Mario R. Mercado
August 28, 2009

With the Labor Day holiday arriving a little later this year, the summer seems a bit longer.  I don’t know anyone who isn't grateful.  While many festivals finish their seasons in August, a few extend into the warm weeks of September.  And this summer has brought some remarkable exhibitions, worldwide. There are only a few weeks to catch them, but any of them will refresh, provide a cultural charge, and give your imagination a boost—just in time for fall. Here are my picks:

Basel, Switzerland. "Vincent van Gogh, Between Earth andHeaven: The Landscapes" at the Kunstmuseum Basel (through September27). In his intense shortcareer, Van Gogh produced some 70 landscape paintings, depicting scenesin Holland, southern, and northern France. They are gathered in Baselfor a landmark show, drawn from public and private collections as faras Hawaii and Japan, some lent for the first time.  Because of theirfragile state, some canvases may not travel again. That's why youshould.

Chicago. “Fondly Do We Hope...Fervently Do We Pray” at the Ravinia Festival, Highland Park, IL (September 17, 19). Each summer,Ravinia in suburban Chicago, offers three months’ of programmingranging from the Chicago Symphony to singer Carrie Underwood.  One ofthe most anticipated performances (and the last of the summer) is theworld premiere of choreographer Bill T. Jones dance-theater workinspired by Abraham Lincoln.  The full-length piece, a highlight of thefestival’s Lincoln bicentennial celebrations, is sure to haveresonance: Jones, an African-American artist of impeccable creativeintegrity, sometime iconoclast, considers the complicated legacy of thepresident who signed the Emancipation Proclamation.

Matsumoto, Japan.Saito Kinen Festival” (through September 7). Asia and its musicians play more and more animportant role on the global stage of classical music. Since the early1990’s, the conductor Seiji Ozawa has led this festival devoted towestern classical music—chamber music, orchestral and dramatic works—ina jaw-dropping setting in the Japanese Alps.  Tickets are scarce, butgetting to a performance here is worth the effort.

New York City. “Michelangelo's First Painting” at theMetropolitan Museum of Art (through September 7).  Whatis considered Michelangelo’s first painting The Torment of SaintAnthony, made when the artist was 12 or 13, is as startling for thevivid luminosity of its colors as the demons and beasties that bedevilthe Egyptian hermit saint—to say nothing of the genius of its creator. And it’s rare. There are only four easel paintings by Michelangelo andthis one on panel is the first in an American collection. You can seeit at the MET until September 7, after which it goes to Fort Worth toenter the permanent collection of the Kimbell Art Museum, whichacquired it in the spring.

Philadelphia. “Galileo, the Medici, & the Age of Astronomy” at the Franklin Institute (through September 7). Only two telescopes made by Galileo exist today (one is in Italy) and for a few weeks more, one of them is in Philadelphia. You are inches away from the slender wood, glass, and leather 17th-century instrument that is a centerpiece of this exhibition of the astronomer's path-breaking achievements, the patronage that supported it, and the essential links to the ongoing scientific progress of today.

Philadelphia.
Philadephia Live Arts Festival and Philly Fringe” (September 4-19).  If this year’s dual festivals are comparable to those of past seasons, audiences can look forward to entertaining and challenging performances by local, national, and international artists and troupes, some established, some emerging, some never to be heard from again, but as diverse as Edinburgh, the grand-daddy of them all.  Who couldn’t be curious about a Polish rock opera or the latest from the Pig Iron Theatre Company?

Mario Mercado is the arts editor at Travel + Leisure.



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