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This summer, the United States plays host to a fascinating collection of visiting exhibitions. From glass ceilings to glass slippers, urban expression to avant-garde, some of the highlights include:

Through the Looking Glass
Museum of Fine Arts
, Boston, Massachusetts
Aptly named, a visit to Dale Chihuly’s large-scale, blown glass installations is like falling down the rabbit hole and waking up in Alice’s Wonderland. Chihuly’s fragile creations are playful in their brilliant use of colour and shape, unique in their experimentation with size and light, and meticulous in their execution. The 60ft-long Mille Fioria plane of individually blown spikes, curly-cues, orbs and other nature-inspired shapes and the gigantic chandeliers are straight out of a fantasy. But the exhibition’s shining star is the Persian ceiling, a vibrant collage of distinct Chihuly pieces, observed from beneath a transparent ceiling. The headphone tour ($7) provides interesting insights to the creative process, with artist interviews, videos and curator remarks. Through the Looking Glass will close 7 August.

Savage Beauty
Metropolitan Museum of Art
, New York City, New York
The late designer Alexander McQueen’s extraordinary collection of garments and accoutrements invites visitors into his romantic, yet melancholic, and at times deeply disturbed world. Featuring approximately 100 ensembles and 70 accessories, the beautifully curated display of high-fashion couture is a stunning presentation of rich fabrics, impeccable tailoring and nature’s raw materials – from sea shells and fresh flowers, to bizarre animal skins and wood. The “Romantic Nationalism” room pays tribute to McQueen’s Scottish heritage and is the most compelling. As a warning, the exhibit can get very busy on the weekend. Go during the week to avoid the crowds. Savage Beauty will close 7 August.

Art in the Street
Geffen Contemporary at the MOCA
, Los Angeles, California
Street artists Banksy, Thierry Guetta and Shepard Fairey became household names after Banksy’s Academy Award-nominated documentary “Exit Through the Gift Shop” was released in 2010. Art in the Street pays tribute to the same tradition of urban subculture, honouring the history, evolution and many artists of the global graffiti movement. While it may be non-traditional, this exhibit is a lot of fun. It features installations from 50 of the most influential artists, including Fab 5 Freddy, Lee Quiñones, Swoon, Shepard Fairey and Banksy. Keep your eyes peeled for rooms dedicated to LA’s local art scene and Shepard Fairey’s “Obey” campaign, as well as Invader’s videogame-inspired mosaic tags. This presentation of Art in the Street will end at the Geffen at the MOCA in Los Angeles on 8 August but will reopen at the Brooklyn Museum in March 2012.  

The Stein Collection
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
, San Francisco, California
As an experience, a wander through this gallery is tinged with nostalgia for a bohemian past, where circles of intellectuals occupied Parisian salons. As a collection, the Stein’s (writer Gertrude and brothers Leo and Michael) compilation of modern art is most impressive. Although dominated by Pablo Picasso and Henri Mattise, there are additional noteworthy works by Paul Cézanne, Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, among others. Look for Picasso’s portrait of friend Gertrude Stein, which is only temporarily reunited with the original collection (on loan from New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art). The Stein Collection will close 6 September.

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