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End of Summer’s Top Must-See Exhibits + Festivals

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 and
Heaven: The Landscapes" at the Kunstmuseum Basel (through September
27). In his intense short
career, Van Gogh produced some 70 landscape paintings, depicting scenes
in Holland, southern, and northern France. They are gathered in Basel
for a landmark show, drawn from public and private collections as far
as Hawaii and Japan, some lent for the first time.  Because of their
fragile state, some canvases may not travel again. That's why you

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 programming
ranging from the Chicago Symphony to singer Carrie Underwood.  One of
the most anticipated performances (and the last of the summer) is the
world premiere of choreographer Bill T. Jones dance-theater work
inspired by Abraham Lincoln.  The full-length piece, a highlight of the
festival’s Lincoln bicentennial celebrations, is sure to have
resonance: Jones, an African-American artist of impeccable creative
integrity, sometime iconoclast, considers the complicated legacy of the
president who signed the Emancipation Proclamation.

Matsumoto, Japan.Saito Kinen Festival” (through September 7). Asia and its musicians play more and more an
important role on the global stage of classical music. Since the early
1990’s, the conductor Seiji Ozawa has led this festival devoted to
western classical music—chamber music, orchestral and dramatic works—in
a jaw-dropping setting in the Japanese Alps.  Tickets are scarce, but
getting to a performance here is worth the effort.

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

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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