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Feature Archive
May, 2002
Artcyclopedia's Summer Vacation Plan
By Joseph Phelan
As spring finally arrives here in Canada, we start planning summer trips and even fall vacations. Excellent museums with interesting new exhibits and fine permanent collections are part of the attraction our cities offer in summer. Yet readers may not realize the extent to which the Net has streamlined the vacation planning process and actually improved your options.

Smart minds in the tourist business have discovered that a successful family vacation depends on picking a destination that brings together and satisfies the different kinds of interests your family members have.

This summer for example, if you have teenagers who are into Surrealism and a husband who would enjoy seeing Vatican Treasures, Toronto is your best bet with Treasures from the Vatican at the Royal Ontario Museum and two exhibits on Surrealism at the Art Gallery of Ontario. On the other hand, if there's a big contingent of family members that adore Italian Renaissance and Baroque Art and some others who'd rather look at the work of one of Canada greatest painters, Jean Paul Riopelle, Montreal is going to be the place to go. For folks from the United States, both cities are enormous bargains as well.

Last summer, the Art Gallery of Ontario had a blockbuster exhibit from the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia. Rubens and His Age gave thousands a peek at one of the world's great art collections, as well as a rare occasion to concentrate one's attention on the 17th century Flemish masters. Outside of Ontario and Quebec, Rubens and His Age seemed to be one of the best kept secrets. Tourists from Western Canada and most of the United States were genuinely and pleasantly surprised to find such a show was available in our city. Even art-savvy New Yorkers were amazed and delighted. That is, at least until the last weekend, when a huge influx of New Yorkers were horrified to find out that this great exhibit was closing before they could all get in. The lines ups and dealmaking on the last weekend looked like something out of Mel Brook's The Producers.

I remember the final day of that exhibit vividly because I volunteered to spot the AGO's "meeters and greeters" - i.e. the nice folks in the red vests who stand for hours dispensing directions and advice, directing indoor traffic and handing out the audio tours. Its almost embarrassing to admit that I have never felt more needed or appreciated or gotten so much satisfaction as I did for eight hours directing thousands of exhausted but satisfied people to the closest bathrooms.

Many people came up to ask why the exhibit was closing. "Well it's been here for three months," I said, "and it has to go back to St. Petersburg". They were astonished that it wasn't traveling to the States. What about the Hermitage in Vegas? This is an exclusive engagement, I said with some satisfaction. "But we just found out about it by accident," said a retired professor from NYC who was vacationing in Southern Ontario and just happened to notice an advertisement in a Toronto newspaper. Another fellow had brought his kids down from Ottawa for the day and insisted I let them sneak in through the back where the gift shop is. Film director (The Sweet Hereafter) and AGO board member Atom Egoyan eventually asked us to stay open for a few more hours so that more people could be admitted.

The New York Times and other media in the US just never got around to featuring the Hermitage show in their annual summer survey of exhibits to see. In fact the newspaper of record didn't review it. Even our own Blake Gopnik wrote about it in his monthly piece the Globe and Mail only; he never told his weekly readers at the Washington Post about the show.

Those of us in Toronto and environs know enough to look forward to the summer specials that the museums in Montreal and Ottawa offer. Last year we saw two terrific exhibits: the Gustav Klimt retrospective in Ottawa, and the only North American venue for Erotic Picasso in Montreal. Taking in both of them made for a great weekend.

This year, Ottawa's National Gallery of Canada has a major Tom Thomson retrospective. And the new curator of European paintings at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Hilliard T. Goldfarb (formerly head of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston), seems to have brought off a coup: the only North American showing of Raphael to Tiepolo - Master Italian Paintings from the Budapest Museum of Art. If you don't plan to visit Hungary in the near future (or ever), go to Montreal. You just won't see works of this vintage again in North America. Plus, opening in June, the retrospective of the recently departed Montreal master Jean Paul Riopelle promises to open eyes and revise reputations, and in the fall we can look forward to a celebration of Cardinal Richelieu, one of the greatest patrons of the arts that Europe has ever produced.

So having whetted your appetite, let me turn now to how you might make us of this site to plan your trips. Just figure out where you going to be this summer and use the Artcyclopedia search engine to identify what's happening in that area. (See simplified search box at right) You can type in a museum, city or province. Be sure to also check out the cities or museums near or on the way to where you're heading. Its fun to find out you can spend sometime while on the road to your destination looking at art.

Simple art museum search
by museum name, city or country
(also U.S. state & Canadian province)
Alternatively if you know you just can't live without seeing the Tom Thomson retrospective, check the National Gallery website to see if its going to be traveling to other venues or if this is the only chance to see it. I guess nothing is worse that making the heroic detour of 400 miles on a summer weekend to see an exhibit and then finding out its coming to a city near you in the fall.

Some websites specialize in listing upcoming exhibits: i.e. ArtDaily and ExCalendar are two sites which allow you to search for what exhibits are upcoming in cities, states or larger geographical areas.

They are usually good sources of information, although I advise my readers to double-check all information at the official museums websites. They are going to have the most accurate and authoritative information.

This article is copyrighted 2002. Please do not republish any portion of this article without written permission.

Joseph Phelan can be contacted at joe.phelan@verizon.net

Past Articles

March, 2002
      Education and the Art Museum, Part I, by Joseph Phelan

February, 2002
      Unsung Griots of American Painting, by Joseph Phelan

January, 2002
      The British Museum COMPASS Project, interview by Joseph Phelan
      Robert Hughes, Time Magazine Art Critic: Biography and Writings
      Lifestyle: Online Casinos Finally Get Real

December, 2001
      Advent Calendar 2001, narrated by Joseph Phelan
      Software review: Le Louvre: The Virtual Visit on DVD-ROM, by Joseph Phelan

November, 2001
      Tragedy and Triumph at Arles: Van Gogh and Gauguin, by Joseph Phelan

October, 2001
      Her Last Bow: Sister Wendy in America, by Joseph Phelan

September, 2001
      Love, Death and Resurrection: The Paintings of Stanley Spencer, by Joseph Phelan

August, 2001
      Who is Rodin's Thinker?, by Joseph Phelan

July, 2001
      Celebrations North and South, by Joseph Phelan

June, 2001
      Rubens and his Age, by Joseph Phelan

May, 2001
      Great Reproductions of Great Paintings

April, 2001
      The Passion of Christ, by Joseph Phelan

March, 2001
      Edouard Manet: Public Spaces, Private Dreams, by Joseph Phelan

February, 2001
      Henry Moore and the British Museum: The Great Conversation, by Joseph Phelan

December, 2000
      Advent Calendar 2000, narrated by Joseph Phelan

November, 2000
      Article: Notorious Portraits, Part II, by John Malyon

October, 2000
      Article: Notorious Portraits, Part I, by John Malyon
      Article: The Other Michelangelo, by Joseph Phelan

September, 2000
      Article: The Art of Drawing, by Joseph Phelan

August, 2000
      Article: Poussin and the Heroic Landscape, by Joseph Phelan

July, 2000
      Article: Great Art Museums Online, by Joseph Phelan

June, 2000
      Article: Venetian Painting and the Rise of Landscape, by Joseph Phelan

May, 2000
      Article: Forbidden Visions: Mythology in Art, by Joseph Phelan

April, 2000
      Article: Themes in Art: The Passion of Christ, by Joseph Phelan
      Web site review: Christus Rex

March, 2000
      Web site review: National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., by Joseph Phelan
      Online exhibit review: Inuit Art: The World Around Me, by John Malyon

February, 2000/Poll: Who is Producing the Most Interesting Art Today? (Results)

January, 2000/Poll: Who is Producing the Most Interesting Art Today? (Part II)

December, 1999/Poll: Who is Producing the Most Interesting Art Today? (Part I)

November, 1999/The Louvre Museum
      Web site review: The Louvre

October, 1999/Impressionism
      Web site review: North Carolina Museum of Art

September, 1999/Optical Art
      Web site review: The Butler Institute of American Art

August, 1999/Animals in Art
      Web site review: National Museum of Wildlife Art
      Online exhibit review: PBS: American Visions

July, 1999/Surrealism

June, 1999/Sculpture
      Web site review: Carol Gerten's Fine Art
      Online exhibit review: Michael Lucero: Sculpture 1976-1995

May, 1999/Women in the Arts
      Web site review: National Museum of Women in the Arts
      Online exhibit review: Jenny Holzer: Please Change Beliefs

April, 1999/The Golden Age of Illustration
      Web site review: Fine Arts Museums Of San Francisco
      Online exhibit review: Treasure Island and Robinson Crusoe online

March, 1999/Vincent van Gogh
      Web site review: Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam
      Web site review: The Vincent van Gogh Information Gallery

February, 1999/Great Art
      Web site review: The State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia
      Online exhibit review: John Singleton Copley: Watson and the Shark