Ah, the Grand Tour. The more the art-world map expands, with festivals popping up in every corner of the globe, the quainter it seems. Back in the 18th century, the Grand Tour was the all but mandatory sojourn of every sophisticated upper-class British gentleman (yes, in those days they were pretty much all men), first imbibing the culture and mores of high society in Paris and then contemplating the ancient ruins in Greece and Rome. Britain’s country houses and art museums are rich in treasures collected on these trips, which lasted from a few months to a few years.
The modern—or, depending on how you look at it, postmodern—version of the European grand tour was born in 1977. In that year, Documenta, in Kassel, Germany, and the Venice Biennale coincided with the first edition of Skulptur Projekte Münster, in Münster, Germany, as they have continued to do every ten years since, and as they do this year.
Now that there are biennials everywhere from Baku to Bamako to Bermuda (just to glance at the Bs), even the late 20th century’s version of the grand tour is coming to seem somewhat antiquated. Still, for a snapshot of what’s happening at the moment in contemporary art, one can make the circuit this summer from Venice to Kassel and Münster, with a stop in Athens, where Adam Szymczyk’s iteration of Documenta has a Greek outpost.