The best global events to attend in 2020

Festivals, art exhibitions, antiques fairs, museum openings and more worth making a special trip for

Celebrations in Galway, the European Capital of Culture 2020
Published: January 28th, 2020 at 5:02 pm


Broad Chalke, Wiltshire


Although the 2020 programme for the largest history-centric gathering in the land (22nd-28th June) remains under wraps at press time, we can draw a fair picture of what to expect by looking at previous years. While 2019 saw some seriously big-league names among a line-up of more than 140 speakers – Neil Oliver, Tracy Borman, Dan Jones, Michael Wood etc – it wasn’t all talk. CVHF’s bid to bring history to life also included hobby-horse jousting, battle tactics demonstrated by Sherman tanks, and lots more.

Tent and a crowd at Chalke Valley History Festival
image: Tim Abell


National Gallery, Canberra, Australia

In spring of 1906, Henri Matisse first met Pablo Picasso, brought together at the Paris salon of one of the former’s most important patrons, Gertrude Stein. Thus began a lifelong friendship and rivalry between two men driven to build on foundations laid by the father of modern art, Paul Cézanne. This major exhibition (until 13th April) draws on 40 international collections to detail what happened next, all the way through to Picasso’s artistic response to Matisse’s death in 1954.



Paris, France

Fresh from a monumental makeover by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Tadao Ando, the Bourse de Commerce has been transformed into a 21st- century art house. The $170m redevelopment – opening in 2020, date TBC – was bankrolled by billionaire businessman François Pinault, who wanted a publicly accessible home for a private collection as sizeable as it is significant: 5,000 works by the likes of Cindy Sherman and Jeff Koons.

Bourse de Commerce art house


Giza, Egypt

It’s reckoned that five million visitors a year are likely to head to this – the world’s largest museum devoted to a single civilization. The area dedicated to Tutankhamun alone will cover seven square kilometres, the better to hold 5,400 objects retrieved from his tomb. Opening in 2020 (date TBC), the museum’s 100,000 artefacts will also include a gigantic statue of Ramses II, children’s museum, 3D cinema, and panoramic view of the pyramids.

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Brussels, Belgium

A panel of 100 independent experts ensure that this event is among the most scrutinised art and antiques fairs of the year (26th Jan-2nd Feb). Vast warehouses host 133 galleries, among them New York specialists in archaeology, Antiquarium Ltd, and Rome’s W Apolloni, showing 17th to 19th-century art and furniture. No word yet on the guest invited to commission their own exhibition; last year’s was Gilbert & George.

Visitors to BRAFA art and antiques fair
Fabrice Debatty


Maastricht, Netherlands

One of the heavyweights in the calendar, drawing crowds of 70,000 and around 275 top-line dealers from around the world (7th-15th March). Now in its fourth decade, the event’s vast array of wares makes it popular with seasoned collectors and newcomers alike, with the big old shed full of everything from 20th-century design to Old Masters, contemporary sculpture to haute joaillerie.

Kollenburg Antiquairs' stand at the European Fine Art Fair, Maastricht
Natascha Libbert

TIMELESS CONVERSATIONS 2020: Voices from Japanese Art of the Past and Present

National Art Centre, Tokyo, Japan

Enkū was a 17th-century Buddhist monk, poet and sculptor during the Edo period (1603-1868), who’d make pilgrimages to temples throughout Japan and leave behind one of his 120,000 wooden carvings of Buddha to cover lodging. He’d surely find much in common with Koji Tanada, who makes his carvings from a single block of wood. Tanada is one of eight current artists whose work features inTimeless Conversations (11th March-1st June), exhibited alongside pieces by Enkū and other venerable Edo contemporaries, the better to explore artistic and spiritual affinities across the ages.




It was in 1764 that Catherine the Great, looking for somewhere to house her extensive art collection, founded
the State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg. This year will see the world’s second-largest art museum open a new outlet (date TBC) – Hermitage Moscow, a 15,000 square metre modern art space built on the site of the former ZiL car plant. It’s wonderfully designed by Hani Rashid, probably best known for the Formula One circuit-straddling Yas Hotel Abu Dhabi.



Tate Modern, London

Warhol’s work is such a symbol of the 1960s, it’s easy to forget the criticism that greeted him at the time. The post-war abstract expressionism movement might not have been to everyone’s taste, but it still had fine art principles at its core. But what about 32 canvases of Campbell’s soup range? Thing is, much of Warhol’s 70s output proved that the pop artist really could paint, as this major retrospective makes clear (12th March-6th Sept). Marilyn Monroe, Coca-Cola et al are also present and correct.



Galway, Ireland

It might be on the very edge of Europe but, when it comes to all things The Arts, Galway will spend the year at its very heart. Highlights among the 80+ projects include Homer’s The Odysseypresented on the beach; a celebration of the writer and Irish Literary Revival linchpin, JM Synge; Margaret Atwood dropping by on International Women’s Day; light artist, Kari Kola, illuminating Connemara’s mountains on St Patrick’s Day; and the results of Aerial/Sparks, an interdisciplinary collaboration with the Marine Institute (1st Feb-31st Jan 2021).

Celebrations in Galway, the European Capital of Culture 2020
Courtesy of Galway 2020/Declan Colohan


Boston, USA

Much as we Brits are rightly proud of the prevalence of museums and galleries we can enter without cost, we’re not alone in making such offerings. On 22nd February, for example, the Massachusetts College of Art and Design will open MassArt Art Museum, a $12.5m home for contemporary art in which it won’t cost a cent to see opening exhibitions, including two site-specific installations: Joana Vasconcelos’Valkyrie Mumbet, paying homage to inspiring women, and Ghost of a Dream’s Yesterday is Here, creating originality in the present by splicing together images of the building’s past.



Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Most famously home to the mightiest art deco creation – Paul Landowski’s 38 metre sculpture of Christ the Redeemer, looking out over the city from atop Corcovado Mountain – Rio boasts a multitude of other treasures. Together they are worthy of making Rio the inaugural World Capital of Architecture – Oscar Niemeyer’s saucer-shaped modernist triumph, the Niterói Contemporary Art Museum for example, or the art nouveau masterpiece that is Confeitaria Colombo. A series of events are planned to celebrate the urban environment, under the theme: ‘All the worlds. Just one world.’



Vaucluse, France

What Hay-on-Wye does for books, the beautiful L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue does for antiques. Only more so. More than 300 antiques and art businesses are to be found year- round in a place with the same population as Godalming. And then we come to the biannual international fairs (10th-13th April, 13th-16th August), when a further 450 exhibitors and 120,000 visitors turn this Provençal town into a quality-validated antiques hunter’s heaven.

Stalls at L'Isle-Sur-La-Sorgue International Fair


Duke of York Square, London

For more than a quarter of a century, the BADA Fair was the British Antique Dealers’ Association’s flagship event, gathering 5,000 antiques, design pieces and artworks – ranging from 16th-century paintings to contemporary furniture – from 100 specialists worldwide. In September, it was sold to the co-founders of Masterpiece London, and is set to return (18th-24th March) with a blend of old (content, location) and new (name, more affordable stand prices).


BAUHAUS CHICAGO: Design in the City

Art Institute of Chicago, USA

Some places get all the luck. Already blessed by Frank Lloyd Wright adorning its suburbia with copious examples of visionary architecture, in 1937 Chicago opened the New Bauhaus, four years after the Nazis closed the art and design school’s Berlin home. Led by László Moholy- Nagy – a ‘modernist so far ahead of his time he’s almost out of sight,’ noted the Chicago Tribune – the refugee’s avant- garde ideals made a striking impression on the area, as this fascinating exhibition (until 26th April) makes clear.



Berlin, Germany

A former electric substation in Berlin offers 6,500 square metres of space to a biennial international art exhibition promising a diverse show – including paintings, sculpture, installations, photography, video art and concept art – that is big on accessibility and giving lesser-known artists a chance (June – exact dates TBC). Or, as organisers put it: ‘The main criterion for selection will be the artists’ uniqueness of expression, rather than any current international trends in art.’



National Museum of Art, Bucharest, Romania

This historically fascinating building – a former royal residence seized by the post-war Communist government, ravaged by demonstrators during the 1989 revolution – is an apt place to host a retrospective of a movement that sought to turn the establishment on its head (until 2nd Feb). Expect the crème de la crème of surrealist artists – Max Ernst, Camille De Taeye, Joan Miró, Jorge Camacho and Alberto Gironella.




When it opens in the summer (exact date TBC), the Royal Horticultural Society’s first new garden in 18 years also promises to be one of its most spectacular. Comprising 154 acres of woods, lakes, meadows and streams, Europe’s biggest garden project is a community-centred enterprise transforming the derelict grounds – and using the surviving outbuildings and walls – of a demolished stately home, Worsley New Hall, in the heart of Salford.

Winter sunrise at RHS Garden Bridgewater
RHS/Mark Waugh


Scuderie del Quirinale, Rome, Italy

After 2019 saw major exhibitions marking Leonardo da Vinci’s 1519 passing, 2020 is all set to honour Raphael. Nowhere more so than in Rome (5th March-14th June), the city in which he lived his final years and, in the Vatican Palace, where he completed his most celebrated work. Most of the pieces will come from Florence, with mooted loanees including the 1504-06 self-portrait and the Madonna of the Goldfinch.



Various venues in the UK, Netherlands and USA

More than 100 institutions worldwide are sending artefacts to Plymouth for ‘Legend and Legacy’, an exhibition marking the 400th anniversary of the Mayflowercarrying pilgrims. It’s but a part of the wider commemoration (until November), with 400 ‘signature events’.


Illuminate Plymouth, a light-based festival to celebrate Mayflower 400

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