Fall: The time of year when we remember that “culture” can mean more than swatting bugs at an outdoor concert or sitting through yet another superhero reboot (although: Wonder Woman? Not bad!). Yes, autumn means art, and our calendars are already filling up with exhibitions, gallery shows and opportunities to glimpse rarely seen masterpieces. Here are a few of the highlights we’re looking forward to in six cultural capitals (and our recommendations of where to stay for each). 

By Staff
A Bigger Splash by David Hockney
Photo by Metropolitan Museum of Art

NEW YORK

New York’s fall season is filled with surefire hits (China at the Guggenheim, Veronese at the Frick, Jimmie Durham at the Whitney), but all eyes will be on the Metropolitan Museum of Art and its two blockbuster shows. Rodin at the Met (Sept. 16–Jan. 15) marks the 100th anniversary of the sculptor’s death with nearly 50 marble, plasters and terra cottas—The Thinker and The Tempest among them—that explore his dialogue with 20th-century art. And David Hockney (Nov. 27–Feb. 28), organized in conjunction with the Tate Britain and the Centre Pompidou in Paris, is a major retrospective of the still-influential British artist in his 80th year. Avoid the inevitable crowds by booking a room at The Mark, just a few blocks away, and arriving as the museum opens.

Mural by Jackson Pollock at University of Iowa Museum of Art
Photo by National Gallery of Art

WASHINGTON, D.C.

No surprise that the cradle of our nation’s heritage will host two history-making exhibitions this fall. The National Gallery of Art will host Vermeer and the Masters of Genre Painting (Oct. 22–Jan. 21), an elaborate exploration of the inscrutable Dutch master and his contemporaries from 1650 to 1675. The show includes a handful of Vermeer masterworks, such as The Love Letter and The Lacemaker, that have never been seen in the United States. In November, the NGA will install Jackson Pollock’s Mural (Nov. 19–Oct. 28, 2018) in the East Building. The 1943 painting, originally commissioned by Peggy Guggenheim for her New York City townhouse, was Pollock’s largest work, standing at 20 feet long, and prompted critic Clement Greenberg to declare Pollock “ the greatest painter this country had produced.” Continue your journey into history with a stay at the The Hay Adams, located directly across from the White House.

Resort Photographer at Work by Walker Evans at The Met
Photo by SFMOMA

SAN FRANCISCO

Last year’s renovation and expansion of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art made that institution the largest museum of its kind in the United States—all the better to display its impressive collection of Warhol, Richter, Calder and other 20th-century masters. If you haven’t been yet, here’s your reason to go: Walker Evans (Sept. 30—Feb. 4), a major retrospective of the seminal American photographer. More than 300 prints, along with archival documents and objects capture the American experience as Walker saw it in roadside attractions, advertisements, and portraits of Depression-era families. Stay at another American icon: the Fairmont San Francisco, which has lorded it over Nob Hill since 1907. 

Nose Ornament with Spiders from Salinar Culture at The Met
Photo by Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA

LOS ANGELES

Who says Southern California is self-absorbed? This fall, the LA art world looks beyond itself to focus on Latin America and its influence on local culture. Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA (through Jan. 28) is a city-wide, multi-institution exploration of Latin American and Latino art in dialogue with Los Angeles. The event’s principal organizer, The Getty, will display pre-Columbian works made from gold, silver, jade and textiles in Golden Kingdoms: Luxury and Legacy in the Ancient Americas. LACMA is exhibiting works by the late Chicano street artist Carlos Almaraz, while Gagosian in Beverly Hills is showcasing Brazilian artist Adriana Varejão and the Hammer Museum reconsiders Latina artists with Radical Women: Latin American Art, 1960-1985. Book a room at Viceroy L'Ermitage Beverly Hills for proximity to Los Angeles’s other major cultural pursuit: shopping!

Chicken Shed by Rachel Whiteread and Galleria Lorcan O'Neill
Photo by Tate Britain

LONDON

One of Britain’s leading contemporary artists—Rachel Whiteread, who in 1993 became the first woman to win the prestigious Turner Prize—is being feted this season with a mid-career survey at the Tate Britain (through Jan. 21). Whiteread is known primarily for her casts, which can be intimate or monumental in scale, made in minimalist white plaster or shimmering resin. Along with several new pieces, The Tate is showing iconic works such as Untitled (One Hundred Spaces) 1995, an installation of 100 polyester resin cubes cast from the negative space under 100 different chairs. The Guardian has already given the exhibit a thumbs up, so check in to the Corinthia Hotel London, an easy Thames-side stroll from the museum.

Christian Dior, Couturier Du Rêve by Emma Summerton
Photo by Les Arts Decoratifs

PARIS

The former home of Dégas, Monet and Picasso certainly doesn’t lack for artistic heroes. But this season, Paris is turning its eyes to a different icon: Christian Dior, who transformed 20th-century fashion with his revolutionary silhouettes. In Christian Dior: Couturier du Rêve (through Jan. 7), the Musée des Arts Decoratifs has assembled more than 300 haute couture pieces by Dior himself as well as successors like Yves Saint Laurent, John Galliano and Raf Simons. You’ll leave with only one word on your lips: J'adore! In the same fashionable vein is the Irving Penn retrospective at the Grand Palais (through Jan. 29), which moved here from New York’s Museum of Modern Art. The exhibition brings together nearly 235 works by the longtime Vogue photographer, including portraits, nudes and still lifes. Where to stay? Le Royal Monceau has a dedicated art concierge who will recommend the best of the city’s museums and galleries—including the hotel’s own.