SILENCE = DEATH: A survey of the Act Up movement comes to the Carpenter Center at Harvard.
The art of 2000 BC Egypt, visions from the Iraq War and AIDS activism, and the magic of a digital technology and Harry Potter make up the highlights of Boston's autumn art calendar.
"DAMIÁN ORTEGA: DO IT YOURSELF" | Institute of Contemporary Art | September 18–January 18 | A survey of work by a former political cartoonist whose sculptures — like a tin space capsule and mobile victory obelisk — often address political and social themes from his native Mexico. He's best known for a sculpture exhibited at the 2003 Venice Biennale in which he dissected a Volkswagen Beetle and suspended the parts in mid air — it resembles a 3-D assembly diagram or a special effect frozen in mid explosion. | 100 Northern Ave, Boston | $15 | 617.478.3100 or icaboston.org
"PLATFORM 1: ANDREW MOWBRAY" | DeCordova Sculpture Park + Museum | September 26–January 3 | In past projects, Mowbray has mopped a gallery floor with his hair, turned a bunch of umbrellas into a giant parachute, and performed an entrancingly weird ritual — about male-pattern baldness and fishing — inside an exquisitely crafted Art Nouveau diving bell. At the DeCordova, the Dorchester conceptual artist presents "Tempest Prognosticator," an installation of sculptures, videos, contraptions, and drawings about weather. Look for the giant revolving-cup anemometer that he strapped to himself as he stood atop a big lazy susan on the roof of his South Boston studio and spun in the breeze. | 51 Sandy Pond Road, Lincoln | $12 | 781.259.8355 or decordova.org
"ACT UP NEW YORK: ACTIVISM, ART AND THE AIDS CRISIS, 1987–1993" | Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts, Harvard University | October 15–December 24 | Artist collectives operating under the banner of Act Up spearheaded a movement that compelled complacent, negligent, and bigoted governmental leaders to address — at last — the AIDS epidemic. Here's a landmark survey of 70 posters, stickers, and other graphics that changed legal policy, medical practice, drug prices, gay rights, and the way we care for our sick. | 24 Quincy St, Cambridge | free | 617.495.5666 or ves.fas.harvard.edu/ccva.html
"RARE BIRD OF FASHION: THE IRREVERENT IRIS APFEL" | Peabody Essex Museum | October 17–February 7 | More than 80 ensembles from the wardrobe of the "legendary tastemaker and style icon" known for her flamboyant mash-ups of haute couture, flea-market finds, and tribal dress. She's still going strong at 86; last year, Vanity Fair named her to its "International Best-Dressed List." | 161 Essex St, Salem | $15 | 866.745.1876 or pem.org
"SECRETS OF THE TOMB 10A: EGYPT 2000 BC" | Museum of Fine Arts | October 18–May 16 | In Egypt in 1915, Harvard and MFA archæologists unearthed the 4000-year-old tomb of an ancient governor and his wife. Thieves had ransacked it and made off with jewels, but the Boston team still had a treasure trove of painted coffins, models of boats and daily life, walking sticks, and pottery. The works survived a ship fire on the way here, only to be packed away in storage for generations. This is the first time for most of the 200 objects to go on public view. | 465 Huntington Ave, Boston | $25 | 617.267.9300 or mfa.org
COSMIC THING: Damián Ortega brings his exploded VW Beetle — and more — to the ICA.
"HARRY POTTER: THE EXHIBITION" | Museum of Science | October 25–February 21 | We've watched Harry Potter become the wizarding world's star magician, athlete, and hunk. In the process, he rose Jesus-like from the dead, defeated the greatest villain in the universe, and got the girl. But to me he'll always be that little, lonely orphan nerd who had me at The Sorcerer's Stone. Now — like 20 books and 80 movies later — the Museum of Science exhibits more than 200 "artifacts and costumes . . . showcasing the supreme artistry and craftsmanship that went into the making of the ever popular film series." What are quidditch uniforms, Harry's "Marauder's Map," Death Eater robes, and the house elf Kreacher doing at a science museum? Who cares, it's Harry F-ing Potter! | 1 Science Park, Boston | $26 | 617.723.2500 or mos.org
"KRZYSZTOF WODICZKO: THE VETERANS PROJECT" | Institute of Contemporary Art | November 4–March 28 | Wodiczko is known for large-scale and often politically charged outdoor video installations — like his 1998 projections on the Bunker Hill Monument, which addressed contemporary violence in surrounding Charlestown. The Cambridge artist is representing his native Poland in this year's Venice Biennale with video projections that make it seem as if visitors were looking through frosted windows upon immigrants at work. His new ICA project addresses the experiences of veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. | 100 Northern Ave, Boston | $15 | 617.478.3100 or icaboston.org