The Smart Guide

A highly selective directory of this season's cultural events


The Importance of Being Earnest
Dripping to this day with fabulously brittle social observation, Oscar Wilde's masterpiece gets perhaps the perfect Lady Bracknell in the Theater Royal Bath's new production at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in New York. Lynn Redgrave plays the great dame in this production, which began in Los Angeles in January. Through May 14;

David Sedaris
Some performers can write, some writers perform—Sedaris does both very, very well. The author of Me Talk Pretty One Day fills venues the size of Carnegie Hall, and this spring's tour wraps up with readings in Denver on May 1, followed by Houston (May 2) and Boston (May 3).;

British fashion from recent decades is an excellent candidate for the Most Improved Award—half a century ago it was unthinkable that the land of Harris tweed would produce the fabulousness that is, say, Vivienne Westwood. Now it's being canonized by the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute in New York. The best part: The survey will be installed not in the usual low-ceilinged downstairs gallery but in the museum's English period rooms. May 3–September 4;

Ant Farm 1968–1978
This may go down in art history as the year of the collective, as group works dominated the Whitney Biennial for the first time. Artists' collaboratives are nothing new, though, and the seventies group Ant Farm was one of the greats. The Contemporary Arts Center in Cincinnati will display its most memorable creations: odd and inventive architecture, such as portable structures and inflatable buildings, as well as a series of Cadillacs embedded headfirst in an empty field. The retrospective should sit nicely within the center's new wing by Zaha Hadid. May 6–June 30;

International Arts & Crafts
Pieces by such masters as the Stickley Brothers and Frank Lloyd Wright will fill the sleek new wing by Herzog & de Meuron at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. It's an inspired combination—a consonance between the building's stone-and-steel modernism and the simple construction of the furniture. On loan from private collectors, many of the works have not been seen before. Up since March, the pieces go back to their owners June 18.

Hammer by Cedar Lake Dance Company
A fledgling Manhattan dance company is not exactly titillating news. This one, however, was founded not by a choreographer but by a fan-with-funds: Nancy Walton Laurie, Sam Walton's niece and the 116th-richest person in America. Occupying the former studio of photographer Annie Liebowitz, Cedar Lake will debut Hammer, by artistic director Benoit-Swan Pouffer. Please, no jokes about the man's name. May 8–21;

Elvis Costello with the Boston Pops
My, how Elvis Costello has grown up. The seventies punk singer has become one of music's elder statesman, comfortably dipping a toe into genre after genre. (Record with Burt Bacharach? Cut a big-band album? No problem.) His new work, a ballet score based on A Midsummer Night's Dream, is titled Il Sogno. After playing with the Pops, he'll go on to perform with the Brooklyn, Atlanta, and Baltimore orchestras. May 10;

The digital art collective Onedotzero champions experimental filmmaking and design, hosting screenings all around the world (it has showcased work by directors like Spike Jonze and Michel Gondry). The latest event takes place at the Archa Theater in Prague, where the headlining auteur is Mike Mills, director of Thumbsucker. The organization will also celebrate its tenth anniversary in London from June 2 to 11. May 11–14;

Syracuse Festival of Greek Tragedy
The annual extravaganza in Sicily gives classics such as Euripides' Hecuba and Trojan Women some historical gravitas: The setting is a strikingly preserved ancient Greek amphitheater inscribed with the names of deities and luminaries. May 11–June 25;

Reykjavik Arts Festival
Each year Iceland's celebration of homegrown and international talent centers on a different medium; for the 20th anniversary, music fittingly comes to the fore. The country has a long musical tradition extending well beyond Björk—expect a cool modern-classical mélange, including the Icelandic Opera and Reykjavík Chamber Orchestra. May 12–June 2;

Sam Taylor-Wood Crying Men
A linchpin of the Young British Artists' scene (and wife of star dealer Jay Jopling), Taylor-Wood gets a significant exhibition of her celebrated photographs at the Baltic Center for Contemporary Art in Gateshead, England. Actors such as Dustin Hoffman, Paul Newman, and Daniel Craig will reveal their sensitive sides at this imposing riverside gallery in the northeast. Later in the year Taylor-Wood will reveal her moviemaking chops with Jerusalem, a film about the 18th-century poet William Blake. May 17–September 3; South Shore Rd.; 44-191/478-1810;

Cannes International Film Festival
Now in its 59th year, Cannes opens with Ron Howard's Da Vinci Code and concludes with the prestigious Palme D'Or Award on the 28th. The most anticipated entry to this year's competition on the Côte d'Azur is Paris je t'aime, a look at each of the city's arrondissements through the eyes of 20 directors, among them Alexander Payne, Alfonso Cuarón, Wes Craven, and Gérard Depardieu. Film buffs lacking press passes can still soak up the glamour at open-air screenings on the beach. May 17–28;

Tate Modern Rehanging
For the first time since its 2000 inauguration, all 48 galleries displaying the London museum's permanent collection will be rehung, with a focus on turning points in 20th-century art: Minimalism, Cubism, Surrealism, and Abstract Expressionism. Much of the exhibition, which includes recently acquired works by Roy Lichtenstein and Francis Picabia, will be completely new to the Tate. Opens May 23;

Elliot Goldenthal's new opera at the Los Angeles Opera is a retelling of Beowulf from the monster's point of view (courtesy of the John Gardner novel). And who better to bring such an otherworldly creature to life than The Lion King queen Julie Taymor? Commissioned for the Lincoln Center Festival's tenth anniversary, Grendel opens in Los Angeles before its four-night run in Manhattan July 11 to 16. May 27–June 17;

World Cup Cultural Events
Even if soccer isn't your game, the tournament—kicking off in Germany on June 9—spawns some fascinating cultural programming. Robert Wilson's experimental theater piece Soccersongs, with machines taking the roles of actors, receives its world première at Bebelplatz in Berlin on May 31. Die Tiefe Des Raumes, by composer Moritz Eggert and librettist Michael Klaus and billed as the first football oratory in musical history, will be at Berlin's Komische Oper June 8 and July 9.


Since February, the original Dutch master has been the focus of a Holland-wide celebration—which continues into next year—of his 400th birthday. There are exhibitions, tours of his old haunts, even a musical of his life opening at the Royal Carré Theater in Amsterdam on his birthday, July 15. Our money is on the curatorial genius of "Rembrandt–Caravaggio," at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam until June 18.

Reopening of the Roundhouse
The former London train shed where Pink Floyd and Jimi Hendrix used to jam will reopen after an overhaul that turned it into one of London's biggest performance venues. The first show, Fuerzabruta, is an eight-week run from the company behind the aerial theater extravaganza, De La Guarda. Opens June 1; Chalk Farm Rd.; 44-207/424-9991;

The Ship: The Art of Climate Change
The combustible duo of art and politics converge in this major exhibit at London's Natural History Museum. The contributors, inspired by Arctic themes, range from sculptor Anthony Gormley to novelist Ian McEwan, with words, sounds, and images combined with ice and water. June 3–September 3; 44-207/942-5000;

Montreal Chamber Music Festival
The festival's most-anticipated event is the piano-duet transcription of Beethoven's Grosse Fuge, Opus 133, originally a composition for string quartet. The manuscript, in Beethoven's own hand, recently turned up in Pennsylvania and was gaveled off in December at Sotheby's in London for nearly $2 million. This Canadian première in Montreal is also the work's first major world performance in well over a century. The festival runs June 9 to 30.

Diane Arbus Revelations
This retrospective was an absolute sensation in New York last year and it's moving to the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. The 200-photograph survey of the late Arbus's images—twins, circus freaks, nudists, and ordinary Americans looking anything but ordinary—might very well be the most thorough show on the photographer ever mounted (her estate maintains tight control of her work). June 17–September 10;

Matthew Barney Drawing Restraint 9
Barney took over the Guggenheim in 2003 with a blockbuster exhibit of his bizarrely beautiful The Cremaster Cycle—five films plus photographs and sculptures, some of them made with petroleum jelly. He reemerges at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art with a new film project, the last piece in his "Drawing Restraint" oeuvre. Expect a full reprisal of the series, along with nautical themes, geishas, Björk (Barney's longtime partner), and yet more petroleum jelly. June 17–September 17;

Elektra by Richard Strauss
After Strauss's friend the archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann took him to Mycenae and the ruins of Agamemnon's tomb in Greece, he was inspired to compose Elektra. Impresario Michael Fisk brings the 1910 opera back to the very site of its conception, just outside Nafplion, Greece, as part of the town's annual music festival (June 23–July 1). The alfresco performance will feature Lisa Gasteen in the title role. June 24, 29, and July 1;

Spoleto Festival dei Due Mondi
Conceived by the Italian American maestro Gian Carlo Menotti, the original festival in the little Umbrian town of Spoleto (there's a U.S. sister in Charleston, South Carolina) will bring together luminaries from the realms of art, cinema, dance, jazz, and classical music. Highlight: Pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet will play Tchaikovsky under the 26-year-old Finnish conductor Mikko Franck. June 30–July 16;


Rubens and Brueghel
Rubens seems to be back in fashion. After last year's display of his drawings at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art, the 17th-century painter gets a double show at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles. "Rubens and Brueghel" reunites the two great friends of the Flemish school—they shared not only ideas but also canvases—and "Rubens and His Printmakers" is devoted to the work of the small army that kept his studio humming. July 5–September 24;

Andy Warhol/SuperNova: Stars, Deaths, and Disasters, 1962–1964
It's easy to forget how momentous Warhol's work was when it was new. This show, curated by David Cronenberg at Toronto's Art Gallery of Ontario, aims to invoke some of that original power. And though the images of silk-screened electric chairs and car crashes may be less famous than the Marilyns and Jackies, they pack just as much punch. July 8–October 22;

Bayreuth Wagner Festival
The celebration of Richard Wagner's work—packed into the Bavarian city of Bayreuth—has sold out every year since 1876. The operas take place in the Festspielhaus (designed by the composer himself), and online tickets for this summer's opening performance of Der Fliegende Holländer are currently going for more than $3,000. The official wait list for festival tickets is estimated at eight years. July 25–August 28; (in German only); 49-9/217-8780


59th Locarno International Film Festival
Named one of the world's six most important film festivals by Variety, Locarno attracts audiences of nearly 200,000 to Lake Maggiore in southern Switzerland. The program, held in arguably the most beautiful alfresco venue on earth, features experimental shorts as well as major releases. August 2–12;


Marfa Lights Festival
Besides being an unlikely arts nexus, the tiny Texas ranch town of Marfa—home to permanent installations by Donald Judd and John Chamberlain—hosts an annual celebration devoted to the floating UFOlike lights that hundreds of Marfans have seen but can't quite identify. They're usually explained as an atmospheric trick, but whatever they are, this weekend of eating, drinking, and art-viewing is the time to witness them, from Highway 90, just outside town. September 2–4;

Leonardo da Vinci: Experience, Experiment, and Design
This exhibit at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London is part of "Universal Leonardo," an extensive project aimed at cracking the real Da Vinci code, revealing the Renaissance man's influence as scientist, technician, and designer. Employing original drawings, scale models, and cutting-edge animation, it will explore how his inventions would function. In the summer, related events will take place in Munich, Budapest, Oxford, and other European cities. September 14–January 7;;

London Open-House Weekend
This annual two-day event unlocks the doors to some 600 of London's most striking addresses—the landmark Bank of England, for one—so it's no wonder it's such a draw. Admission is free, but space is tight; reserve a spot before dropping by. September 16, 17;


Pilobolus Dance Company
"The first time I saw Pilobolus," the late Ossie Davis once said, "I gave up drinking for a week." This Connecticut-based dance troupe will perform its marvelously athletic routines during much of the year, touring up and down the East Coast in September before heading to Chicago for two nights. October 6, 7;

Charles Sheeler: Across Media
Sheeler spent the mid-20th century painting and photographing industrial America in all its sooty, mighty strength; his pictures of factories and machinery are masterpieces. He's no longer an unappreciated figure—and his reputation will rise higher still when the Art Institute of Chicago shows his work. It's worth the trip just to see images of the Ford Motor Company's monumental River Rouge plant. October 7–January 7;