VENICE The worth of Hirst
Damien Hirst shook up Britain’s moribund art world with rock’n’roll pizzazz when he burst onto the scene in 1988. Now Britain’s most successful living artist is preparing his riskiest show yet. It’s been ten years in the making and its contents are a closely guarded secret; other than underwater treasure amid shoals of silvery fish and a huge statue with an elaborate hairdo, the teaser video gives little away. The show is housed in two Venetian palaces on the Grand Canal. Both have been remodelled into galleries by the luxury-goods billionaire and Hirst fan, François Pinault. In recent years, more has been written about Hirst’s enormous prices than of the quality of his work. This show opens in the glare of publicity that is the Venice Biennale. As the international art world gathers, this is a chance to assess his worth.
Palazzo Grassi and Punta della Dogana, from Apr 9th
KERALA Trumpeting for Shiva
When the Moon rises with the pooram star, the gods of ten Hindu temples converge in Thrissur, a city close to India’s southern tip, to pay homage to Lord Shiva. They travel on elephants, accompanied by their devotees, to celebrate Thrissur Pooram. The air is filled with music played by an orchestra of drums, cymbals and the curved kombu trumpet. The festival climaxes in a spectacular showdown between competing congregations: each marshals a battalion of 15 elephants clad in bejewelled caparisons. As the opposing ranks face off, their handlers perform an elaborate dance, producing rows of coloured parasols, before the battery begins and the night is filled with fireworks.
Thrissur, May 5th-6th
MOSCOW An arty Garage sale
When Russia’s revolutionaries took power in 1917, its artists stood at the forefront of the international avant-garde. A century on, more than 60 artists will descend on Garage, Moscow’s leading modern art museum, for the first Triennial of Russian Contemporary Art which, Garage hopes, will help to kick-start the next Russian avant-garde. The exhibition features artists whose work captures the zeitgeist. It will be on display in the Rem Koolhaas-designed building in Gorky Park. Visitors can then pop across the street to the Tretyakov Gallery’s contemporary wing, home to original avant-garde classics, including Kazimir Malevich’s famed Black Square.
March 10th-May 14th
SWAZILAND Beats in the bush
For the tiny kingdom of Swaziland, the yearly Bushfire festival is a big deal. Some 25,000 people converge on a farm near the capital, Mbabane, for three days of African music and culture. The festival site is nestled in a valley, surrounded by sugar-cane and pineapple fields with views of the Mdzimba mountains. Some of the continent’s best performers come to play: last year’s highlights included Zimbabwe legend Oliver Mtukudzi, and Songhoy Blues, a Malian desert-punk band. It is a relaxed, family-friendly affair. Festival-goers camp out, or stay in traditional Swazi beehive huts at the nearby Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary, set among grazing warthogs and zebras. Proceeds from the festival go to worthy local charities and there are educational workshops for schoolchildren and teachers.
LONDON AND NORTH AMERICA Still in the Pink
Fans of Pink Floyd will have been amused to see a large inflatable pig floating above the V&A museum last summer. A nod to one of the group’s most famous album covers, it served as an announcement: Pink Floyd are coming to town. With over 350 items of band ephemera, the V&A’s exhibition will chronicle the pioneering music, visuals and staging of Pink Floyd, from their start in the underground psychedelic scene of 1960s London up to the present. For those who cringe at the thought of Pink Floyd making their museum debut, fear not. Roger Waters is still alive and kicking: this May, he’s putting out a new album – his first in 25 years – and going on tour across North America. He’s calling it the “Us + Them” tour.
Their Mortal Remains, May 13th-Oct 1st, Us + Them tour from May 26th