Alternative art in Europe

If there’s one thing that Europe is known for, it’s harbouring a rich history of art from all influences. Whether it’s hanging on a wall, painted as a mural or performed on a stage, this continent holds some of the greatest artistic artefacts the world has ever seen. Holding fast in an ever-changing field, European artists are continuously creating works that affect audiences worldwide – pushing boundaries and questioning the norm both in terms of materials and their subject matter. Experience this inspiration for yourself with our guide to some of Europe’s best alternative art festivals.

Angoulême International Comics festival: 25 Jan – 28 Jan

Image by patrick janicek

Back in 1969, three friends created a small festival in the city of Angoulême in southwestern France to celebrate the comic strip. As each year passed, this humble event quickly gathered momentum, until January 1974, when the International Comic Strip Festival was born. Since then, the event has inspired the entire city. You’ll come across murals on the sides of unassuming buildings dedicated to the ‘9th art’, while street signs are often depicted in comic-style speech bubbles. Even the local buses come in paint-box shades that are adorned with comic book characters. Today, the festival welcomes 220,000 visitors across 20 different venues each year, and the event’s host talks, signings and conferences cover all influences and styles. Each artist has the chance to elect their favourite amongst their peers, with the winner offered a retrospective exhibition and the chance to create an exclusive poster for next year’s event. Really an event for all ages, younger children will enjoy the interactive animations, games and workshops.

Tickets are available online with options covering one day passes (from €16) and the full four days (€35) if you buy before 24 January. Tickets are also available on at the door, though expect to pay a bit more.

Object Rotterdam: 10 Feb – 12 Feb

Back for 2018 with a brand new location, Object Rotterdam is a place where the cutting edge meets design of all influences – including fashion, architecture and crafts. The HAKA building provides its iconic, modernist stronghold as this year’s main exhibition space, while the whole event covers over 5,000 metres2  across the city, holding work by over 100 designers. Look out for Fransje Gimbrère and her 3D-woven ‘Standing Textiles’, as well as Joris Kuipers, who blurs the lines between painting and sculpture with his creations. Day tickets cost €12.50 for adults (children are free) and the cost of the ticket also covers access to the nearby Euromast, which hosts presentations as well as incredible city views. To make sure you catch everything, be sure to take advantage of the free shuttle service, which runs every 20 minutes and covers all locations within Object Rotterdam.

Art Capital, Paris: 14 Feb – 18 Feb

The illustrious Grand Palais is home to Art Capital – a five-day fair displaying the works of 2,000 artists, including painters, sculptors, photographers, architects and engravers. Open to all since 2006, this festival is particularly special, as it brings together artists from all different backgrounds, making it an ideal place to scope out emerging talent. The Drawing and Water Painting Fair can also be found at Art Capital, where you can enjoy works using traditional methods like pastel, charcoal and watercolour alongside more contemporary piece, like silk paper sculptures. While you’re in town for the festival, Galerie Xippas, on Rue Vieille du Temple is well worth the visit for its regular exhibitions of both emerging and established artists, while Bugada & Cargnel Rue de l’Équerre has become the hub of burgeoning artists from the Belleville region of Paris.

Ready to explore? Take a look at our Dover to Calais and Hull to Rotterdam crossings.

Main image by Chelmsfordblue