawings, assemblages and chewing-gum sculptures. That art, along with a recreation of her bespoke environment, are the subjects of the first NYC show devoted to Rowe in more than 20 years.

Lorna Simpson: “1985 – 92”
Hauser & Wirth
September 7th – October 22nd

Hauser & Wirth starts the season strong with shows in its various gallery spaces around town featuring Jenny Holzer, Christina Quarles and Zoe Leonard, all opening on September 8th. But pride of place belongs to Lorna Simpson, the Brooklyn-born photographer and media artist whose collages and image-text juxtaposition pose provocative questions about race, gender and history. Opening a day ahead of the rest and staking a claim to all three floors of the gallery’s 69th Street location, “1985 – 92” covers an especially rich patch in Simpson’s career with works on loan from museums, private collectors and the artist herself.

Rick Lowe, "Untitled #060822" (2022) Ⓒ Rick Lowe Studio

Rick Lowe: “Meditations on Social Sculpture”
September 8th – October 22nd

Gagosian hosts the first New York solo exhibition by Rick Lowe, a Houston-based painter and community organizer best known for leading a coalition of fellow artists in the design and implementation of Project Row Houses, an unconventional community revitalization initiative in Houston’s Third Ward. Born in rural Alabama, Lowe has devoted considerable time and energy to creating work aimed at solving problems rather than simply posing obvious questions. The abstract canvases featured in his Gagosian show, derived from Project Row Houses and similar undertakings, somehow evoke both tabletop games and urban-planning maps.

“.cataclysm. : The 1972 Diane Arbus Retrospective Revisited”
David Zwirner Gallery
September 14th – October 22nd

A 1972 retrospective devoted to the photography of Diane Arbus (1923 – 1971), mounted at the Museum of Modern Art one year after her death, was the most highly attended one-person exhibition in the museum’s history to date. “People went through that exhibition as though they were in line for communion,” MoMA Director of Photography John Szarkowski recalled in 2005. This 50th-anniversary recreation, mounted by Zwirner and Fraenkel Gallery could scarcely be more timely, given that Arbus frequently turned her lens on the marginalized and disenfranchised. (Not exclusively, though: the napping infant depicted in her famous 1968 image “A very young baby, N.Y.C.” is Anderson Cooper.)

Xaviera Simmons, "Because You Know Ultimately We Will Band A Militia," 2021. Desert X installation view, Palm Springs, CA

Xaviera Simmons: “Crisis Makes a Book Club”
Queens Museum of Art
October 2nd – March 5th, 2023

Xaviera Simmons, a native New Yorker, employs artistic medium and practice at her disposal – photography, video, painting, sound art, sculpture and more – to confront heated issues like white supremacy, wealth stratification and the historic U.S. urge toward empire-building. For the Queens Museum, which lately has proved consistently amenable to challenging ventures, Simmons is creating new original works, while also designing active interventions in the museum’s galleries and billboard-size displays for its exterior facade.

“Just Above Midtown: Changing Spaces”
Museum of Modern Art
October 9th – February 18th, 2023

The historic Just Above Midtown (JAM) was a pioneering art space opened in 1974 by Linda Goode Bryant at 50 West 57th Street. Then a 25-year-old educator at the Studio Museum of Harlem, Goode Bryant sought to achieve two goals: providing a venue for Black artists to show at a level of visibility readily available to their white peers, and allowing them to pursue work in whatever medium and mode suited them, including abstraction, conceptual and performance art, and video. The space provided a springboard for future luminaries like David Hammons, Howardena Pindell and Lorraine O’Grady – a stellar lineage celebrated in a MoMA retrospective assembled with Goode Bryant’s participation.

“The Tudors: Art and Majesty in Renaissance England”
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
October 10th – January 8th, 2023

If you plan to queue up for a blockbuster exhibition this fall, this major collection of works created during the tempestuous Tudor reign is the one to choose. The show covers a historic span from the ascent of Henry VII in 1485 to the death of Elizabeth I in 1603, a time of creative fecundity and promiscuous patronage. Assembled in coordination with the Cleveland Museum of Art and the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, the show includes more than 100 works – paintings, armor, manuscripts and more – by gifted artists and craftsmen from throughout Europe, while also chronicling the emergence of a nascent British style.

Abigail DeVille, "Whole" (2010)

Abigail DeVille: “Bronx Heavens”
Bronx Museum of Art
October 12th – April 9th, 2023

The initial Bronx Museum show curated by Eileen Jeng Lynch, who became the institution’s new Director of Curatorial Programs on August 1st, is the first solo museum survey for Abigail DeVille, a Bronx-based New York City native known for found-object assemblages, installations and performances that probe issues like racism, gentrification and erased history. “Bronx Heavens” is designed to be immersive and participatory – part environment, part confessional – and even includes a mobile capsule that will be sent afield to gather new testimonies for sharing.

“Edward Hopper’s New York”
Whitney Museum of American Art
October 19th – March 5th, 2023

Suffused with a strangely alluring melancholy, the paintings of Edward Hopper (1882 – 1967) could render mundane, familiar locations alien and disorienting – think “Nighthawks” (1942), his most ubiquitous canvas. Hopper made his home in New York City for almost six decades, and captured the city’s elusive spirit like no one else in his combination of clear-eyed realist depiction and dreamily expressive lighting. This Whitney show concentrates on Hopper’s relationship with New York City, and benefits from insights derived from the newly acquired Sanborn-Hopper Archive of correspondence, notebooks and personal ephemera.

Alex Katz, "Ada Ada" (1959)

Alex Katz: “Gathering”
Guggenheim Museum
October 21st – February 20th, 2023

Born in Brooklyn in 1927, the inimitable Alex Katz came of age during the heydays of Abstract Expressionism and Pop, and somehow managed to synthesize the boundless energy and iconoclasm of the former with the blithe spirits and familiar, well-defined forms of the latter to arrive at his signature style – friends and settings in New York City and the coast of Maine, rendered in a deceptively simple manner that can be comic but never cartoonish. Still active in New York City, Katz helped to curate this retrospective himself.

Meret Oppenheim: “My Exhibition”
Museum of Modern Art
October 30th – March 4th, 2023

For any artist, there’s a danger in creating a work so iconic that it threatens to overshadow a career. Case in point: “Object,” a humble cup, saucer and teaspoon reborn via the pelt of a Chinese gazelle, applied in 1936 by the Swiss artist Meret Oppenheim (1913 – 1985). What started as a lark resulted in one of the most recognizable works of Surrealist art, ever. But Oppenheim was among the most accomplished artists active in a milieu dominated by audacious men, and this exemplary career survey – assembled by MoMA with Kunstmuseum Bern and The Menil Collection – takes full measure of her stature with close to 200 objects.

Theater Gates, "A Clay Sermon” (2021) Exhibition view, Whitechapel Gallery, London

Theaster Gates: “Young Lords and Their Traces”
New Museum
November 10th – February 5th, 2023

It seems almost untenable to read that this New Museum show is the first-ever solo exhibition devoted to the work of Chicago artist Theaster Gates, so widespread and pervasive have his work and influence become. Active in the fields of sculpture, installation art and collaborative performance, Gates elevates the thinkers who shaped society, in his hometown and in the U.S., through paintings, sculptures, videos and performances.

Nick Cave: “Forothermore”
Guggenheim Museum
November 18th – April 10th, 2023

The first Guggenheim exhibition curated by deputy director and chief curator Naomi Beckwith, who joined the institution in June 2021, is an expansive overview devoted to the work of Missouri-born artist Nick Cave, originally assembled by Beckwith for the MCA Chicago. Perhaps best known for his fantastical audio-enhanced Soundsuits, Cage is represented in a manner that suits his breadth and versatility: from early works inspired by Parliament-Funkadelic and Chicago house music to recent installations of massive scale, all reflecting his dedication to representing the marginalized.