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The art world's most exciting international event, the 50th Venice Biennale, opens to the public June 15-Nov. 2, 2003. Biennale curator Francesco Bonami has given the show the overall theme of "Dreams and Conflicts: The Dictatorship of the Viewer" and divided it into 11 independently curated shows. Many of these exhibitions have titles that seem to take their cue from a sense of global crisis, like "Zone of Urgency," "Fault Lines" and "The Structure of Survival," but Bonami's well-known interest in painting is also evident in "Pittura/ Painting."

Of the 64 nations taking part, 27 have work in the national pavilions in the Giardini while the other 37 are scattered throughout the city. Two black artists are taking center stage: Chris Ofili at the British pavilion and Fred Wilson at the U.S. pavilion. According to Kathleen Goncharov, curator at MIT List Visual Arts Center, which is coordinating the U.S. entry, Wilson's installation includes several Old Master paintings of black Africans from Venice collections, as well as contributions from the Venetian Senegalese community and local artisans and guilds (perhaps a chandelier made of black Venetian glass?).

The list of artists in the national pavilions includes Patricia Piccinini (Australia), Bruno Gironcoli (Austria), Silvie Eyberg and Valérie Mannaerts (Belgium), Beatriz Milhazes and Rosngela Rennó (Brazil), Jana Sterbak (Canada), Liu Jianhua, Lu Shengzhong, Wang Shu, Yang Fudong and Zhan Wang (China), Olafur Eliasson (Denmark), Ahmed Nawar (Egypt), Jean-Marc Bustamante (France), Candida Hfer and Martin Kippenberger (Germany), Behrooz Daresh, Abbas Kiarostami, Hossein Khosrojerdi and Ahmad Nadalian (Iran), Katie Holten (Ireland), Michal Rovner (Israel), Motohiko Odani and Yutaka Sone (Japan), Carlos Amorales, Alicia Framis, Meschac Gaba, Jeanne van Heeswijk and Erik van Lieshout (the Netherlands), Michael Stevenson (New Zealand), Mamma Andersson, Kristina Braein and Liisa Lounila (the Nordic countries), Stanislaw Drzdz (Poland), Pedro Cabrita Reis (Portugal), Sergey Bratkov, Vladimir Dubossarsky & Alexander Vinogradov, Valery Koshliakov and Konstantin Zvezdochetov (Russia), Santiago Sierra (Spain), Emmanuelle Antille, Jorg Lenzlinger & Gerda Steiner (Switzerland), Pablo Atchugarry (Uruguay) and Pedro Morales (Argentina).

Two Leone d'oro medals for lifetime achievement have already been awarded to 85-year-old Italian painter Carol Rama and to Arte Povera stalwart Michelangelo Pistoletto.

Europe's newest international exhibition is the Bienal de Valencia 2003, June 6-Sept. 30, 2003, which has the theme of "The Ideal City" and promises to be both a celebration of and investigation into social diversity. The show is spread out through the city, and includes "A & M (Department Stores of Proper Behavior)," organized by Will Alsop and Bruce McLean at the Convento del Carmen; "The Museum of the Imperfect Past," curated by Mike Figgis at the Palace in Calle Exarch; and "The Face, Mirror of Society," put together by Sebastio Salgado at the MUVIM.

"Solares (or On Optimism)," organized by Lrnd Hegyi in 37 vacant lots in the historic city center, includes works by Txomin Badiola, Danica Dakic, Clay Ketter, Matthew McCaslin, Oleg Kulik, Javier Tellez, Richard Nonas, Sergio Belinchon, Dennis Oppenheim, Kim Sooja, Bertrand Lavier, Mihael Milunovich and Gilbert and George. "Micro-Utopias," curated by Francisco Jarauta and Jean Louis Maubant at the Reales Atarazanas, features works by Daniel Buren, Jordi Colomer, Wang Du, Tadashi Kawamata, Atelier van Lieshout, Leonel Moura, Rita McBride, Gordon Matta-Clark, Tobias Rehberger, Jason Rhoades, Jeff Wall and Dan Graham.

Also on tap are theater pieces by Peter Brook, Bigas Luna and Carlos Santos, a show in the city's train stations, bus stations and airport called "Ephemeral Architecture," and an exhibition by 500 children at the Edificio del Reloj called "Can the Children Save Us?"

"Space and Subjectivity" is the subject of the first Prague Biennale, June 26-Aug. 26, 2003, an exhibition curated by Lauri Firstenberg and organized by Flash Art editors Giancarlo Politi and Helena Kontova in conjunction with the National Gallery in Prague. Approximately 200 young artists are participating in a host of separate sections with titles like "Lazarus Effect: New Painting Today," "Superreal" and "Beautiful Banners: Representation, Democracy, Participation."

As for the Gteborg 2nd International Art Biennial in Sweden, it opened on May 24 and runs to Aug. 24. Dubbed "Against All Evens," the show is curated by the Swedish artist Carl Michael von Hausswolff and includes 27 artists from 14 countries. The biennial is on view in the Gteborgs Konsthall, Konstmuseet, Konsthallen and Hasselblad Center, along with some works sited outside in the center of town.

The art world's other most exciting international event, the 34th Art Basel fair -- arguably the leading global marketplace for dealers in 20th-century and contemporary art -- sets up in the lively Swiss city on the Rhine, June 18-23. Some 260 galleries with works by 1,500 artists are expected this time around. In addition to the dealers' booths, the fair features sections devoted to solo shows by young artists ("Art Statements), graphics ("Art Editions") and films by artists ("Art Film").

The special "Art Unlimited" exhibition of large-scale artworks boasts an array of 55 projects that is an exposition in itself, including a 40-ton Single Double Torus by Richard Serra and a special focus of video works, by Olaf Breuning, Anne Lislegaard, Paul Morrison, Zwelethu Mthethwa, Ugo Rondinone and recent Turner Prize nominee Willie Doherty. And it's interesting to note, in this time when many top corporations are cutting back on their philanthropies, that the Swiss bank UBS is sponsoring Art Basel for the 10th year.

Running at the same time as Art Basel is Liste 03, The Young Art Fair, June 17-22, a gathering of 47 galleries from 19 countries at the Wartek Brewery in Basel. Participants from the U.S. include moniquemeloche, Mary Goldman, Spencer Brownstone, Ten in One, Team Gallery, maccarone inc., and Cohan Leslie and Browne.

Specialists in the decorative arts, and fans of exquisite craftsmanship whatever their specialty, look forward to the quartet of antiques fairs that come to London in the month of June. This year's roundup includes:
  • The stylish Summer Fine Art & Antiques Fair at Olympia, which opens with an incredible 400-plus dealers at the Grand National Halls on Hammersmith Road, June 5-15. Now in its 31st year, the event includes specialty dealers and even a limited number of booths dedicated to contemporary art.
  • The Hali Antique Carpet & Textile Art Fair, features about 100 exhibitors from 20 countries at National Hall, Olympia, June 5-8. A special attraction is the "souk," or tented area, which brings a little Oriental exoticism to the Olympia complex.
  • A few days later is the Grosvenor House Art & Antiques Fair, June 11-17. The grand old lady of antiques shows -- it was founded in 1934 -- welcomes 90 dealers in the great room of Grosvenor House hotel on Park Lane.
  • Also at Grosvenor House is the 22nd annual International Ceramic Fair & Seminar, June 13-16, which features exhibitors from seven countries, a loan exhibition and a great slate of lectures by scholars and experts.
Finally, the month isn't a complete wash for London's lovers of contemporary art . The fifth annual Art London June 4-8, presents 60 galleries at the Duke of York's headquarters in London's Chelsea district.