After a year of museum and gallery re-openings, documenta fifteen, and upward trends in the art market, in 2023, contemporary art world aficionados can look forward to a variety of cultural events, exhibitions, art fairs and biennial shows the world over.
Among the classic constants found in the calendar, 2023 has several instances to get the public excited about the upcoming year of art.
From new European Capitals of Culture to long-awaited major exhibition openings to large-scale biennials that welcome the masses, art lovers and art spectators will be spoilt for choice this year.
EUROPEAN CAPITALS OF CULTURE 2023
Timisoara, Eleusis (also known as Elefsina), and Veszprem are the three European Capitals of Culture of 2023.
As part of the cultural events that will take place throughout the year, Timisoara 2023 will host the visual arts exhibition Chronic Desire from Feb 17 to April 23, with works by local and international artists such as Leonor Antunes, Lia Dostlieva and Andrii Dostliev, Shilpa Gupta, Slavs & Tatars, and several others.
Additional exhibitions include a retrospective of work by Romanian surrealist painter and sculptor Victor Brauner and an installation by Adina Pintilie at the Kunsthalle Bega, originally shown at the Romanian Pavilion during the 59th Venice Biennale.
Open Theatre of the Old Olive Mill of Elefsina. Photo: John Stathis
Eleusis 2023 will present innovative, artistic and research-based events with a diverse programme titled Mysteries of Transition.
The opening ceremony, Mystery_0, will take place on Feb 4, 2023. From that point onwards, 465 productions have been planned in 30 locations around the coastal city of Eleusis (also known as Elefsina), located only a short distance from the Greek capital, which held the first-ever European Capital of Culture in 1985.
The artistic vision will cover themes regarding mythology, archaeology, movements, industrial development, and the status of women within the city among several others.
VEB2023. Credit: ©VEB2023 EKF
An exciting addition to Veszprem-Balaton 2023’s programme will be INOTA Festival, a ten-day visual arts and music festival held at the end of August 2023 and located at the Inota Power Plant on the outskirts of the Hungarian city of Várpalota.
Among the various exhibition openings, Vezprem’s Modern Art Gallery will present the solo show Apology by Hungarian artist Gyula Varnai.
His art often investigates the relationship between light and sound creating acoustic and video installations, Varnai represented Hungary at the Venice Biennale in 2017.
SHARJAH BIENNIAL 2023, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES
Mleiha, Sharjah. Photo by Ali Omran. Courtesy of Sharjah Art Foundation
Sharjah Biennial (Feb 7-June11) enters into its 15th edition with the title Thinking Historically In The Present, a project conceived by the late Nigerian curator Okwui Enwezor and curated by Hoor Al Qasimi, the president and director of the Sharjah Art Foundation.
The art biennial will present over 300 works by 160 international artists and collectives, with installations and exhibitions spread over 16 venues in five cities across the country.
This edition will see artworks by Hoda Afshar, Kader Attia, Lubaina Himid, Mona Hatoum, and Philippe Parreno. In addition, there will be a varied programme of films, live music and performances.
SOTHEBY’S, UNITED KINGDOM
In celebration of International Women’s Day on March 8, Sotheby’s London will be staging a series of related events, panel discussions, and sales throughout the month, culminating in a public exhibition and auction dedicated to the work of female artists across 400 years of art history.
In 2022, the number of works by female artists sold at Sotheby’s for over US$1mil increased by over 70% since 2019.
The auction, (Women) Artists, will be on view and open for bidding from March 10 to 16.
In addition to this exciting sale, Sotheby’s will also stage an exhibition of British studio ceramics by women makers from both the UK and abroad, these works will be on show and open for bidding from March 2 to 16.
TATE MODERN, UNITED KINGDOM
Piet Mondrian, Composition in colour A, 1917. Oil on canvas, 50.5 x 45 cm. Collection Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo, the Netherlands
Among Tate’s exhibition highlights, the Tate Modern will host a major exhibition of works by Hilma af Klint and Piet Mondrian, in collaboration with Kunstmuseum Den Haag.
Hilma Af Klint And Piet Mondrian: Forms Of Life (April 20-Sept3) will be the largest presentation of Swedish artist, Hilma af Klint’s works in the UK to date, as well as the first major UK exhibition in over 25 years to highlight Piet Mondrian’s early works alongside his notable grid pieces with primary colours.
This combination of works by the two artists is a must-see for all modern art lovers.
VENICE ARCHITECTURE BIENNALE, ITALY
Biennale di Venezia, 2022. Photo: Joana Abreu
For six months, the Venice Biennale (May 20-Nov26) will host the 18th International Architecture Exhibition curated by Lesley Lokko, with national pavilions and the main exhibition held at the Giardini and Arsenale.
Lokko is an academic, educator, and writer, who, in 2015, founded the Graduate School of Architecture in Johannesburg and, since 2020, is the founder and director of the African Futures Institute.
This year’s title and theme is The Laboratory Of The Future; and more specifically placing Africa at the centre of its focus.
Lokko notes that the idea of a laboratory, in the sense of a workshop, should ask its architects and participants to investigate and question what the future holds.
DARK MOFO, AUSTRALIA
Matthew Schreiber's Leviathan at Dark Mofo, Tasmania, 2020. Photo: Kaimote
The mysterious Dark Mofo (June 8-22) is the winter version of the Mona Foma (Feb 17-19), an arts and music festival organised by Tasmania’s Museum of Old and New Art.
Held mostly during the night-time in the city of Hobart, Dark Mofo is a celebration of the southern winter solstice and the dark side. The first edition took place in 2013.
As well as centuries-old pagan festivities, other events during the two-week festival include art exhibits, large-scale light installations, musical acts, and a winter feast. The festival closes with the annual nude solstice swim.
LIVERPOOL BIENNIAL, UNITED KINGDOM
Charmaine Watkiss, The Matriarch, 2021. Courtesy of the artist
The Liverpool Biennial celebrates its 12th edition (Sept 10-17) with the presentation of UMoya: The Sacred Return Of Lost Things curated by South African independent curator and visual artist Khanyisile Mbongwa along with Liverpool Biennial’s director Dr Samantha Lackey.
UMoya in isiZulu language translates to mean spirit, breath, air, climate and wind, and has been chosen to represent the Biennial’s exploration of the manifestation of power and its movement across the globe.
The Biennial will host works by 30 invited international artists and collectives, who will engage with the edition’s theme of UMoya.
ART BASEL, SWITZERLAND
Art Basel in Basel 2022. Courtesy Art Basel
Founded in 1970 by gallerists Ernst Beyeler, Trudl Bruckner, and Balz Hilt, Art Basel (this year, held from June 15 to 18) is a constant in the art world calendar.
Every year the international art fair welcomes thousands of visitors, ranging in gallerists, artists, collectors, art advisors, and the general public, heavily influencing the contemporary art market and its various components.
Since its beginnings, the model has evolved into several additional art fairs at Miami Beach, Hong Kong, and most recently Paris.
As well as a stage for commercial sales, Art Basel hosts several days of exhibitions, performances, talks and public art pieces.
GWANGJU BIENNALE, SOUTH KOREA
Diving into its 14th edition, Gwangju Biennale’s title this year is soft and weak like water (April 7-July 9).
Founded in 1995, the Biennale has been a driving force in bringing South Korean contemporary art to a global platform. This year’s theme, which includes 58 artists, proposes embracing contradictions and paradoxes.
The theme, as led by artistic director Sook-Kyung Lee, highlights the capacity of art to permeate the individual and collective and at the same time direct through the complexities of the world.
FRIEZE LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM
Thomas Dane Gallery, Frieze London 2022. Photo by Linda Nylind. Courtesy of Frieze and Linda Nylind
Mid-autumn will see the art world go into a frenzy over the annual Frieze London contemporary and modern art fair (Oct 11-15).
Launched in 2003 by the founders of Frieze art magazine, Amanda Sharp and Matthew Slotover, the art fair has grown at an extraordinary rate with the openings of Frieze New York, Frieze Los Angeles, and in 2022, Frieze Seoul.
In the same week during the London edition, there are also Frieze Sculpture and Frieze Masters; each fair specified to its field. Fatos Ustek has been selected as the curator of this year’s Frieze Sculpture, the curator previously held the role of director at the Liverpool Biennial.
Cover Credit: Timothy Taylor, Frieze London 2022 Photo by Linda Nylind. Courtesy of Frieze and Linda Nylind
Writer | Glesni Trefor Williams
Glesni Trefor Williams is a Bologna-based art journalist/translator from North Wales, who focuses her writing on contemporary art and interlinked exhibition spaces. She has written for Lampoon, Spinosa Magazine, and is an arts contributor on BBC Wales radio. @glesniw