Insights > Asia-Europe | arts and culture agenda 2015
06 Feb 2015

Asia-Europe | arts and culture agenda 2015

In our annual round up of arts and culture across Asia and Europe, Editor Judith Staines takes a trip around some of the best arts and culture events coming up in 2015

Capital Years

In Europe, the new European Capitals of Culture are on show - 2015 is a chance for the smaller cities of Mons in Belgium and Pilsen in the Czech Republic to take centre stage. Mons positions itself at the heart of a regional 'Creative Valley' metamorphosis, spanning the surrounding Belgian Borinage area and Northern France, while Pilsen’s slogan is “open up!” with industrial heritage and public spaces becoming new arenas for arts and culture.

Diplomatic milestones inspire several Asia-Europe cultural programmes. 2015 marks the 40th anniversary of China-EU relations. Polish culture can be seen at some of the best venues in Beijing, Wuhan, Tianjin and Shanghai this year. A series of exhibitions, concerts, theatre performances and film screenings organised by are giving the Chinese audiences a whole new perspective on what Polish culture is about.  A Danish Cultural Season is also running in China and a China-UK Cultural Exchange Year takes UK cultural events to five main Chinese cities during 2015.

Incheon in Korea is the 2015 World Book Capital City. The UNESCO programme designates cities selected for their programme for developing literature and reading. Incheon has a strong focus on children's education and reading. The programme will be launched officially in April 2015.

Singapore In France_Banner_2

Singapore celebrates its 50th Anniversary of Independence with Singapour en France - le festival (26 March - 30 June). The Singapore Festival in France presents the best of contemporary arts and culture and heritage, marking also 50 years of diplomatic ties between Singapore and France. The events centre on Paris with much to see in other cities and regions of France.

Also in France, the Année France-Corée starts in September 2015 with a Year of Korea in France. A Year of France in Korea is coming up in 2016. The focus is on contemporary creativity and younger generations of artists and creators in the two countries.

Connect-ID is a new arts and culture initiative linking the UK and Indonesia in 2015. Watch out for a major national tour of Indonesian Arts across the UK in August and September 2015.

ExpoMilanologo1On the global stage, Italy hosts Expo Milano 2015 (May 1 - October 31), the Universal Exhibition organised every five years. Expo Milano has the theme “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life” and will be the largest event ever organised on food and nutrition. There’s a full range of cultural events - check out the Food in Art exhibition in Brescia. As well as the issues, the architecture and design of the national pavilions promises to hit the headlines (take a look at the stunning Vietnam pavilion on ‘Water and Lotus’, the Latvia pavilion in the form of an enormous oak tree and Spain's 'Cultivating the Future').


2015 has been designated the European Industrial and Technical Heritage Yearfollowing a grassroots campaign by industrial heritage associations in Europe. Culture is integrated into the UNESCO designation of 2015 as International Year of Light and already appears in Technarte new media conference and the Goethe-Institut's science film festival as a theme.

Let’s also keep an eye on the cultural content of two other European Years with broader objectives. 2015 is the European Year for Development and, across twelve thematic months, arts and culture will appear in projects on sustainable green growth, education, women and girls. The 2015 European Youth Capital is Cluj-Napoca in Romania, taking as its inspiration SHARE, promoting initiatives where young people share participation, development, networking, vision, partnerships and creativity.

Festival time

There are plenty of annual festivals with international programmes and great arts and culture from Europe and Asia. Here's a few ideas for something a little different this year:


  • The first Yangon Art & Heritage Festival - My Yangon, My Home is scheduled for March. It focuses on the everyday life of the city and its daily routine, with urban and community art approaches.

  • Parasophia (7 March - 10 May) - Kyoto International Festival of Contemporary Culture is, amazingly, the first large-scale international exhibition of contemporary art to be held in Kyoto. Approximately 40 top artists from around the world will participate in the two-month exhibition at the Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art, The Museum of Kyoto, and other locations.

  • Prague Quadrennial of Performance Design and Space (18-29 June) presents scenography as a transdisciplinary field, jointly shaped by performing and visual arts, architecture and in relation to social and cultural circumstances. The main theme of the world’s largest event dedicated to scenography and theatre architecture is ‘Shared Space | Music Weather Politics’.

  • This summer’s Helsinki Festival (14-30 August) has a China Focus, when more than 800 Chinese artists arrive in Helsinki for one of the largest presentations of Chinese art in Europe in recent years.

Contemporary art biennales

It is Art year in Venice - the 56th International Art Exhibition Venice Biennale (9 May - 22 November) is themed “All the World’s Futures”. Look out for the new Australian Pavilion, the first 21st century pavilion to be built in the historic Giardini, marking a new phase for the representation of Australian art and architecture on the international stage.



Also this year, there’s an important collateral event, My East is Your West, which unites India and Pakistan for the first time at the Venice, in a collaborative exhibition by artists from both countries. As neither India nor Pakistan has a permanent national pavilion at the Venice Biennale, this presentation will provide a unique platform for artists from the Indian subcontinent to enter into a dialogue through the arts.

Every year presents a full programme of contemporary art biennales and triennales, offering tempting excursions to cities and more far-flung locations across Asia and Europe. It is interesting to review the themes and look for emerging patterns of engagement with contemporary art.  A few highlights in 2015 are:

  • WRO Biennale 2015 Test Exposure: 13 May - 30 September 2015 | Media Art, Poland | With 2500 submissions from around the world for the open call, the 16th edition of the WRO Media Art Biennale, Poland’s largest contemporary art event has an extensive programme of exhibitions, video premieres, performances, concerts, conferences and artistic interventions in public space in the city of Wroclaw.


  • Triennale Brugge 2015: 20 May - 18 October 2015 | Contemporary art and architecture, Belgium | Internationally renowned artists, architects, scientists, curators and the general public look at aspects of the global megacity in the small historic city of Bruges.

  • Momentum: 13 June - 27 September 2015 | Contemporary art, Norway | Momentum Biennial has established itself as the perhaps most important assembly of contemporary art in the Nordic region. In Moss, near Oslo.

  • Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennale 2015: 26 July - 13 September 2015 | Contemporary art in site-specific rural locations, Japan | “Art is how people engage with nature and civilization” is the theme for a new programme of artworks in stunning locations of western Japan. New commissions join the legacy of over 200 artworks created through five previous triennales. Upcoming performing artists from Asia perform in local villages.


  • Ljubljana Biennial of Graphic Arts: 28 August - 3 December 2015 | Graphic arts, Slovenia | Celebrating its 60th anniversary, the 31st Biennial of Graphic Arts on the theme “Over you/you” will bring together traditional and not so traditional forms of graphic art production, posing them as sites within which political and aesthetic agency find common ground.

  • viemoderne | Contemporary art, France | The Lyon Biennale rotates between contemporary art and dance. In 2015, the theme of modern life (“La Vie Moderne”) informs selection for the art biennale and kicks off a new concept - a trilogy of 3 consecutive biennales 2015-2019, around the word “modern”.

  • Kobe Biennale: 19 September - 23 November 2015 | Contemporary art and site-specific works in urban locations, Japan | Love is the theme for this year’s Kobe Biennale, continuing the inventive and popular exhibits ‘Art in a Container’ alongside the attractive port locations.

  • Scape 8: 3 October - 15 November 2015 | Public art, New Zealand | The SCAPE Christchurch Biennial of Art in Public Space is New Zealand’s only international biennial dedicated to the exhibition of contemporary art in public space, with a full education and public engagement programme.


  •  8th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art: 21 November - 10 April 2016 | Contemporary art, film and performance, Australia | APT8 is the only exhibition series among major world biennials and triennials to focus on the contemporary art of Asia, Australia and the Pacific. Featuring around 75 emerging and established artists, filmmakers and performers from more than 25 countries, artists from Mongolia will exhibit for the first time in APT. It takes place in Brisbane, Queensland.

  • Guangzhou Triennial: 11 December - 10 April 2016 | Contemporary art, China | The 4th Guangzhou Triennial follows previous events with stellar international curators and challenging themes. Guangzhou has been active in events around contemporary art curating and biennials in Asia.


For more information on art biennales and triennales, consult the calendars, news and reviews at Biennial Foundation and Universes-in-Universe.

Literature and publishing

At the 2015 Frankfurt Book Fair, it’s time to say selamat datang Indonesia, welcoming Indonesia as Guest of Honour. The “17,000 Islands of Imagination” programme looks like a promising initiative to bring to wider attention literary talents from the country.


The second ASEAN Literary Festival takes place this year in Jakarta (March 15-22), gathering writers from the 10 ASEAN countries.

There are many annual literature festivals and book fairs in Asia and Europe. Check the ’25 best book festivals around the world’ and calendar of writers festivals in Asia Pacific 2015. Frankfurt Book Fair publishes the International Book Fair Calendar 2015.


Image [APT]: Uuriintuya Dagvasambuu, Mongolia b.1979 / Path to wealth 2013 / Synthetic polymer paint on canvas / Proposed for the Queensland Art Gallery Collection / Image courtesy the artist and 976 Art Gallery, Ulaanbaatar / © The artist