'CHINA'S TERRACOTTA Warriors: The First Emperor's Legacy'

Oct. 28-Jan. 20 at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts

Dying was a capstone moment in the life of a Chinese emperor, which is why Qin Shihuang (259-210 B.C.) started building his tomb at age 13. New to the job, the young man launched a mortuary project that took 38 years and covered more than a square mile. Treasures and artifacts from the tomb of China's First Emperor, as Qin was known, make up some of the most dazzling archeological discoveries of the 20th century. And they are still being dug up nearly 40 years after the site was rediscovered by Chinese farmers digging a well. The 10 life-size terracotta warriors in this exhibit include several never seen in the West. They are from an army of 7,000 intended to protect the emperor in his afterlife. On loan from 13 Chinese institutions, the artifacts were excavated in 2005 and include bronze vessels, jade carvings, gold and silver ornaments, architectural elements and four life-size bronze birds -- a crane, a swan and two geese.

2400 3rd Av. S., Mpls. $20 weekends, $18 weekdays. 612-870-3000 or www.artsmia.org

"Cindy Sherman": One of the best-known figures in contemporary art, Sherman has been hiding in plain sight for more than 35 years. A consummate chameleon, she's a photographer by trade but is her own best -- and only -- subject. Her first fame came with "Untitled Film Stills," a 1977-80 series in which Sherman posed as a character (ingenue, femme fatale, victim) in stills from imaginary films. Mining a rich vein of cultural stereotypes, she has disguised herself as figures from art and history, clowns, grotesques and society matrons. Her first museum retrospective in 15 years, this show features 170 photos from the 1970s to the present, including recent photographic murals.

Nov. 10-Feb. 17. Walker Art Center, 1750 Hennepin Av. S., Mpls. $10 adults. 612-375-7600 or www.walkerart.org

"The Human Condition": With its sweeping theme and international call for entries, this Mpls Photo Center show is probing the same psychological territory that the Museum of Modern Art documented in its famous 1955 photo exhibit "The Family of Man." Curated by Annie Griffiths-Belt, a veteran National Geographic photographer, "The Human Condition" is open to all those dualities that mark life's journey: work and leisure, war and not-war, beginnings and endings, politics, pleasure, love and its discontents. Or, as the MPC says: "It's a search for purpose, sense of curiosity, and the inevitability of isolation and fear of death."

Nov. 10-Jan. 4. Mpls Photo Center, 2400 N. 2nd St. Free. 612-643-3511 or www.mplsphotocenter.com

"Cast Icons: Preserving Sacred Traditions": Although religion was suppressed in Russia during the Soviet era, its rites and paraphernalia were not lost, as this exhibit of copper icons proves. Collected by Minnesota musician Edward Stack, the 60-piece show features images of patron saints, individualized crosses and folding icons known as skladen. They date from the 18th to 20th centuries and come from "Old Believer" communities whose members expressed their devotion in ornate designs festooned with multicolored enamels and gilt.

Sept. 29-Jan. 20. The Museum of Russian Art, 5500 Stevens Av. S., Mpls. $7 adults. 612-821-9045 or www.tmora.org

"Charles Biederman: 60 Years of American Modernism": One of Minnesota's most significant but lesser known artists, Biederman (1906-2004) was a Red Wing recluse whose writings and colorful wall-reliefs attracted an international following. His influential "Structuralist" theory drew acolytes from around the world, notably Victor Pasmore and other British Constructivists from the post-World War II era. A brilliant draftsman and deft painter, Biederman moved from realism through Cubism and Surrealism in the 1930s and then shifted to 3-D aluminum reliefs and intricate sculptures incorporating wood, string, Plexiglas and other experimental materials. Chosen from Beiderman's archives, this 30-piece show will span his career.

Oct. 5-Dec. 1. Weinstein Gallery, 908 W. 46th St., Mpls. Free. 612-822-1722 or www.weinstein-gallery.com

"Why We Do This: Andy Ducett": Ambitious is an understatement for Ducett's latest project: a 12,000-square-foot installation involving video, drawing, performance and natural-history-style dioramas about life in the Midwest. Poignantly dubbed "an elegy of working-class aspiration," the project promises interactive episodes including simulations of a Boundary Waters canoe trip, games of Battleship and football, an alien abduction, an airplane ride and a glimpse of Sasquatch. Known for imaginative, scale-shifting drawings of modern life, Ducett is taking a bold 3-D step into serious fun-house fantasy.

Sept. 8-Nov. 11. The Soap Factory, 518 SE. 2nd St., Mpls. Free. 612-623-9176 or www.soapfactory.org