Five major art biennials and fairs to pencil into your diary next year

The national pavilion of New Zealand at the Venice Biennale in 2013. -- PHOTO: VENICE BIENNALE
The national pavilion of New Zealand at the Venice Biennale in 2013. -- PHOTO: VENICE BIENNALE
A seashell sculpture by British artist Marc Quinn at last year’s Venice Biennale. -- PHOTO: BT FILE
A seashell sculpture by British artist Marc Quinn at last year’s Venice Biennale. -- PHOTO: BT FILE
Lawyer-gallerist Valerie Cheah and Japanese Pop artist Takashi Murakami at Art Basel in Hong Kong this year. -- PHOTO: VALERIE CHEAH
Lawyer-gallerist Valerie Cheah and Japanese Pop artist Takashi Murakami at Art Basel in Hong Kong this year. -- PHOTO: VALERIE CHEAH
Artworks on display at Frieze London 2014, a contemporary art fair. -- PHOTO: LINDA NYLIND/ FRIEZE
Artworks on display at Frieze London 2014, a contemporary art fair. -- PHOTO: LINDA NYLIND/ FRIEZE
Gajah Gallery displays at Art Basel in Hong Kong 2014. -- PHOTO: JESSICA HROMAS
Gajah Gallery displays at Art Basel in Hong Kong 2014. -- PHOTO: JESSICA HROMAS

It is not unusual for curious travellers to sneak in a day or more of art and culture when on vacation. But the rise and growing prominence of art biennials and fairs have turned them into a force to behold. Cultural pride and ambition for international recognition have spurred many cities to organise their own non-commercial biennials, while the hunger for art-collecting has led to the burgeoning of commercial fairs.

For the time-starved art lover, here are five major art biennials and fairs to pencil into your diary next year.


Art Basel in Hong Kong

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When: March 15 to 17

This is the third outpost of the leading modern and contemporary art fair Art Basel, which is also held in Switzerland and Miami Beach. More than half of the galleries at this Hong Kong fair have exhibition spaces in Asia-Pacific to ensure that the fair represents the region.

Art lovers from Asia, however, will unlikely be bored by familiar, mediocre works because the stakes are too high; galleries have to bring their A game to win a coveted spot at the fair.

And when one needs to take a break from all the art and art shopping, the food offerings in this city do not disappoint.

Venice Biennale

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When: May 9 to Nov 22

Hundreds of thousands descend on this highly anticipated art exhibition, founded in 1895, every two years.

At its last edition, a record 475,000 visitors took in the envelope-pushing exhibition, which was sprawled over The Giardini, the gardens east of the city, and the Arsenale, a complex of former shipyards and armories.

Next year's edition, curated by the influential Nigeria-born art critic, journalist and writer Okwui Enwezor, is titled All The World's Futures and it seeks to explore how artists of all disciplines can bring the public to contemplate the various upheavals of this time in history.

At the biennale, 95 countries will also present artists and exhibitions at their own country pavilions.

Singapore, which sat out the last edition of the biennale, will be back and represented by artist Charles Lim and curator Shabbir Hussain Mustafa.

Istanbul Biennial

When: Sept 5 to Nov 1

For those curious about art and emerging artists from the cultural crossroads of the Middle East, Europe and Asia, this exhibition in Turkey promises to satisfy. Founded in 1987, it is among the most comprehensive international art exhibitions organised in Turkey and the region.

The upcoming edition, helmed by prominent American curator Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, is titled Saltwater: A Theory Of Thought Forms. The theme, which aims to get artists and visitors to consider various aspects of water and how it shapes and transforms the world, is apropos to Istanbul; the Turkish city is split by the Bosphorus strait, which demarcates the continents of Europe and Asia.

Frieze London

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When: Oct 14 to 17

Borne out of the cutting-edge art magazine frieze in 2003, the contemporary art fair has since gained a reputation in the art world for being the place to spot the Next Big Thing in art, given the density of work on show at the fair, as well as at gallery openings around the city and sales at big auction houses such as Christie's and Sotheby's. Its success led to a spin-off in New York City in 2012.

The fair is a magnet for artists, museum directors, curators and moneyed collectors from around the world, so those who enjoy rubbing shoulders with art world royalty will be thrilled.

Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art

When: Nov 21 to April 10, 2016

The once-in-three-years event is a flagship showcase of contemporary art by the Queensland Art Gallery and Gallery of Modern Art. Since its start in 1993, the triennial has become one of the most influential exhibitions in the region by presenting works from leading artists across Asia, the Pacific, and Australia.

The concept for the upcoming exhibition is inspired by the increasingly interdisciplinary and mobile nature of contemporary art throughout the region, and special attention is paid to the body and its representation through performance, movement and drawing.