22 European art festivals to blow your mind 
Since the beginning of the 14th century, when the Renaissance movement swept the continent and marked the beginning of the Modern Age, Europe has proven to be a stronghold of fine arts, cultural heritage, humanism, science and aesthetics. Today, the world of art is a part of our lives, influencing us, guiding us and interacting with us through various forms, in a traditional/offline or futuristic/online manner.
Every year Europe celebrates the arts in various ways conjuring society to participate actively in the preservation and development of the cultural heritage. Museums, art galleries, alternative spaces and cities themselves, become the ambassadors of this calling, moving artists, makers, thinkers and curious people alike, to connect and to share the experience of art.
You can find a lot of amazing artistic side-events and performances at Europe’s music festivals, but here’s a list of 22 art festivals to blow your mind! Blending the old with the new, performing arts with visual arts, focusing on the study and application of the arts on the human environment, these festivals are all that art-lover inside of you wants. 🎨 🎭 💖
The list is open for updates, so drop a comment if your favourite art festival is not here.
[UPDATE: See the 2019 list here]
2 – 6 May 2018
Pictoplasma Festival transforms Berlin into the world’s most vibrant meeting point for a diverse scene of artists and creatives, trailblazing the face of tomorrow’s visual culture. While international creators and producers meet for a central conference to exchange strategies for tomorrow’s figurative representation, the wider festival showcases latest trends in character design and art, cutting-edge screenings bring the latest animation eye-candy to the big screen, and numerous exhibitions throughout the city invite all to experience original works and outstanding character craftsmanship.
First confirmed speakers include Jim Stoten (UK), Alberto Vásquez (SP), Charlotte Mei (UK), Sophia Jansson (FI), Victor Castillo (CL), Kévin Gemin (FR) and Danette Beatty(USA).
5 – 12 May 2018
Since 2007 the ZUKUNFTSVISIONEN Festival (ZuVi) has been established at the Polish-German border in the town of Görlitz. Each year, it is organised by a team of dedicated, creative and courageous volunteers. The festival has intentionally picked the issue of local vacancies as its central topic and is hence annually being held in a vacant building, to point out the potential hiding in abandoned buildings. It offers a platform for regional as well as international artists of the contemporary art scene. This call for entries is directed at established as well as upcoming artists still at the beginning of their careers. During the festival week, the exhibition is framed by a versatile program of side events. We are aiming to create a place of encounter. A place free of prejudice, for creative production and multicultural exchange.
Gütesiegel – Ungut (Seal of quality – Ungut) represents the Leitmotif of the ZUKUNFTSVISIONEN2018.
Call for entry: the ZUKUNFTSVISIONEN2018 Festival of Contemporary Arts is looking for participating artists! Everywhere in society, we are confronted with standards by which we are supposed to measure ourselves and others. Scales that we use to judge actions, labels that we assign. Ranking, comparing, valuing. But who determines these values? Who decides what is good and what is bad for people, cities and society? Görlitz is a place, which is defined by efforts of conversion and transformation. Does this quest for change mean that the current state has been categorized as unsatisfactory, as ungut (not good)? Does this turn the area into an Ungut (a good without use for the owner), into something, which you want to get rid of? How does an Ungut turn into a good? And which meanings do these terms hold for the individual and for the whole of society Following this Leitmotiv, we are looking for artists, who can use the following webform to apply from the 11th of January till the 3rd of March 2018 with their art (applications by mail are not accepted, please use the link above!). More detailed information regarding the application process and the festival can be found on our website. We look forward to receiving your applications! email: firstname.lastname@example.org
5 – 27 May 2018
Brighton Festival is an annual celebration of music, theatre, dance, circus, art, film, literature, debate, outdoor and family events – taking place in venues both familiar and unusual across Brighton & Hove for three weeks every May. Established in 1967, Brighton Festival has become one of the city’s most enduring symbols of inventiveness and celebration over the past half-century. Brighton Festival is produced and delivered by the same team that runs the city’s leading arts venue, the Grade I listed Brighton Dome.
The Guest Director for Brighton Festival 2018 is the Brighton-based visual artist David Shrigley.
11 May – 17 June 2018
When it started in the 1950s, the Wiener Festwochen laid several important foundations for creating a new image for Vienna, both nationally and internationally. After Vienna and Austria had been isolated by Austrofasciscm and Nazism, it was necessary to reconnect with the world, to integrate the city and the country into the international discourse of art and culture, to promote life, openness, and the idea of a future. The Wiener FestWochen is positioned as a multidisciplinary art festival in the city. Among Vienna’s varied and tightly-packed cultural offerings, the point is to present and allow things not yet seen and not yet heard and to work as a content engine linking genres, thoughts, and ideas.
23 May – 6 June 2018
The Bergen International Festival (Festspillene i Bergen) was established in 1953 and is the largest of its kind in the Nordic countries. It is the longest standing and the foremost music and theatre festival in Norway. With a combination of dramatic landscapes, local colour and imaginative programming, the festival is well established as a centre for the northern European art scene, presenting premieres and new productions in the spheres of music, opera, theatre and dance. Each year some 250 events are staged in the course of 15 days in 20 venues, including the homes of Edvard Grieg and Ole Bull.
The full program for Bergen International Festival 2018 will be announced Monday, 12th February.
6. OFFF 2018
24 – 26 May 2018
During the past 17 years, OFFF Festival hosted innovative and international speakers, offline/online designers, motion designers, thinkers, sound designers, graphic designers, theorists, developers, professionals and students. OFFF is a way of understanding creativity through conferences, workshops, activities and performances from artists all over the world.
26 May – 25 November 2018
Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara are the curators of the 16th International Architecture Exhibition, that will take place from May 26th to November 25th, 2018 (Preview May 24th and 25th) in the Giardini and the Arsenale, and around other venues in Venice. The Biennale Architettura 2018 will be titled Freespace, a word which describes a generosity of spirit and a sense of humanity at the core of architecture’s agenda, focusing on the quality of space itself.
With the theme of Freespace, the Biennale Architettura 2018 will present for public scrutiny examples, proposals, elements – built or unbuilt – of work that exemplifies essential qualities of architecture which include the modulation, richness and materiality of the surface; the orchestration and sequencing of movement, revealing the embodied power and beauty of architecture.
TBA May 2018
Athens Digital Arts Festival celebrates digital culture through an annual gathering bringing together a global community of artists and audiences. The festival aims to encourage, stimulate and promote all aspects of digital creativity by hosting local as well as international artists and communities. Through its multidisciplinary program Athens Digital Arts Festival offers a wide range of exhibitions, screenings, live performances, workshops and international tributes showcasing artworks that display distinctive characteristics of the digital medium and reflect on its language and aesthetics.
The 14th edition of Athens Digital Arts Festival aims at exploring the unknown future of the upcoming Technological Apocalypse through art, science and technology, under the theme “SINGULARITY NOW“.
9. SCOPE Basel
12 – 17 June 2018
Celebrating its 12th Anniversary, SCOPE Basel returns to SCOPE Haus. A brief 5-minute walk from Art Basel (Messeplatz), SCOPE Basel’s well-appointed venue offers collectors the most convenient and ideal view of the contemporary art world available nowhere else. SCOPE Basel will welcome 70 International Exhibitors alongside 10 Breeder Program galleries.
13 – 16 June 2018
Sónar+D is the international conference for creativity and technology, designed to promote talent and business opportunities in the digital culture. Since 2013, this antidisciplinary meeting of communities and iconic names brings together in Barcelona leading artists, creative technologists, musicians, filmmakers, designers, thinkers, scientists, entrepreneurs, makers and hackers.
11. Art Basel
14 – 17 June 2018
Since 1970, Art Basel‘s goal has been to connect the world’s premier galleries and their patrons, as well serving as a meeting point for the international art world. Now, over forty years later, its three fairs – in Basel, Hong Kong and Miami Beach – rank as the premier shows of their kind, presenting 20th and 21st-century art with a strong curatorial perspective. Exhibitions and events are also offered by cultural institutions in Basel and the surrounding area, creating an exciting, region-wide art week.
22 June – 7 July 2018
Greenwich+Docklands International Festival (GDIF) is London’s leading festival of free outdoor performing arts (theatre, dance, and street arts), an annual celebration of extraordinary outdoor events that transform people’s lives. GDIF has been growing every year and in 2017, the Festival featured over a hundred performances by dozens of national and international artists with more than 100,000 people attending the outdoor shows in South and East London.
In the photo above you can see one of 2017’s installations, Luke Jerram’s Museum of the Moon. This 7-metre diameter moon features 120dpi detailed NASA imagery of the lunar surface.
6 – 24 July 2018
The 72nd edition of the Festival d’Avignon will take place from July 6th to 24th, 2018. A popular and contemporary artistic adventure founded in 1947 by Jean Vilar, the Avignon Festival is today one of the most important contemporary performing arts events in the world. Every year in July, Avignon becomes a city-theatre, transforming its architectural heritage into various performance venues, majestic or surprising, welcoming tens of thousands of theatre-lovers (over 130,000 admissions) of all ages. Its legendary space is the “Cour d’honneur” (main courtyard) of the Popes’ Palace, the heart of outdoor performances, before nearly 2,000 spectators, on summer nights in Provence.
16 – 29 July 2018
Galway International Arts Festival has been connecting audiences and artists for almost four decades. Founded in 1978, it has grown into an event with a major reputation where, in 2017, over 200 events took place in 33 venues over the course of 14 days with an attendance in excess of 210,000. The Guardian named the festival as one of the Top 5 Summer Festivals in Europe. The festival presents and produces programmes of the highest quality across all art forms featuring theatre, music, visual arts, opera, street spectacle, dance, discussion, comedy and is committed to develop and produce new content which tours internationally.
The 41st edition of Galway International Arts Festival takes place from 16-29 July 2018 and the full programme will be announced in May. Among the early announcements are: one of the most prominent bands of the late 1970s and early 1980s, Madness, or The Nutty Boys as they are commonly known; double platinum selling indie rock band Walking on Cars, who will play the Festival Big Top on Saturday 21 July; indie sensation Caribou, who are set to play their only Irish gig of the summer on Saturday 28 July; Choice Music prize winner Gavin James; the hugely popular Kodaline, who have already sold out; and Irish National Opera, who will present a new opera production of Orfeo ed Euridice. Galway International Arts Festival also produces its own theatre productions and exhibitions and tours them nationally and internationally. In the last five years, the organisation has produced or co-produced 15 productions and, with its co-producing partners, has toured to London, Paris, New York, Edinburgh, Chicago, Adelaide, Sydney, Hong Kong and Washington.
GIAF’s Chief Executive is John Crumlish and its Artistic Director is Paul Fahy.
Upfest 2017 Buffmonster © Paul Box C
28 – 30 July 2018
Upfest 2018, Europe’s largest, free, street art & graffiti festival, attracting over 300 artists painting over 40 venues throughout Bedminster & Southville, Bristol will take place from 28th to 30th July. Talented artists travel from 45 countries and across the UK to paint live on 50,000sqft of surfaces in front of 40,000 visitors. The affordable art sale, music stages, and art workshops round off a visually spectacular weekend!
Upfest is a multi-venue urban festival with the 1.3km stretch of North Street in Bedminster at its centre, connecting venues and painting locations. The multi-venue urban setting has given the festival its transient feel, with visitors encouraged to explore and find what’s around the next corner. Also, the Upfest Gallery on North Street, Bedminster is open year-round with exhibitions from leading urban and street artists.
BUFF MONSTER was in town and left his mark in 2017, as you can see in the photo above.
3 – 27 August 2018
The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is the single biggest celebration of arts and culture on the planet. Every August for three weeks the city of Edinburgh, Scotland’s capital, welcomes an explosion of creative energy from around the globe. The Fringe is an open-access festival where anyone is welcome to perform provided they have a venue willing to host them. With 53,232 performances of 3,398 shows in 300 venues in 2017, there are quite literally thousands of reasons to visit the festival.
From big names in the world of entertainment to unknown artists looking to build their careers, the festival caters for everyone and includes theatre, comedy, dance, physical theatre, circus, cabaret, children’s shows, musicals, opera, music, spoken word, exhibitions and events.
17 August – 2 September 2018
Helsinki Festival is the largest arts festival in Finland, organised annually in late summer. The festival’s aim is to make art accessible for all. The programme line-up features classical and world music, theatre, dance, circus and visual arts as well as a range of urban events and it will be published in April. The Night of the Arts is next arranged on August 23rd, 2018.
24 – 26 August 2018
The Museum Embankment Festival, or “Museumsufer Fest” in German, is an annually held festival on the banks of the River Main, and it attracts more than 3 million visitors every year. It’s structured as a tribute to the museum landscape of the city, made as a unique combination of art, theatre, music, dance and cuisine.
6 – 10 September 2018
Art, technology, society. Since 1979, Ars Electronica has sought out interlinkages and congruities, causes and effects. The ideas circulating here are innovative, radical and eccentric, in the best sense of that term. They influence our everyday life – our lifestyle, our way of life, every single day. Ars Electronica’s four elements – the FESTIVAL, the PRIX, the CENTER and the FUTURELAB – provide it with a well-balanced structure that is conducive to its international orientation while still enabling it to meet the needs of the local community. Thus, more than any other institution, Ars Electronica represents a comprehensive approach to confronting techno-cultural phenomena.
20. Impakt Festival
TBA October 2018
Utrecht, the Netherlands
Impakt presents critical and creative views on contemporary media culture and on innovative audio-visual arts in an interdisciplinary context. The festival examines issues around society, digital culture and media from various angles and within a range of disciplines in the arts, academia, and technology. Impakt organises activities throughout the year, including Impakt Works, a residency programme and Impakt Events, a regular series of presentations and screenings focusing on a given theme, movement, or artist. The Impakt Channel is a platform where art projects made for the internet are presented, along with curated programmes featuring film and video art. Last but not least, the Impakt Archive works on digitising Impakt’s screening history back to 1988, when the first Impakt Festival was organised.
In 2018 the Impakt annual program will take place in the last week of October and it will focus on the urgent and topical notion of Post-Truth. The festival is curated by Luba Elliott (UK), Alex Anikina (UK/Russia) and Yasemin Keskintepe (Germany).
TBA winter 2018
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Annually, Amsterdam Light Festival transforms Amsterdam’s city centre into an open-air light museum. Tailor-made art pieces and installations by international contemporary artists, designers, and architects light up the inner city. The light artworks can be admired from both water and land. The water exposition presents a large number of artworks on and around the famous canals. The land exposition takes place on the former Marineterrein, which includes art, talks and performances.
The boat tour, Water Colors, exhibit artworks along and above the Amstel River, while the walking route, Illuminade, will take place in the centre of the city. The festival emanates light during the darkest period of the year and “enlightens” the audience with colourful and engaging artworks.
Created in 2016, Festival Iminente combines the new music with the new art in an experience of intense collective intimacy. The festival is everything that is happening or is about to happen. It is experimental, unprecedented, urban, explosive, energetic, exciting, ephemeral, unpredictable, imminent. Curated by Vhils and Underdogs, Festival Iminente translates the creative multicultural atmosphere that is flourishing in Portugal and is spreading throughout the world, leading the lusophone matrix to establish dialogues with other cultures and artistic expressions.
Where will you travel to feed your passion for art and express your creative self? Let us know!
Words: AndreiB, Cristina Popa [random]
Photo credits @ the authors