Art functions in the context of permanent and temporary exhibitions. The number of large-scale, temporary exhibitions—biennials, triennials, fairs, and festivals—is constantly growing. These events are not primarily for art buyers, but for the general public. In regards to visual art, it stands to reason that, in order to appreciate up-and-coming art, one must be somewhere that one can look at it. Similarly, to collect works of emerging, mid-career, and established artists, one needs to visit a venue that displays such works. Confusion sets in, though, because these shows – venues, if you will – tend to go by a host of names.
For the sake of argument, let’s assume that not everyone reading this is a die-hard Gallery Go-er. Perhaps you’d like to see what’s “out there” and I am here to help you figure out what, exactly, it is that those art show terms mean. That way, you can plan accordingly and hopefully don’t go home disappointed.
Biennales are major shows of contemporary art, held every two years. They are usually international in scope and hosted by a major city. Additionally, they are non-commercial, meaning artists are invited/selected to attend and show, but aren’t selling at the biennale. Currently, there are some 60 art and design biennales, some of the better known including the Venice, Kassel, Sydney and New York City’s Whitney. A biennale usually has an official theme, spotlights artists of the same nationality as its host city, and is held all over the town in a conglomeration of locations. Odds run high that attending a biennale will involve purchasing airline tickets and booking a hotel room well in advance.
• Same as above but held every three years.
• This can be held anywhere, at any time, but is usually staged by a specific museum or gallery to meet an audience. An exhibition typically represents either one artist, or multiple artists covering one theme for a temporary period. The artist(s) may be circulating among the viewers, or have been deceased for centuries. Exhibitions are the most common form of exhibiting art in and around Sarasota, and for a complete list of what is currently open and running in our area visit https://sarasotavisualart.com/art/exhibitions/
A festival may draw international, national or local artists, depending on its scope. Festivals are specific to a single town or region, and usually held annually. You may or may not be able to buy art here, depending on festival guidelines. While visual art is either the (or a main) component, festivals are often about “The Arts”. The most exciting ones will have indoor art exhibits, outdoor stages, music, dance, etc. Examples of some the more popular Festivals relating to the visual arts in the Sarasota area are the Sarasota Chalk Festival, Ringling International Arts Festival, Arts Slam-Realize Bradenton, and Annual St. Armands Circle Art Festival. Others in surrounding cities include Gasparilla Festival of the Arts, Mainsail Arts Festival, St. Pete Beach Corey Area Art & Craft Festival, and the Annual Downtown Dunedin Art Festival.
• A fair is all about selling art, and comes in two different flavors. There are some gigantic fairs, such as Art Basel (held each year in Switzerland and Miami Beach). These are typically held indoors (perhaps across a whole series of galleries), and represent artists and/or galleries who have been selected, by committee, to participate. Another type of art fair is a slightly less festive version of a festival (though it may involve a concession wagon or two). These are usually held out-of-doors, in an open space that lends itself to being cordoned-off into 12′ square grids. Artists come from near and far, driving trailers, to erect canopies and set up displays of their works. Fairs that offer (I’m reluctant to insert this value judgment) “better” works are juried, meaning artists must submit a portfolio to the selection committee. It must pass muster in order for the artist to be invited to participate. One small note: there is often a great deal of difference between an Art Fair and an Arts and Crafts Fair. The first guarantees you art, while the second may involve art and a whole bunch of other stuff – in which you may or may not see any artistic value. Three of the more popular fairs relating to the visual arts in our are the Atomic Holiday Bazaar Indie Craft Fair, and the Annual Downtown Sarasota Craft Fair, Others in surrounding cities include Hyde Park Village Art Fair.
• This is the handy catch-all category of art venues. An art show can range from the results of a 2nd-grade art class, proudly displayed for beaming parents, to the world-famous Armory Show in New York City. Just to mess us all up, it is not uncommon for a festival, fair or exhibition to assume the moniker of “show”. The vast majority of art doings, nowadays, have websites. By reading the particulars of any given show, and using some of the advice offered here, you should be able to determine just what it is that’s actually occurring. Some of the more popular annual shows in the Sarasota area are the American Craft Show Sarasota, Evening of Excellence Student Art Program Juried Show, and North County Art Show.
I hope this helps to sort it all out, in some small way, a few more of those confusing art terms – and assists you in heading off to some wonderful art display in your area.