Biennale, Triennale, Art Fair, Festival, Show or Exhibition – so, what’s the difference?

Are you confused too when you read about Art Fairs, Art Festivals, Exhbitions, Biennales and Triennales?

We try to give you an overview!


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 room well in advance.



Same as biennales, but held every three years.



This can be held anywhere, at any time, but is usually staged by a specific museum or gallery. An exhibition typically represents either one artist, or multiple artists covering one theme.



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.


Art Fair

An Art fair has selling art as focus and comes in to different types.

Either Art Fairs are huge events, such as Art Basel, held indoors, representing artists and/or galleries who have been selected, by committee, to participate, or the Art Fairs can be defined as a slightly less festive version of a festival, held out-of-doors with or without committees selecting the represented artists at the fair.



This is a catch-all category of art venues. An art show can range from the results of a 2nd-grade local artists to the world-famous Armory Show in New York City.




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