10 Great Art Festivals From Around the World

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Bucket List Worthy  

Photo Courtesy of Art Basel
Photo Courtesy of Art Basel

For many art lovers, a great art festival can be a truly enriching, eye-opening experience. A festival provides them with an opportunity to experience classic works of art, while exploring new, emerging art forms and styles as well. A good art fair will introduce attendees to a new breed of artist, sharing their art alongside the great masters of the past. When you combine an art festival with a travel experience, it can result in a fantastic merging of culture and creativity that can be both educational and inspiring in so many ways. With that in mind, here are ten great art festivals that are definitely worth traveling for. 

1. Art Basel (Switzerland & Miami)

Widely considered to be amongst the premiere art shows in the entire world, Art Basel began in Basel, Switzerland in 1970, and soon became the place for curators and patrons to discover fresh new talent. The show draws art collectors from across the globe on an annual basis, and features works from 4000 artists, represented by more than 300 galleries from North America, Latin America, Europe, and Asia. The event has grown so popular, that in 2002 organizers launched Art Basel Miami, which has already become almost as influential as its sister festival. Both shows display an array of fine works of modern art, as well as a popular series of lectures and panel discussions.

2. The Venice Biennial (Italy)

One of the most prestigious art festivals in all of Europe, if not the world, the Venice Biennial is held just once every two years. Since 1895, the most promising young artists from across the globe have descended on Venice, Italy to share their most important and creative works. The modern festival covers architecture, cinema, dance, music, and the theater as well, and yet it remains an important place for the buying and selling of contemporary art in its many forms. More than 300,000 people attended the last  festival, held in 2013, and even more are expected when it opens again next year.

Photo Courtesy of Hong Kong International Art Fair
Photo Courtesy of Hong Kong International Art Fair

3. Hong Kong International Art Fair

Launched in 2007, the Hong Kong International Art Fair was designed to turn Asia’s most dynamic and cosmopolitan city into a global art hub. To say it has succeeded would be an understatement to say the least. At the beginning, the festival garnered modest attention, but it has since exploded onto the art scene, attracting 300 galleries, and more than 70,000 art lovers at its most recent show. The festival is well known for being a crossroads of talent from both the east and west, allowing collectors, curators, and fans of modern art to enjoy a blend of styles and cultural influences from across the globe. In 2013, the fair evolved into Art Basal in Hong Kong, and it continues to grow in scope and significance.

4. ARCO Madrid (Spain)

Founded in 1982, ARCO Madrid quickly grew into one of the best art festivals in all of Europe, annually attracting collectors, curators, and art lovers from around the world. The first two days of the week-long festival are dedicated to the buying and selling of the art that is on display, with more than 250 buyers on hand to snatch up the best pieces for museums and private collections. Later, it opens to the general public as well, offering attendees the chance to catch a glimpse of the works of some of the most important and influential artists working today, as well as the raw, new talent that is emerging on the scene.

Photo Courtesy of Art Dubai
Photo Courtesy of Art Dubai

5. Art Dubai (United Arab Emirates)

One of the newest festivals on this list, Art Dubai has only been around since 2006, but has already grown to easily become one of the premiere art festivals in the Middle East. With a focus on contemporary art from across the region, as well as North Africa, and South Asia, Art Dubai has become known as a great festival for collectors looking to discover emerging talent from parts of the world that are often under-represented in other big shows. With an emphasis on diversity and quality, this festival has become a haven for artists looking to showcase their talent in new, and unique, ways. It has also allowed Middle Eastern artists to breakdown stereotypes and share their talent with an audience that may not have had a chance to see it before.

6. Vivid Sydney (Australia)

Traveling art-lovers looking for a truly unique art scene need to put Vivid Sydney on their radar. This festival seamlessly weaves art, light, and music into a mesmerizing display that simply must be seen to be believed. Vivid Sydney truly comes alive at night, when the bright, colorful displays shine in sharp contrast to darkness that surrounds them. The combination of artwork, music and creative lighting has made this a popular event, even amongst those who wouldn’t traditionally go to an art festival.  The 2014 edition of Vivid Sydney set a record for attendance, with more than 1.4 million people taking part in the event over an 18-day period.

Photo Credit: Nigel Howe via WikiMedia
Photo Credit: Nigel Howe via WikiMedia

7. Kilkenny Arts Festival (Ireland)

The Kilkenny Arts Festival, held annual in Kilkenny, Ireland, is a seamless blend of visual arts, theater, music, dance, and so much more. It is the oldest festival of its kind in the country, with a history that dates back more than 40 years. The festival annually draws some of the best artistic talent from the U.K. and beyond, with actors, musicians, and artists all sharing the stage. The festival runs for 10 days each August, and has more than 45,000 attendees, and while it began with a focus on classical music, over the years it has grown to encompass so many other aspects of the arts as well.

8. The Armory Show (New York)

Held in New York City each March, The Armory Show takes over Piers 92 and 94 in Manhattan for four extraordinary days. The festival is a showcase of the works of some of the most important artists of the past century, as well as emerging artists that are leading the way forward today. It is not uncommon, for example, to find a Picasso or Pollock on display here, nor is it unusual to see the works of a creative artist who is influencing the modern art scene in unique ways. This festival has grown to such importance, that several smaller art fairs pop up around NYC at the same time, and the city’s major museums will hold events to cater to the thousands of art lovers who are in attendance.

9. TEFAF Maastricht (The Netherlands)

First started back in 1975, The European Fine Art Foundation’s (TEFAF) art fair, held annually in Maastricht in the Netherlands, may be the premiere place for buying and selling fine art and antiques in the entire world. The show goes to great lengths to provide security and authenticity to buyers, who can spend millions of dollars on single work of art. This is a festival for the serious collector, or for museum curators looking to improve their holdings. Casual art lovers can attend as well, although the entry fee is a bit high. But walking the halls of the festival can be akin to walking through a great museum, with exceptional works of art on display from some of the most famous artists of all times.

Photo Courtesy of Echigo-Tsumari
Photo Courtesy of Echigo-Tsumari

10. Echigo-Tsumari Art Festival (Japan)

One of the most unique art shows in the entire world is the Echigo-Tsumari Art Festival, held every three years in Japan. The festival puts an emphasis on man living in harmony with nature, and as a result, the art displays are set up outside, and in more than 200 small villages. This makes Echigo-Tsumari one of the largest festivals in the world, and puts it in a class all its own in terms of the number of displays. More than 300 artists from around the globe submit their works, with input being given on how to best integrate those works into the rural landscapes. It is a fun, unusual, and brilliant event for all who attend. The next Echigo-Tsumari Art Festival is scheduled to take place in 2015, so start planning to attend now.

About the Author: Kraig Becker

Kraig Becker is a freelance outdoor and adventure travel writer who covers extreme sports, mountaineering and active travel. Based out of Austin, TX he writes about his own travels while encouraging others to seek their own opportunities for adventure where ever they go.

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