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The Return of the Grand Tour

A nineteenth-century aristocratic habit gets the art-world makeover.

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Martha Rosler's Cleaning The Drapes  

If you’re wondering where the city’s leisure-class art collectors are for the next couple of weeks, they’re in Europe going to parties and being expensively avant-garde. For the first time in ten years, all the big summer contemporary-art confabs are taking place at once: The annual Art Basel (the Swiss fair that spawned the one in Miami) is joined by the 52nd Venice Biennale, the once-every-five-years Documenta in Kassel, and the once-a-decade Sculpture Project in Münster. “The art world has become a traveling circus,” says Simon de Pury, chairman of the Phillips de Pury auction house, who has to hit all four. If you do all the openings, “you run into the same people again and again—and never see the art.” The cognoscenti are calling it the “grand tour.”

1. 52nd Venice Biennale
Opens June 9, through November Venice, Italy
The World’s Fair of art, divided into national pavilions. Britain’s represented by sexual-compilation artist Tracey Emin; the U.S. is doing a posthumous show of Felix Gonzalez-Torres. Supposedly, nothing’s for sale here, but deals made here are consummated later on. Hot ticket: Jeffrey Deitch’s private garden dinner party for Kristin Baker, whose work is on view at François Pinault’s new museum at the Palazzo Grassi.

2. Art Basel
Opens June 11, through June 17 Basel, Switzerland
In its 38th year, it’s less party, more business than the Miami offshoot. Over 60 New York galleries will be on hand, along with a big MoMA contingent and megacollector Eli Broad. Takashi Murakami will drop by to scope out locations for his own Toyko art fair that he’s said he is moving next year to Basel. Hot ticket: dealer Mariah Goodman’s annual dinner at a German castle.

3. Documenta 12
Opens June 15, through September 23 Kassel, Germany
Called “the 100-day museum,” Documenta takes place just as the German art scene is exploding. It’s a bit naughty: The Website intermittently shows an S&M video, and one of its invitees is “performance artist” Ferran Adrià, a Spanish deconstructive chef. (Jeff Koons was “discovered” at Documenta 9 when he built a giant chrysanthemum dog topiary outside town.)

4. Sculpture Project 07
Opens June 16, through September 30 Münster, Germany
In a city better known for its International Kite Festival, the attraction here is miles of outdoor sculpture and performance-art pieces by some big names. Projects this year include Bruce Nauman’s Square Depression, an “inverted pyramid” dug in the middle of town, and a production of The Beggar’s Opera staged all over the city and meant to blend in with real life. Watch for New York’s David Hammons, who made his name as a street vendor of snowballs.

Have good intel? Send tips to intel@nymag.com.


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