Lifestyle & Culture

New for 2018 (updated): Dispatches’ list of the best art fairs and exhibitions across Europe

(Editor’s note: We’ve received emails reminding us we haven’t been keeping up with Europe’s art scene. So we just updated this post with exhibitions and events into 2019. Our apologies. But who knew this was going to be such a popular post?)

Starry starry night / Paint your palette blue and grey / Look out on a summer’s day / With eyes that know / the darkness in my soul.Don McLean, “Vincent,” 1971.

Europe is an art lover’s dream like no other. Classical and contemporary are both held in high regard around the continent, no matter the medium. Thus, it would be a disservice to all of you if we didn’t have a list of the best art affairs in Europe in 2018.

Travelling exhibitions, fairs and festivals, long-term and one-off exhibits and events, whatever you love, we’ll make sure to have it here.

So as to not overwhelm you or ourselves, we’ll only add a few new affairs at a time. Also, you’ll note this list feels a bit random … except it’s not. The shows we feel are the most compelling are at the top.

And if you happen to know of an exhibition or festival that we need to know about, please email yours truly at [email protected]; our editor, Terry, at [email protected]; or leave us a note on our Facebook page.


Paris – Jean-Michel Basquiat: One of the must-see shows of 2018/2019 in Paris’s newest and most talked-about exhibition space.

Twenty years after his overdose death at 28, Basquiat remains one of the most enigmatic artists of that 80’s Die Young and Leave a Beautiful Corpse punk school that included Kieth Haring and Robert Mapplethorpe. Basquiat is by far the most popular, renowned and expensive … so you know a celeb is seriously down on his/her luck when he/she starts selling off Basquiats. Witness one Johnny Depp.

So we expect to run into Johnny at the big retrospective that just opened at Foundation Louis Vuitton in Paris.

“Jean-Michel Basquiat” runs from now through 14 January and covers his entire career, from 1980 to 1988, focusing on 120 works, according to the FLV website. If you like fiery works that both build on everything from Grey’s Anatomy to Grosz, yet remain entirely original, Jean-Michel is your artist. The “Radiant Child’s” personal story – rising from the street to the most rarified heights of Manhattan’s art scene literally overnight – is both inspiring and a cautionary tale.

Tickets are 16 euros and you can get them here. The Basquiat retrospective runs in tandem with an Egon Schiele show.

By the way, the $143 million Frank Geary is also a must-see even if you don’t give a fig about the art inside.

Haarlem – Leonardo da Vinci: The greatest artist who ever lived? Well, judging by the crowds lined up in front of the Mona Lisa, it’s Leonardo.

This exhibition at the Teylers Museum in Haarlem is a rare chance to see some of his greatest work. Teylers Museum is presenting this blockbuster show – its third since 2006 focused on Italian Renaissance artists – built around 33 of Leonardo’s drawing as well as works from his contemporaries working in Haarlem about the same time. The show goes now through 6 January.

This is, for the record, the first major overview ever of Da Vinci’s original artworks in the Netherlands, according to the website. And the fact that it’s at the Teylers, which was founded in 1778, makes it worth the trip to this city just next door to Amsterdam.

The Teylers, which began as a science/research facility and natural history museum, is famous for its Oval Room and is yet another fantastic Dutch space to view art along with the Mauritshuis and the Kröller-Müller.

Tickets are 21 euros and you can order them in advance here.

Amsterdam – 80 Years War: Birth of the Netherlands: The Rijksmuseum is one of the finest in the world, but has one big flaw – it’s in Amsterdam. So you have to fight through the lad parties and sex tourists to get to it down on museum row.

In the winter, that’s not such a chore. So this is the perfect time to drop in and see “80 Years War,” an au courant show about an ancient country by Flemish theater designer Roel van Berckelaer. A video tour includes narration by Afghan-Dutch writer and rapper Massih Hutak. Of course it does.

From the Rijksmuseum website:

80 Years War. The birth of the Netherlands is the first major exhibition that highlights the entire conflict and also shows its international perspective.Issues such as freedom of religion, right to self-determination, terror and persecution that are still current today are constantly emerging.

The show runs through 20 January. Admission is 17.50 euros and you can get your e-ticket here. 

There are multiple events and special shows connected to 80 Years War, so consult the website for what else is going on.

Paris – Private Collections: You likely have never heard of it (we suspect that’s by design), but the intimate Musée Marmatton Monet is arguably the best boutique museum in the world. This museum in a converted mansion on a quiet street in the 16th Arrondissement is chock full of Monets, Gaugins and other Impressionists all year round.

Now through 10 February, you can see a special show of 60 works from private collections covering Impressionism to Fauvism. And these aren’t simply works from private collections, but paintings, sculptures and drawings making their public debuts, or rarely shown in public until now.

“Names” you might recognize include Monet, Degas, Renoir, Rodin, Camille Claudel, Seurat, Signac, Gauguin, Van Gogh, Redon, and Matisse,

For fans of Impressionism, this is a rare curated exhibit of privately held works in the ultimate museum.

Entry tickets are 11 euros.

Paris – Magnificent Venice: After the Marmatton, grab a cab and head across Paris to the Grand Palais for “Magnificient Venice,” a collaboration between the Réunion des musées nationaux – Grand Palais, in collaboration with the Fondazione Musei Civici di Venezia, Venice.

The exhibition through 21 January 2019 includes paintings and sculptures documenting the rise and fall of what was once one of the most powerful kingdoms in the world. In addition, theater set and costume designer Macha Makeïeff has designed spaces that “tell a lively tale of this dazzling Venice and weave a journey of sensations and surprises,” according to the website.

Events include music, dance, drama and regular late-night events for visitors keen to experience the grandeur of what is now basically a cruise-ship destination. (Check out the sensational vid above!)

Tickets are 15 euros and you can get them here. (They add 1 euro for internet purchases.)

London – Modern Couples: Art, Intimacy and the Avant-garde: This show at the Barbican Center is getting rave reviews from The Times of London to Time Out.

And why not – before there was Brangelina and Kanye and Kim, the most famous and often scandalous affairs were in the worlds of art and literature. And that’s what this show is all about.

Modern Couples “explores creative relationships, across painting, sculpture, photography, design and literature,” according to the website. And there’s a lot to explore here including the hot and heavy affair between Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo and Picasso’s, ah, quirky bizarre relationship with Dora Maar.

Which makes for a show so intimate there is a sign-posted room with the most risque works. Parental guidance is advised in case you decide to take your five-year-old. We suggest you go with someone you love, or are at least in lust with.

You have to register in advance, but we couldn’t make it through the online maze to get prices. You can try your luck here ….

Venice – Biennale Architettura: Brutalism. Victorian. Gothic. Italianate. Revivalism. All forms of architectural style. And if you happen to love the art of architecture, the 16th edition of Biennale Architettura in Venice, Italy is what you need.

Taking place now through 25 November in various venues in Venice–anchored around the Giardini and the Arsenale–Biennale Architettura’s theme will be Freespace, where built and unbuilt works on exhibit will exemplify “essential qualities of architecture which include the modulation, richness and materiality of surface; the orchestration and sequencing of movement, revealing the embodied power and beauty of architecture.”

More information to come as time marches on.

Den Haag – By the Sea: If you live in this part of Europe, you know Den Haag as a great beach destination, with Scheveningen right on the edge of the city. Well, back in the day, this is where a lot of Dutch artists came to be inspired. (We’re thinking that this exhibit starting in July is not merely a happy coincidence.)

The Gemeentemuseum (literally, “the city hall museum”) in Den Haag is overshadowed by the Mauritshuis, to be sure. But the Gemeentemuseum has a pretty cool show starting in July … a show featuring Piet Mondrian, Jan Toorop and Jacoba van Heemskerck. You’ve only heard of one of those three, but this exhibition will have 50 paintings, so you’ll come to love them all.

The three impressionists, like their French and American colleagues, loved to capture the various effects of light, especially on water. You can see how they worked their magic By the Sea through 18 November.

Mondrian’s work, of course, jumped the shark somewhere along the line and he became a modernist, laying the foundation for abstract expressionist painters such as Barnett Newman and Mark Rothko.

You can get your advanced tickets here.


Vienna – Bruegel: One of the best museums in the world is featuring one of the greatest artists.

Pieter Bruegel the Elder liked to paint what first appear to be ordinary scenes, such as peasants skating across lakes amid a frozen Flemish landscape. Of course, what he was seeing wasn’t ordinary at all … he was documenting a mini-ice age that hit northern Europe mid-16th century including what is today the Netherlands and Belgium.

When you go through his entire portfolio, you see Bruegel was a genius at subtly weaving Christian themes and motifs into subversive paintings about the unstable political situation of the 1500s, along with canny observations about the human condition including endless labor, lechery, drunkenness and lust.

Think of Bruegel as the saner version of his artistic and chronological precursor Jheronimous Bosch.

But we digress: You can see his wondrous works at Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna from 2 October through 13 Jan. 2019. Just in time for his 450th birthday. Maybe there’ll be cake.

Here’s a review of the show from the Guardian.

Brussels – The New Berlin, 1912-1932: Along with Bruges and Antwerp, Brussels is a great destination for art lovers if for no other reason than you can see – naturally – a lot of the Flemish masters here, and there’s always something going on.

Now through January 27, the Royal Museums of Fine Arts has the amazing art that came out of Utopian and decadent pre-Hitler Germany. Which produced a lot of art from a lot of prolific, edgy artists. So there are 200 pieces (paintings, films, photography, sculpture and other genres) at this show from artists as diverse as George Grosz to Alexander Rodchenko.

The price of admission is 14.40 euros. You can get online tickets here.

London – Videogames: Design/Play/Disrupt: If you’ve grown tired of Renaissance paintings of Jesus and Rembrandt’s rich Dutch burghers, here’s something a bit more real-world.

Videogames: Design/Play/Disrupt is at the Victoria & Albert Museum through 24 February. The exhibition starts with concept art and takes you through the process of building a video game. What could be more 21st century?

Call it the gamification of art, Videogames starts with the year 2000 when major technological advancements such as increased access to broadband, social media, smartphones and the emergence of VR and machine learning changed what had been a pretty primitive experience. (Think Ms. PacMan.)

This exhibition looks at the technical art behind gaming including what it takes to design a video game and how online gaming has changed more than just this industry.

Tickets are 18 pounds and you can get them here.


Paris – A Dream of Italy – The Marquis Campana’s collection: The Louvre Museum is known to have a couple of nice things. But never before has the world’s most famous (and visited) museum had such a complete exhibition of Italian art. No one has for 160 years because this collection was broken up, with pieces dispersed from Rome to Paris to St. Petersburg. It took a deal between the Louvre and The Hermitage in St. Petersburg to put this on.

The Marquis Giampietro Campana was the Phillip Niarchos/Armand Hammer of his time – the world’s largest private collection of the 19th century. In the Niarchos/Hammer tradition, Campana pretty much bought everything he saw – jewels, gold coins, paintings, ancient sculptures, antiquities and every type of objet d’art. You name it.

From the Louvre description of “A Dream of Italy”:

This collection was characterized both by the abundance and quality of its pieces, including many masterpieces, from the  Sarcophagus of the Spouses to The Battle of San Romano by Paolo Uccello and Della Robbia’s sculptures. Through this collection, Campana wanted to highlight Italy’s cultural heritage, just as Italy was emerging as a nation.

One tiny glitch: Campana ended up in prison for embezzlement, then exile. (You simply MUST read his Wikipedia entry here.)

The collection was divided up, with Czar Alexander II buying much of the Campana collection for the Hermitage Museum and Napoleon III dividing his portion between the Louvre and museums outside Paris.

You can see at some of the treasures together again from 7 November through February 2019, a good time to go because crowds are manageable in Paris during the winter.

Tickets are 17 euros, and you can get them here online.

Coimbra, Portugal – International Surrealism Now: The world’s largest 21st-century surrealist art exhibition opens 17 November at the Coimbra House of Culture and Chiado Museum in Portugal, with 112 artists from 48 countries – from Cuba to China.

This is a project of Portuguese surrealist painter Santiago Ribeiro, who since 2010 has organized ISN events in Berlin, Moscow, Dallas, Los Angeles, Mississippi, Warsaw, Nantes, Paris, Florence, Madrid, Granada, Barcelona, Lisbon, Belgrade, Monte Negro, Romania, Japan, Taiwan and Brazil.

Apparently, Ribeiro’s work has been featured in Times Square in New York (above) since July 2017 at the Thomson Reuters and Nasdaq OMX Group, according to a news release we got recently.

The Culture Trip named 10 Portuguese artists as the most internationally recognized at the present time and Santiago Ribeiro is one of them.

Ribeiro’s work has been featured at the U.S. Embassy in Lisbon, in the Portuguese American Journal, in Digital Meets Culture, Pressenza fr ,, Pravda in Portuguese, The Herald News, ARTVOICE, Associated Press, EFE, Reuters , ANA , News Aktuell and many other publications.

Ribeiro’s efforts are political, with the goal of changing the human mindset.

From the release:

Art with the courage to face World issues head-on, creating unprecedented opportunities for dialog can help change world order. The planet has been spiraling into a dangerous period in our collective history. Wars inspired by the highest profit margins and savage monopolistic capitalism feeding modern imperialism, results in radical terrorism born of medieval societies using 21st-century technology to combat these dictatorships. With a diverse population of billions, how can we possibly create a state of a social equilibrium? These factors drive the Contemporary Surrealist movement. Art has the capacity to open up these wounds, face them head on by offering fresh perspectives and solutions to address World trauma.

Amen ….

There’s no information on the museum website, but there doesn’t appear to be a fee.

Coming in 2019:

ARCOmadrid 2019 –  ARCOmadrid is 27 February through 3 March with Peru as “the guest country.” This is THE festival in Spain for collectors, gallerists, commissioners and art professionals, who come from around the world.


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Lifestyle journalist. Born in Louisville. Raised in Kansas. Where I lay my head is home.

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