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Europe's must-see new blockbuster art events
Culture vultures rejoice: The Continent has an embarrassment of riches for the wandering aesthete
Wearily traipsing around an art gallery is a surefire way to kill the vibe on a weekend away.
Samey paintings, stuffy rooms and cafés with prices to make you weep can combine to make the best of us wish to be anywhere else.
Of course, that’s if you just plump for any old art space listed in your guidebook and hope for the best. May we suggest a smarter approach over the next few months, in that case?
Starting right now, the coming year promises to serve up some seriously impressive art happenings across Europe, whether you want a dose of the Old Masters or some mind-bending modern installations.
So, instead of getting stuck in a dull old tourist trap, feel free to head to one of these stunning exhibitions to be wowed.
We promise the art will be amazing. Sadly, we can’t vouch for the cost of a sandwich and coffee.
1. Picasso/Duchamp: "He Was Wrong" -- Stockholm
Pitting the Cubist masterpieces of Pablo Picasso against the "found" works of Marcel Duchamp, this Stockholm exhibition is named after Picasso’s apparent putdown on hearing of Duchamp’s death in 1968.
Consisting largely of works from the Moderna Museet’s own collection, the exhibition includes a window and a bicycle wheel, both signed by Duchamp and passed off as his own works of art, as well as Picasso’s beautiful “Woman With Blue Collar.”
Even if art critics think it’s wrong to play up the hatred between these two titans of 20th century art, the clash of works makes this far more interesting than trailing around your average national art gallery.
Moderna Museet; Slupskjulsvägen 7, 111 49 Stockholm, Sweden, +46 (0) 8 5195 5200; now through March 3, 2013.
2. Heimo Zobernig -- Madrid
Skip the sprawling, often tedious Prado and make a beeline for the Museo Reina Sofia.
It’s Madrid’s crowning art achievement and home to Picasso’s greatest work -- the emotionally charged "Guernica."
And once you’ve taken that in, then be sure to check out Austrian artist Heimo Zobernig’s retrospective at the Reina Sofia’s Palacio de Velázquez space.
Serving up installations, painting, sculpture and video, this exhibition is all about involving visitors, with the artist looking to question the relationship between his work and those who come to view it.
Expect abstract drawings and vast installations that will leave you dazzled and perhaps even a tad confused.
Museo Reina Sofia; Calle de Santa Isabel, 52, 28012 Madrid, Spain, +34 (0) 917 74 10 00; now through 15 April, 2013.
3. The Angel of the Odd. Dark Romanticism -- Paris
Sure, the term "romanticism" might make you think of consumptive poets and painters flouncing about in 19th-century finery, waffling on about love and life.
But that’s not what Paris’s Musée D’Orsay is dealing with in this exhibition.
This is all about the dark side of romanticism, from obsessions with myths and the occult to the oddities of the everyday.
The always creepy work of Goya leads the way, with works from Ernst and Delacroix alongside Expressionist films shot in the 1920s.
Think depictions of evil, cackling witches and a twisted take on the industrial revolution. Far more fun than your straight-up romantic nonsense, and no mistake.
Musée D’Orsay; 5 Quai Anatole France, 75007 Paris, France, +33 (0) 1 40 49 48 14; March 5-June 9, 2013.
More on CNN: Insider guide -- best of London
4. Rijksmuseum reopening -- Amsterdam
Amsterdam’s more salacious sights are more often than not the No. 1 reason for hitting up the Dutch capital.
But if you prefer culture to coffee shops, then 2013 is the ideal year to visit.
After a decade-long refit that was beset by huge delays thanks to the discovery of asbestos and having to reroute a cycle path (only in the Netherlands), the Rijksmuseum is finally throwing opening its doors in April.
The once staid and, whisper it, dull art space has been completely redesigned, with only Rembrandt’s "The Night Watch" staying in its original spot.
Expect less-stuffy rooms and the chance to see some of Vermeer’s finest work close up.
Rijksmuseum; Jan Luijkenstraat 1, 1071 CJ Amsterdam, Netherlands, +31 (0) 20 67 47 000; from April 14, 2013.
5. Chagall: Modern Master -- Liverpool
Dreary open-top bus trips to Beatles sights is no way to spend your time in northern England’s most vibrant cultural outpost. Fortunately, there are options.
Tate’s Liverpool space has been serving up excellent exhibitions for over 20 years and its Chagall retrospective promises to be a belter.
Focusing on the Russian artist’s time in Paris prior to World War I, his visit to Berlin in 1914 and his return to his homeland in time for the 1917 revolution, this exhibition looks at how the period influenced Chagall throughout the last century, until his death in 1985.
Expressionist and cubist works of peasants and pastoral scenes sit alongside amazing off-kilter self portraits.
Tate Liverpool; Albert Dock, Liverpool Waterfront, Liverpool, L3 4BB, England, +44 (0) 151 702 7400; June 8-October 6 2013.
6. Lowry and the Painting of Modern Life -- London
Next summer’s guaranteed London blockbuster, LS Lowry and the Painting of Modern Life is a must-see for Anglophiles or those with a penchant for the grit and grime of northern England at the start of the 20th century.
On the face of it, paintings of stick men making their way through industrial cityscapes might not sound too appealing. But Lowry was a genius, a true master at capturing a period of English history like no other.
Expect to see classics including "Coming Out Of School" and "Going To The Match."
The latter’s bound to make anyone wonder how walking to a football ground can be romanticized when compared to trudging to some of England’s less salubrious stadia.
Tate Britain; Bankside, London SE1 9TG, England, +44 (0) 20 7887 8888; June 25-October 20, 2013.
7. Frida Kahlo & Her World -- Copenhagen
Best remember that it’s childish to snigger at Kahlo’s infamous monobrow while walking through this vast exhibition.
Detailing Kahlo’s obsession with the portrait and the manner in which she placed herself into her own paintings, this Copenhagen show also includes work by her renowned partner Diego Rivera, as well as other contemporary Mexican artists and stretches on into 2014, giving you plenty of time to save up for a flight to Denmark.
The colourful paintings are truly inspiring up close and give an intimate insight into the life of Mexico’s most controversial and political figures of the last 100 years.
Arken Museum; Skovvej 100, Copenhagen 2635, Denmark, +45 43 54 02 22; September 7, 2013-January 12, 2014.
More on CNN: Insider guide -- the best of Paris