Seven Picks a Week is our guide to what’s worth catching in arts, culture and activities during the week ahead, with contributions from reporters throughout the WNYC/Gothamist newsroom and colleagues from WQXR and "All of It."
Don’t miss one of the year’s top art exhibitions
If you still haven’t seen “Jean-Michel Basquiat: King Pleasure,” you’re running out of time to see one of the year’s most distinctive art offerings. The expansive exhibition chronicles the life and work of legendary artist Jean-Michel Basquiat (pictured above), as told by his family and loved ones. Curated by Jean-Michel’s sisters, Lisane Basquiat and Jeanine Heriveaux, the exhibition offers an intimate look at not just Jean-Michel’s body of work, but also his life and legacy. Featuring over 200 never-before-seen and rarely seen paintings, drawings, ephemera and artifacts, “Jean-Michel Basquiat: King Pleasure” closes this Sunday, Jan. 1; order tickets here.
– Allison Stewart and Emily Thompson, “All of It”
Witness a palindromic paean to our planet
Launching this year’s edition of the groundbreaking theater festival Under the Radar, “Are we not drawn onward to new erA” showcases Belgian theater collective Ontroerend Goed in a remarkable feat: a play in the form of a palindrome, meant to ponder whether it’s possible to reverse the damage already done to our home planet. Alexander Devriendt’s production runs through Jan. 8, and the Under the Radar festival continues through Jan. 22. Check out a complete schedule of events here.
Revisit the epicenter of ’70s creative music
Studio Rivbea, the loft space at 24 Bond Street owned and operated by saxophonist Sam Rivers and his wife, Beatrice, arguably became the center of the creative-music universe during the 1970s, when seasoned artists and younger rebels alike sought places to pursue their work outside of the commercial mainstream. Now, Arts for Art, an organization that has upheld the Rivbea ethic and aesthetics for decades, is mounting a celebratory festival in the original space – now the Gene Frankel Theater – featuring a mix of veterans and upstarts, as well as poets and historians. You can see a complete schedule and order tickets for in-person attendance or livestreams here.
Learn about a groundbreaking NYC art gallery
The historic Just Above Midtown, or 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 Museum of Modern Art retrospective assembled with Goode Bryant’s participation. The show is on view through Feb. 18; learn more here.
Treat the kids to a show of historic toy trains
On view at the New-York Historical Society through Feb. 26, “Holiday Express: Toys and Trains from the Jerni Collection” showcases the locomotive-inspired engineering ingenuity of American and European toymakers in a show spanning from the late 19th century through World War II. A related scavenger hunt will help to assure engagement and close examination. The museum closes at 3 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 31, and is closed on Mondays, but otherwise opens daily at 11 a.m.; you can order advance tickets online here.
Catch a great American play on Broadway
August Wilson's Pulitzer Prize-winning drama “The Piano Lesson” is directed by LaTanya Richardson and stars her husband, Samuel L. Jackson, along with Danielle Brooks and John David Washington. Set in Pittsburgh's Hill District in 1936, the show follows a brother and sister battling over an heirloom piano and the best way to honor their family’s legacy. Due to popular demand, the play’s run at the Ethel Barrymore Theater has been extended to Jan. 29, and you can learn more and order tickets here.
Preview the future of opera and music theater
Prototype is back! After a two-year hiatus due to COVID-19, the most daring opera festival in the country presents its much missed two-week series. If you want to feel cool and in the know about contemporary musical arts, Prototype is like traveling the world to see what's new – except HERE and Beth Morrison Projects bring the world to NY in this concentrated period of opera-going frenzy (in a good way). The festival kicks off on Thursday, Jan. 5, with Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Du Yun's “In Our Daughter's Eyes,” which is being produced at the Baruch Performing Arts Center. The one-man show, which is about a man's personal journey toward fatherhood, features baritone Nathan Gunn, who has clearly become a champion of the new. You’ll find a complete schedule of presentations and venues here.
– Ed Yim, WQXR
Correction: A previous version of this article misidentified Beth Morrison Projects, one of the presenters of the Prototype festival.