6 Inspirational Art and Architecture Fairs for 2019

This year, travel the world for architectural inspiration or to add to your art collection with these unmissable art and architecture fairs

Every year sees new work on display at some of the world’s most thrilling contemporary art fairs. And 2019, when the Venice Biennale and the Setouchi Triennale coincide for the first time in six years, promises to be especially memorable. Reverence is also shown for the past with an annual celebration of Modernist architecture in the California desert, and a showcase for ancient art, from pre-classical to medieval and Renaissance works, in Maastricht. Highlights in the coming months include:

1. Modernism Week, Palm Springs, California, February 14-24

Palm Springs Door Tour Modernism Week
As part of Modernism Week 2019, you can explore the colorful and unique doors of the Indian Canyons neighborhood on the Palm Springs Door Tour. Photo: Bethany Nauert. Banner image: TEFAF Maastricht

You’d never guess from the multitudes who flock to this celebrity playground of Hollywood’s golden age that architecture tourism was not even recognized by Palm Springs as a source of income just 20 years ago. But thanks to local conservationists shocked by the demolition of an unprotected masterpiece by Austrian-American Modernist pioneer Richard Neutra in 2002, the world’s largest concentration of Modernist architecture has become a source of annual celebration.

This year a forgotten house by another Modernist master, Albert Frey, will go on show for the first time and, while tours of celebrity homes like that of Frank Sinatra with its piano-shaped pool, inevitably sell out, the exteriors are free to view from the street. Ancillary events include a water ballet performed by synchronized swimmers that recalls the 1950s heyday of this form of entertainment, and a marketplace for mid-century furniture and other collectibles.

2. The Armory Show, Piers 92 & 94, New York City, March 7-10

Armory Show Rafael Lozano-Hemmer
An image from 2018's Armory Show featuring Mexican-Canadian artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer's installations on show at Revolver Galeria. Photo: BFA, courtesy of The Armory Show

To celebrate its 25th anniversary, New York’s premier modern art fair has instituted a prize to welcome new blood into its exhibitor fold. A pioneering new gallery will be offered a booth at no cost to showcase one or two emerging artists. The inaugural winner of this year’s prize is Ramiken, showing works by Darja Bajagić, who tackles the dark subject of sex crime, and Romanian-born artist Andra Ursuta, whose work examines themes of violence, death, and the expulsion of ethnic groups with irony and a sense of nostalgia.

Also exhibiting for the first time this year will be von Bartha, fielding three works by Hungarian painter and photographer László Moholy-Nagy alongside important pieces by Italian painter Antonio Calderara and some strong contemporary offerings. A particular focus on female artists this year will showcase YBA stars Tracey Emin, Rachel Whiteread, and Sarah Lucas, as well as celebrating local legends Louise Bourgeois and Dorothea Tanning.

3. TEFAF Maastricht, Exhibition and Congress Centre, Netherlands, March 15-24

TEFAF Maastricht Amsterdam Museum
Restored masterpieces by Bartholomeus van der Helst on loan from The Amersterdam Museum and on show at TEFAF Maastricht in 2018.

An “unparalleled collecting opportunity” is promised by a show spanning 7,000 years of art history and this year bringing a shake-up in selection criteria and the addition of top-drawer contemporary and modern galleries to the roster. More than three dozen dealers showing for the first time this year include Almine Rech and Pace Gallery, art jeweler Cindy Chao, and specialists in tribal artefacts Galerie Monbrison.

This year, conservators and academics will be employed and, as usual, a handful of new dealers with an eye for innovation are being offered a one-year showcase.

4. Setouchi Triennale, Naoshima, and 11 Neighboring “Art Islands”, Japan, April 26-May 26, July 19-August 25, September 28-November 4

Setouchi Triennale red pumpkin Yayoi Kusama
One of Yayoi Kusama's Red Pumpkins on display as part of the Setouchi Triennale, which takes place in the picturesque setting of the Seto Inland Sea. Its theme is the Restoration of the Sea, and it aims to revitalize the island communities that once thrived in this beautiful natural environment and to transform the region into a Sea of Hope.

The 12 islands surrounding an inland sea near Hiroshima have been blighted by an ageing, shrinking population, but have recently had their economy boosted by the regeneration of the region as an art destination, thanks to industrialist Soichiro Fukutake.

Fukutake first collaborated with starchitect Tadao Ando to create Benesse House, a museum-cum-hotel on the island of Naoshima, where Yayoi Kusama pumpkins sit side by side with Monet waterlilies and James Turrell skyspaces.

The Triennale followed in 2010, and has spawned other permanent venues. This year more than a million aficionados will ferry between these and nine neighboring islands in April and May, but also on specific dates July through November, to see new temporary works, some of which join the permanent collections.

Here, visitors will encounter Julian Opie’s Banker, Nurse, Detective, Lawyer statues carved in limestone, a lasting relic of the 2016 show.

5. Venice Biennale, Giardini, Arsenale, and Other City Venues, May 11-November 24 

Padiglione_Centrale Giardini Venice Biennale
Padiglione Centrale Giardini at Venice Biennale. Photo: Francesco Galli, courtesy of La Biennale di Venezia

This superbly staged showcase of cutting-edge work from dozens of countries fielding national pavilions is an unmissable fixture of the 2019 art calendar. The segmentation grows and grows, with the UK fielding a separate Scottish pavilion to Great Britain, and the presence of a Nordic pavilion as well as those dedicated to individual Scandinavian countries.

A look at artists already announced for 2019 suggests a strong focus on political and gender issues this year, with music coming into play in many exhibits. Expect to hear ancient whistling languages from Turkey, Greece, and the Canaries documented by Angelica Mesiti in the Australian pavilion, while sound artist Song-Ming Ang will investigate how music brings people of diverse cultures and backgrounds together in the Singapore hall. Weirdest pavilion prize would surely go to Icelandic artist Shoplifter, known for her fluorescent hair sculptures as modeled by Björk; she promises a “cave of hair stalactites” rendering the interior walls invisible.

6. Rotterdam Rooftop Days, May 31-June 2

Cube houses Rotterdam Rooftops
One of Rotterdam's architectural marvels, Cube houses, or Kubuswoningen in Dutch, are a set of innovative houses designed by architect Piet Blom and built in 1977. Photo: Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto/Getty Images

The highlight of an annual three-week architecture festival, Rotterdam’s Rooftop Days is a popular weekend showcasing the sky-high innovations for which the city is notable. This year glasshouses are being erected to offer visitors the chance to sleep on the roof in a pop-up hotel.

Other events of this special weekend will include a rooftop supermarket and a maze built out of 20,000 crates. Didden Village, meanwhile, is a sky-blue set of playhouses built by city starchitect Winy Maas as a bedroom and bathroom extension for friends living below in a one-room atelier, and will become the venue for a performance viewable from neighboring rooftops.

Keynote speakers this year are expected to include Maas, who has led the movement for greening roofs in Rotterdam, co-founder of New York City’s High Line Robert Hammond, and Justin McGuirk, curator of London’s Design Museum. Talks take place on Knowledge Day, May 31, one day ahead of the open rooftops.