‘TARSILA DO AMARAL: INVENTING MODERN ART IN BRAZIL’ at the Museum of Modern Art (through June 3). The subtitle is no overstatement: In the early 1920s, first in Paris and then back home in São Paulo, Brazil, this painter really did lay the groundwork for the coming of modernism in Latin America’s most populous nation. Tired of the European pretenders in Brazil’s art academies, Tarsila (who was always called by her first name) began to intermingle Western, African and indigenous motifs into flowing, biomorphic paintings, and to theorize a new national culture fueled by the principle of antropofagia, or “cannibalism.” Along with spare, assured drawings of Rio and the Brazilian countryside, this belated but very welcome show assembles Tarsila’s three most important paintings, including the classic “Abaporu” (1928): a semi-human nude with a spindly nose and a comically swollen foot. (Jason Farago)
212-708-9400, moma.org

‘DIAMOND MOUNTAINS: TRAVEL AND NOSTALGIA IN KOREAN ART’ at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (through May 20). Mount Kumgang, or the “Diamond Mountain,” lies about 90 miles from Pyeongchang’s Olympic Stadium, but it’s a world away: The august, multipeaked range lies in North Korea and has been impossible to visit for most of the past seven decades. Featuring stunning loans from the National Museum of Korea and other institutions in Seoul, South Korea, this melancholy beauty of a show assembles three centuries’ worth of paintings of the Diamond Mountain range, and explores how landscapes intermingle nostalgia, nationalism, legend and regret. The unmissable prizes here are the painstaking paintings of Jeong Seon, the 18th-century artist who is perhaps the greatest of all Korean painters. And later impressions of the mountains, including a blotchy vision from the Paris-based modernist Lee Ungno, give a deeper historical weight to very live geopolitics. (Farago)
212-535-7710, metmuseum.org

‘THE FACE OF DYNASTY: ROYAL CRESTS FROM WESTERN CAMEROON’ at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (through Sept. 3). In the African wing, a show of just four commanding wooden crowns constitutes a blockbuster in its own right. These massive wooden crests — in the form of stylized human faces with vast vertical brows — served as markers of royal power among the Bamileke peoples of the Cameroonian grasslands, and the Met’s recent acquisition of an 18th-century specimen is joined here by three later examples, each featuring sharply protruding cheeks, broadly smiling mouths and brows incised with involute geometric patterns. Ritual objects like these were decisive for the development of Western modernist painting, and a Cameroonian crest was even shown at MoMA in the 1930s, as a “sculpture” divorced from ethnography. But these crests had legal and diplomatic significance as well as aesthetic appeal, and their anonymous African creators had a political understanding of art not so far from our own. (Farago)
212-535-7710, metmuseum.org

‘THE JIM HENSON EXHIBITION’ at the Museum of the Moving Image. The rainbow connection has been established in Astoria, Queens, where this museum has opened a new permanent wing devoted to the career of America’s great puppeteer, who was born in Mississippi in 1936 and died, too young, in 1990. Henson began presenting the short TV program “Sam and Friends” before he was out of his teens; one of its characters, the soft-faced Kermit, was fashioned from his mother’s old coat and would not mature into a frog for more than a decade. The influence of early variety television, with its succession of skits and songs, runs through “Sesame Street” and “The Muppet Show,” though Henson also spent the late 1960s crafting peace-and-love documentaries and prototyping a psychedelic nightclub. Young visitors will delight in seeing Big Bird, Elmo, Miss Piggy and the Swedish Chef; adults can dig deep into sketches and story boards and rediscover some old friends. (Farago)
718-784-0077, movingimage.us

‘PETER HUJAR: SPEED OF LIFE’ at the Morgan Library and Museum (through May 20). It’s hard to say which is more surprising: that Peter Hujar’s photographs of underground life in New York in the 1970s and ’80s have found their way to the Morgan Library and Museum, or that the classically minded institution has become unbuttoned enough to exhibit them in this heartbreaker of a show. Hujar (1934-87) lived most of his professional life in the East Village and, through studio portraits and cityscapes, captured a downtown that has since been all but erased by time, gentrification and AIDS. Although he was little known by the mainstream art world in his lifetime, this show, startlingly tender, reveals him to be one of the major American photographers of the late 20th century. (Holland Cotter)
212-685-0008, themorgan.org

‘THE INCOMPLETE ARAKI’ at the Museum of Sex (through Aug. 31). It remains a bit of a tourist trap, but the for-profit Museum of Sex is making its most serious bid yet for artistic credibility with a two-floor exhibition of Japan’s most prominent and controversial photographer. Nobuyoshi Araki has spent decades shooting Tokyo streetscapes, blossoming flowers and, notably, women trussed up in the baroque rope bondage technique known as kinbaku-bi, or “the beauty of tight binding.” Given the venue, it’s natural that this show concentrates on the erotic side of his art, but less lustful visitors can discover an ambitious cross section of Mr. Araki’s omnivorous photography, including his lastingly moving “Sentimental Journey,” picturing his beloved wife, Yoko, from honeymoon to funeral. (Farago)
212-689-6337, museumofsex.com

‘ZOE LEONARD: SURVEY’ at the Whitney Museum of American Art (through June 10). Some shows cast a spell. Zoe Leonard’s reverberant retrospective does. Physically ultra-austere, all white walls with a fiercely edited selection of objects — photographs of clouds taken from airplane windows; a mural collaged from vintage postcards; a scattering of empty fruit skins, each stitched closed with needle and thread — it’s an extended essay about travel, time passing, political passion and the ineffable daily beauty of the world. (Cotter)
212-570-3600, whitney.org

‘LIKE LIFE: SCULPTURE, COLOR AND THE BODY (1300 TO NOW)’ at the Met Breuer (through July 22). Taking a second run at the splashy theme-show extravaganza, the Met Breuer has greater success. This one is certainly more coherent since it centers entirely on the body and its role in art, science, religion and entertainment. It gathers together some 120 sculptures, dolls, artist’s dummies, effigies, crucifixes and automatons. Many are rarely lent and may not return any time soon. (Roberta Smith)
212-731-1675, metmuseum.org

‘THE LONG RUN’ at the Museum of Modern Art (through Nov. 4). The museum upends its cherished Modern narrative of ceaseless progress by mostly young (white) men. Instead we see works by artists 45 and older who have just kept on keeping on, regardless of attention or reward, sometimes saving the best for last. Art here is an older person’s game, a pursuit of a deepening personal vision over innovation. Winding through 17 galleries, the installation is alternatively visually or thematically acute and altogether inspiring. (Smith)
212-708-9400, moma.org

‘MILLENNIUM: LOWER MANHATTAN IN THE 1990S’ at the Skyscraper Museum (through April). This plucky Battery Park institution transports us back to the years of Rudy Giuliani, Lauryn Hill and 128-kilobit modems to reveal the enduring urban legacy of a decade bookended by recession and terror. In the wake of the 1987 stock market crash, landlords in the financial district rezoned their old skyscrapers for residential occupancy, and more than 20 towers were declared landmarks, including the ornate Standard Oil building at 26 Broadway and the home of Delmonico’s at 56 Beaver Street. Battery Park City flowered; yuppies priced out of TriBeCa came down to Wall Street; a new Guggenheim, designed by a fresh-from-Bilbao Frank Gehry, nearly arose by South Street Seaport. From this distance, the 1990s can seem almost like a golden age, not least given that, more than 16 years after Sept. 11, construction at the underwhelming new World Trade Center is still not finished. (Farago)