Festival overload: a look at the art festivals, biennials and triennials of 2014

By Mark Sheerin | 15 January 2014

It's a bumper year for art festivals of the biennial and triennial kind and this is the only round up you need: from Glasgow to Whitstable, here's what to put in the diary

Colour photo of a cavernous disused building filled with inflatables
Installation work by Anthea Hamilton and Nicholas Byrne, soon to be found at Glasgow International© Anthea Hamilton and Nicholas Byrne
The 2011 British Art Show which comes around every five years went by the subtitle “In the Days of the Comet”. Given the number of regular art festivals and prizes taking place in 2014, the art firmament is comet filled to the point of apocalypse.

Casting around the UK for major periodical events we find no less than seven. Were we to employ the services of a quotable mathematician he or she would probably tell you that such a thing only occurs every six years.

So what can art fans look forward to in 2014? Top of the list is surely still Liverpool Biennial ( July 5 –October 25 2014).  Budgets may be tight on Merseyside these days, but the city provides such a rich environment for art that a quick trip up on the Virgin Pendolino is a most rewarding way to spend a day or even a weekend.

But snapping at scouse heels, here comes the Folkestone Triennial (August 30–November 2 2014).  As you know, this rlelatively recent seaside addition to our roster of art festivals comes around every three years and the new director Lewis Biggs, ex of Liverpool Biennial, will be looking to put his stamp on the East Kent coast.

Kent is also the setting for one of the most bijou regular events in the art festivals calendar, the Whitstable Biennale (May 31 - June 15 2014). Expect a showcase of up and coming talent which in past years has given us a chance to see work by the likes of Katie Paterson, Serena Korda and Adam Chodzko.

Brightonians will be hoping their biannual festival of photography returns to the giddy highs of 2010, when Martin Parr was guest curator. The 2012 event was fascinating in parts but arguably suffered from the lack of central hub, but hit or miss, Brighton Photo Biennial (date TBC) is always interesting.

Here’s a novel thing: a Biennial you can get round in less than a mile’s walk. The house and gardens of Tatton Park (date TBC) should once again invite contemporary artists to adorn their stately setting. It is due for a fourth iteration and promises something for everyone.

North of the border, Glasgow International (April 4 – 21 2014) returns with Sarah McCrory at the helm. The former Frieze curator has got all her ducks in a row, since fullsome details are already on the web. There’s so much going on, you may want to consider an international weekend away.

Or, of course, you could wait for Edinburgh Art Festival (July 31 - August 31) which offers a welcome alternative to a city full of flyering hopefuls and laconic comics.

The final dates to be aware of are those of the largest art prize in the UK, the Artes Mundi (October 25 2014 to February 2015). This comes round every three years and this year’s shortlist features UK talent in Karen Mirza and Brad Butler. Find them in and around National Museum Cardiff.

Which leaves us with an event in the Midlands, for which some have waited 50 years. Ikon Gallery in Birmingham celebrates half a century with a packed programme throughout the year. It does make you wonder, how many of these ‘ennials will make it through to 2064.

You might also like:

The best art exhibitions to see in London during 2014

The best art exhibitions to see in Scotland during 2014

Birmingham's Ikon Gallery to celebrate 50 years with major exhibition programme

Visit Mark Sheerin's contemporary art blog and follow him on Twitter.
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