The best way to learn more about a destination is to learn more about its cultural output, and there is no greater cultural experience than a visit to a fine art fair. While certain fairs are quite well-known — Art Basel and the Venice Biennale, among others — there are many others that remain under the radar for the culturally-inclined traveler. Whether you want to learn more about art from Africa or South Asia, we’ve rounded up 11 contemporary art fairs to visit across the globe. Read on and prepare to book your last-minute flights accordingly.
1. Venice Biennale
Venice Biennale (Adobe Stock)
Venice, Italy - April 23 to November 27, 2022
If you’re interested in art, then a trip to the Venice Biennale is an absolute must-do trip (and Italy is always a good idea). One of the most beautiful cities in Europe is made all the more spectacular by this bi-annual exhibit, which showcases countries from across the globe every other year. If visiting in 2022, be sure not to miss the American, Australian, and Danish galleries. And if Venice wasn’t on your agenda for the next six months, now is the time to live la dolce vita.
2. The Armory Show
Illustration of New York (Adobe Stock)
New York, New York - September 9 to 11, 2022
The Armory Show has been a cultural touchpoint in the New York art scene since its establishment in 1994, showcasing the world’s leading international contemporary and modern art galleries. When visiting the annual event this September, be sure to check out Ruiz-Healy Art, which has galleries in New York City and San Antonio. In 2022, Ruiz-Healy Art will be the exclusive representative for the estate of Chuck Ramirez, with a solo booth recreating Ramirez's 1999 Long Term Survivor exhibition at Art Pace San Antonio — individual pieces explore the rituals of sustaining life and desire in the context of the AIDS crisis.
3. India Art Fair
India Gate in New Delhi, India (Adobe Stock)
New Delhi, India - February 9 to 12, 2023
Check out the India Art Fair in New Delhi to experience a wide array of artists and exhibitors from the nation and beyond — roughly 70% of galleries in South Asia are represented year over year. If India has been on your travel bucket list for a long time, this is the perfect time to visit. Famous artists such as Anish Kapoor and Ai Weiwei have been among the exhibitors in past years, and the fair has been known to showcase emerging talent as well. New Delhi is also the perfect place to start off your travels throughout India — and after years of lockdown and travel restrictions, you deserve a once-in-a-lifetime trip (though you will probably be so enchanted by the experience, you will want to return to India again and again).
4. Art Basel Miami Beach
Art Basel Miami Beach (Image © Art Basel)
Miami, Florida - December 1 to 3, 2022
Check out the annual exhibits at Art Basel in Miami for a see-and-be-seen display of modern and contemporary art that showcases emerging artists in an over-the-top fashion that is perfectly suited for Miami. While the art fair is held in Miami Beach, be sure to venture to other destinations in the city to explore some spectacular art, including a trip to visit the spectacular murals at Wynwood Walls and the nearby Museum of Graffiti. If you’re just as interested in nightlife as you are in contemporary art, this is the perfect fair for you. (Plus, who doesn’t want to fly south in the wintertime?)
ZONAMACO Art Fair (Image provided by Zona Maco)
Mexico City, Mexico - February 8 - 12, 2023
Head to the cultural capital of Mexico City to experience ZONAMACO, an annual art fair that occurs in February. The fair is famed for its combination of art and design, and its prominence contributed to Mexico City’s 2018 title of World Design Capital. There’s more to see than painting and sculptures in this contemporary art showcase, as visitors will be able to wander through galleries showcasing furniture, jewelry, and additional decor, as well. And who doesn’t want to fly south to Mexico in the dead of winter? Block off your calendar for the February 2023 dates now! (You will be very happy you did, we promise).
6. Toronto Biennale of Art
Nathan Phillips Square at night in Toronto (Adobe Stock)
Toronto, Canada - March 26 to June 5, 2022
If you weren’t aware that Toronto is a major capital for the arts, we don’t blame you — the Canadian city doesn’t get enough credit for the diversity of exhibits and the regularity of art fairs throughout the year. One of these not-so-hidden gems is The Toronto Biennial of Art, which is back in 2022 after a two-year hiatus and features 27 artists exploring the theme “What the Land Remembers,” with a focus on BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ voices. Other options to check out for art festivals in Toronto include Art Toronto, Luminato Festival Toronto, Toronto’s Outdoor Art Fair, and ArtWorxTO: Toronto’s Year of Public Art.
7. 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair
Illustration of an African Woman (Adobe Stock)
1-54 is the only international art fair dedicated to contemporary art from Africa and the African diaspora. The name 1-54 is a reference to the 54 nations in the continent of Africa and is the most celebrated fair dedicated to African art. There are three annual editions held in London, Marrakech, and New York, as well as a pop-up fair in Paris. So, whether you’re interested in a trip to the states, Europe, or North Africa, there’s something for every traveler looking to book their next culturally-inclined vacation.
8. Contemporary Istanbul
Contemporary Istanbul (Image provided by CI)
Istanbul, Turkey - September 17 t to 18, 2022 (Preview) / September 19 to 23, 2022 (Fair Days)
Head to the Turkish city of Istanbul to experience the 17th Contemporary Istanbul this coming September. Turkey’s annual art fair will debut in a new venue this year, Tersane Istanbul, and will continue to bring together artists from around the world and highlight the contemporary art scene that has emerged in Istanbul in recent decades. While visiting, check out the Arter Museum, in Istanbul’s Dolapdere district, and of course set aside time to explore the wonders of the city. Istanbul is one of the most dynamic and gorgeous cultural capitals in the world, and it never fails to delight. Plus, autumn is a wonderful time to visit — maybe schedule some time in Cappadocia or Bodrum to explore the desert or the coast after getting your art fix.
9. TEFAF Maastricht
TEFAF Maastricht 2020 (Courtesy of TEFAF)
Maastricht, Netherlands - June 25 to 30, 2022
Peruse the work of masters old and new at TEFAF Maastricht, an art fair in the Netherlands dedicated to showcasing thousands of years of art history. The first fair was held in 1988, and attracted 70,000 visitors in 2019 alone. Renowned for presenting the finest art across the globe, TEFAF Maastricht has been called “the greatest fair in the world” by Old Master dealer Johnny van Haeften — and he should know. The art on the display spans categories through the centuries, and the fair is the perfect reason to explore further afield in the Netherlands — after all, there is more to the nation than Amsterdam alone (though the city is well worth a visit, too, of course). One visit to TEFAF Maastricht will have you convinced that if it ain’t Dutch, it ain’t much. Happy travels!
10. Frieze New York
Frieze Sculpture 2021 (Adobe Stock)
New York, New York - May 18 to 22, 2022
If you’re interested in exploring ambitious presentations by the leading galleries in the world, then the Frieze Art Fair — with outposts in London, New York, and Los Angeles — is your best bet. As for our personal recommendation, we suggest heading to New York in the springtime. Held at The Shed in the past two years, the fair features up-and-coming talent and ambitious installations from over 65 major galleries — with an emphasis on New York artists, as well. Be sure to head up to the top floor, as well, as sponsors offer their wares and refreshments. We recommend ordering a cocktail from Maestro Dobel, which has been the Official Tequila of Frieze North America for the past two years. Art is best appreciated after a cocktail, after all.
11. Art SG
Sunset in Singapore (Adobe Stock)
Singapore - January 12 to 15, 2023
If you’re interested in learning more about the art world in Southeast Asia, then book a trip to Singapore to attend the first-annual Art SG this coming January. Located in Marina Bay Sands Expo and Convention Center in the city’s financial district, Art SG will showcase 100+ international art galleries, as well as installations, experiential film, performances and scheduled talks. Three gallery sections — GALLERIES, FOCUS, and FUTURES — will display an array of international content, with a highlight on the Southeast Asian contemporary arts. The event is dedicated to fostering a cultural dialogue across Southeast Asia and the Asia Pacific region and is the perfect opportunity for artistically-inclined travelers to learn more about the gorgeous destination of Singapore.