The Art of Travel

An appreciation of art and an eagerness to experience it first hand has long enthused international travellers and today that passion is further fuelled by an explosion of interest in contemporary art.

A fast-expanding range of galleries, art fairs and both public and private museums showcases the very best of contemporary and modern art, making this dynamic market place ever more compelling, and appealing to an affluent, savvy crowd: art aficionados who can combine their interest with inspiring journeys.

Gerhard Richter tapestries formerly on show in New York

The contemporary art world’s annual calendar provides numerous opportunities for exciting worldwide exploration. Start the year at New York’s Armory show, continue on to Art Basel Hong Kong before heading to the East Coast of the USA for Frieze New York. After this, head to Europe for Art Basel in June, Frieze London and FIAC Paris, both in October, before concluding the year by returning to the USA for Art Basel Miami in early December. These events are just the headliners: interspersed among them are retrospectives, gallery openings and significant auctions.

It’s a big social scene on St Barths

There are year-round parties too. Big name collectors assemble in St Barths for Larry Gagosian’s New Year’s Eve party (this art dealer extraordinaire, with galleries in 16 locations from Asia to the USA, is estimated to clear $1 billion in annual sales) and many guests will follow on to Los Angeles for his Oscar-timed party in March. In the summer the opening of the Serpentine Pavilion brings the great and good of the art world to London before the fortunate few continue on to the Greek island of Hydra at the invitation of collector and patron Pauline Karpidas, for an August party at her waterfront gallery.

The Kerry James Marshall show at the Met Breuer, New York

Ms Karpidas is just one of many wealthy women making their mark in contemporary art. The international art world has been greatly enhanced by the arrival of collectors and curators such as Dasha Zhukova, founder of the Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, Russia’s influential private art foundation.

In Miami, Mera Rubell’s private gallery showcases the works she and her husband Don buy at auction in London and New York; while Rosa de la Cruz and her husband Carlos not only have a private museum but also allow by-appointment viewings of their home. In Venezuela, Patricia Phelps de Cisneros has spent four decades building her extensive collection, based primarily on works of Modernist geometric abstraction from Latin America. These women, along with many others, such as Ingvild Goetz in Germany, Francesca von Habsburg in Vienna and Patrizia Sandretto Re Rebaudengo in Italy have changed the artistic landscape, introducing more women to contemporary art.

Where many of the art crowd like to stay in London

As well as breaking down traditional barriers, contemporary art is expanding global horizons, providing aesthetes with exciting new reasons to combine culture and exploration. New museum openings in 2017 included the Institute of Contemporary Art in both Los Angeles and Miami, the latter joining the city’s flagship Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM); while last autumn it was the turn of Museum MACAN in Jakarta, Indonesia and, perhaps the most thrilling of all, the much-anticipated Zeitz MOCAA in Cape Town.

A typical art crowd London private club

Zeitz MOCAA is a former concrete grain silo in the vibrant V&A Waterfront transformed into a museum housing the continent’s largest collection of African art. Designed by London-based Thomas Heatherwick, the museum includes a luxury 28-room hotel, The Silo, which we reviewed last November. The museum’s founding collection is on loan from contemporary art collector Jochen Zeitz, former CEO of sports and leisure brand Puma, and consists purely of 21st-century works.

One of three top hotels to be seen at during the Venice Biennale

Contemporary art continues to flourish in London, Europe’s most significant art destination, with an extensive range of galleries. Alongside established favourites such as White Cube, Timothy Taylor, and Sadie Coles HQ, newer venues include Damien Hirst’s Newport Street Gallery in Lambeth, winner of the 2016 RIBA Stirling Prize for the best new building in the UK; and New Yorker Marian Goodman’s eponymous gallery in Soho. French dealer Almine Rech opened her gallery in Grosvenor Hill in autumn 2016, joining Larry Gagosian’s vast space in this most select area of Mayfair. In April 2017 Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac added even more contemporary punch to Dover Street, opening in the magnificent former Georgian mansion of the Bishop of Ely, newly remodelled by New York-based architect Annabelle Selldorf.

We love staying here and ‘doing’ Maxxi, Rome

From South Africa to South America and across Europe and Asia the opportunities to combine a passion for art with a love of travel are compelling. Art reminds us, as writer Alain de Botton notes, that travel is about people as much as places. The sunflowers of Provence instantly evoke Vincent Van Gogh, while for followers of art and architecture Florida’s capital, Miami, is awash not only with the alluring curves of Art Deco but with modern constructions by designers Zaha Hadid, Piero Lissoni and Herzog & de Meuron.

It helps to know chef Umberto Bombana during Art Basel Hong Kong

So consider combining a trip to Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront with a safari in the Masai Mara or discover Shanghai’s newly vibrant art scene while experiencing wider Chinese culture. Explore the extraordinary Mayan ruins at Chichen Itza in the Yucatán Peninsula before heading to the David Chipperfield-designed Museo Jumex in Mexico City; or conclude a visit to Art Basel Miami with a pre-Christmas week sailing in the Bahamas or reclining on the soft sands at your Parrot Cay villa on the Turks & Caicos islands. In Italy, yachting down the Adriatic coast to Croatia or relaxing on a sumptuous estate in the bucolic hills and vineyards of Tuscany and Umbria are perfect respites after the joyful madness of the Venice Biennale.

And for those interested in the Holy Land, combine Jerusalem and the Galilee with a stay in Tel Aviv for cool dining and contemporary art.

African contemporary art is significant and perfect to combine with a safari

Tel Aviv has a cool art scene

An extended itinerary offering privileged access to the glamour and elegance of the art world surely provides culturally minded travellers with yet another perfect reason to explore.