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Top 10 Must-Visit Art Destinations in 2023

Axel Towers, Copenhagen, one of the must visit art destinations in 2023
Axel Towers, Copenhagen. Photo: Daniel Rasmussen, Copenhagen Media Center

By Charlotte Stace

We’re so looking forward to 2023! Whether you are getting excited about the year ahead or you are dealing with January blues, we’ve got just the thing you need: check out the top 10 art destinations on our bucket list for 2023 and start planning your trips. 

Tokyo, Japan

Tokyo, Japan, is one of the top 2023 art destinations
Tokyo, Japan. Photo: tataquax via Flickr CC BY 2.0

Tokyo is a city teeming with art and architecture around every turn. It is no surprise that it is home to one of the biggest art fairs in the world – The Tokyo International Art Fair. Yet, it would seem that one mega art fair simply isn’t enough. In 2023, Tokyo will welcome yet another art fair: Tokyo Gendai 2023. This new international art fair will be held at the Pacifico Yokohama in July. It will feature around 100 galleries from Japan and the Asia Pacific region. An unmissable opportunity for artists to exhibit their work, as well as for gallery owners and art lovers more generally, the new fair provides yet another reason for putting Tokyo on your list of must-see art destinations in 2023. 

Charleston, USA

The International African American Museum in Charleston, South Carolina
The International African American Museum in Charleston, South Carolina, opening January 21st, 2023 Photo: Jim Sink, courtesy of IAAM

Escape the hustle and bustle of New York and L.A., and head South to Charleston. Often left out of the lists of essential cities to visit in the US, its cobblestone streets, pastel facades and elegant French Quarter are drawing more and more tourists every year. Yet, these aren’t the only things that put this Southern city on the map. Founded in 1670, Charleston is infamous for its connection to slavery. Once the capital of North America’s slave trade, the city is home to a number of museums that illustrate its tumultuous foundations. Adding to the pool of cultural institutions, the city will be opening the International African American Art Museum in January 2023. Located in the Gadsden’s Wharf (a site notorious for its slave trading port), the new art museum will help shine a light on African American experiences, reflecting on the African diaspora, and the movement for justice and equality. A must for art travel in 2023! 

Copenhagen, Denmark 

National Aquarium Denmark, Den Blå Planet, Copenhagen.
National Aquarium Denmark, Den Blå Planet, Copenhagen. Photo: Adam Mørk, Copenhagen Media Center

Every three years, UNESCO and the International Association of Architects designate the World Capital of Architecture title to a city around the world. In 2023, the title goes to Copenhagen.
This year, immerse yourself in the city’s fascinating architectural history and attend exhibitions, events, and a whole host of activities devoted to its iconic architecture. Stand-out architectural masterpieces include the Royal Danish Library, The Maritime Museum of Denmark, and The Circle Bridge. Of course, let’s not forget the picturesque Nyhavn, the city’s 17th-century waterfront lined with colorful houses, featured on the front of many postcards.
You can follow all the architecture-related events here.

But architecture isn’t the only reason for art lovers to visit Copenhagen as the city offers an impressive collection of world-class art museums – from the renowned Louisiana Museum or Kunsthal Charlottenborg for contemporary art to hidden gems such as Cisternerne, an exhibition space buried deep underground which holds one of Europe’s most unique art centers. With so much art to soak up, we recommend at least a weekend trip. 

Mumbai, India

Mural of Dada Sahab Phalke in Bandra, Mumbai
Mural of Dada Sahab Phalke in Bandra, Mumbai. Photo: Twist And Tell Photography via Flickr CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

For street art lovers, we recommend a trip to Mumbai. The city’s neighborhood of Bandra, an art gallery in itself, is home to an up-and-coming generation of street artists. From top to bottom, the streets of this neighborhood are dripping in graffiti art making it one of the most colorful and coolest districts of this sprawling megacity. Some of the highlights include a psychedelic 3D mural which is a homage to James Bond, as well as a child playing a rainbow as if it were a musical instrument, a nod to the progressive attitudes of the area. And that’s just a taster of what to see on the streets of Bandra. If you’re not sure where to begin, check out some of the local street art tours which will take you to the best spots in return for a small donation at the end of the tour. 

Cueva del Castillo, Cantabria, Spain

Interior de la Cueva del Castillo in Puente Viesgo, Cantabria, one of the must visit art destinations in 2023
Interior of the Cueva del Castillo in Puente Viesgo, Cantabria. Gabinete de Prensa del Gobierno de Cantabria, via Wikimedia Commons CC BY 3.0 ES

While discovering new art is exciting, having an appreciation for the history of art, even prehistoric art, is equally as fascinating. In 2023, discover some of the earliest artistic expressions of mankind ever found at the Cueva del Castillo in Cantabria, Spain. Nestled within the Caves on Monte Castillo, this particular cave is an archaeological site that was found in the early 1900s by the Spanish archaeologist Hermilio Alcalde del Río. It houses some of the oldest cave paintings ever discovered on the planet. Painted in charcoal and red ochre, these drawings date back to over 40,000 years ago. Although relatively small, they have survived fantastically over the years and are both a unique and humbling site to behold. If you’re interested in discovering some of the earliest art ever to be created in the existence of mankind, then this should be on the top of your art destination list for next year. 

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Cape Town, South Africa

Installation view of Tracey Rose – Shooting Down Babylon at Zeitz MOCAA,  one of the top 2023 art destinations
Installation view of Tracey Rose – Shooting Down Babylon at Zeitz MOCAA. Courtesy of Zeitz MOCAA. Photographer: Dillon Marsh.

One of South Africa’s jewels, Cape Town sits beneath the spectacular Table Mountain and offers sun, sea, and sand. Yet, it is also a haven for lovers of African art. The Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (Zeitz MOCAA) was opened in 2017 and is a not-for-profit museum that is the largest museum of contemporary art from Africa and its diaspora in the world. While the museum has a permanent collection, it has annual temporary exhibitions. Until summer 2023, museum-goers can take in the art of Joël Andrianomearisoa in the exhibition ‘The Five Continents of All Our Desires’, which celebrates personal relations and connections through issues related to migration and language. While the inside of the museum houses some of the most impressive examples of African art worldwide, its exterior is also of interest architecturally. The building was constructed in the early 1900s and was a grain tower before being converted into an art space. Its carved concrete exterior, intricate windows, and tall ceilings give it a “cathedral-like” feeling. It is also home to a sculpture garden that sits on the roof, with a restaurant, shop, and cafe. 

Brumadinho, Brazil

Inhotim Garden in Brumadinho, Brazil
Inhotim garden in Brumadinho. Photo: Otávio Nogueira CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Not all art is confined to the inside of museum walls. Playing with the concept of the museum, the Inhotim Institute in Brazil boasts an open-air space that is home to some of the most intricately designed botanical garden art in the world. One of the largest outdoor art spaces in Latin America, it consists of 5000 acres of gardens and vegetation. Aside from over 5000 different plant species (with around 1500 varieties of palm trees), Inhotim features installations, sculptures, garden art, and much more. Making a play for the main stage of museums, this magical setting was voted one of TripAdvisor’s top 25 museums on the planet. We highly recommend putting this on the top of your list of 2023 art destinations to visit in the new year.  

Sharjah, United Arab Emirates 

New Creation, Bruno Beltrão. Performance in Sharjah, one of the must visit art destinations in 2023
New Creation, Bruno Beltrão. Performance view. Photo: © Wonge Bergmann Courtesy of Sharjah Art Foundation

The third-most populous city in the UAE, Sharjah is one of the region’s most up-and-coming cities. And it is fast becoming one of the Middle East’s most interesting art destinations. In 2023, the 15th edition of the Sharjah Biennial will span 16 venues across the city and will feature more than 150 artists from around the globe. The city’s biennial was founded by the late Okwui Enwezor and is curated by the Sharjah Art Foundation’s Director Hoor Al Qasimi. In 2023, its title will be ‘Thinking Historically in the Present’ and will invite reflection on the work of Enwezor which had a profound effect on the contemporary art world. Curators have commissioned projects from 30 artists that, in line with Enwezor’s work, explore how the past continues to impact the present. The artist list includes John Akomfrah, Kader Attia, Sammy Baloji, María Magdalena Campos-Pons, Carolina Caycedo, Destiny Deacon, Manthia Diawara, Coco Fusco, Hassan Hajjaj, Mona Hatoum, Lubaina Himid, Isaac Julien, Bouchra Khalili, among many others. You can view the full list of artists participating in the biennial here.

Utah, USA

Spiral Jetty by Robert Smithson, photographed in 2005
Spiral Jetty by Robert Smithson from atop Rozel Point in 2005

Why not take a road trip across the American West next year? The region is teeming with artistic treasures. We recommend starting out in Utah. With its vast open expanses of desert, mountainous regions, and the Great Salt Lake, it is home to impressive examples of Land Art. Start out in Salt Lake City and drive up to the northeastern side of the Great Sake Lake. Here you’ll find one of the most famous pieces of Land Art: Robert Smithson’s 1970 Spiral Jetty. To create this mammoth artwork, the sculptor used 6000 tons of basalt rock to form a 1500-foot-long, 15-foot-wide coil that spirals out offshore and into the lake. From here, take the 100-mile drive to the Great Basin Desert where you’ll find Nancy Holt’s Sun Tunnels. Created between 1973 and 1976, Holt’s installation features 4 concrete cylinders that form an X in the open land. The reason for this? She designed the patterns of Draco, Perseus, Columbia, and Capricorn in the tubes, each with small holes, so that on both the winter and summer solstices, each pair will align with the rising and setting of the sun.  

Gansu, China

Statue of the Buddha Maitreya at Bingling Temple, Gansu, China
Statue of the Buddha Maitreya at Bingling Temple, Gansu, China. Photo: Bernard Gagnon via Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 4.0

If you’re looking for something off the beaten track, the Bingling Temple in Gansu, China may be just what you’re looking for. The temple is a series of natural caves and grottoes that are teeming with impressive sculptures, carvings, and frescoes. Started more than a millennium ago around 420 CE, these carvings were a way of paying homage to Buddha and offering a place of worship to the local people. Unfortunately, over the years many of the carvings have been damaged or destroyed. Yet, there are currently still over 180 statues, and 80 sculptures that exist in the grottoes. They are an outstanding example of Buddhist art and shine a light on this part of Chinese culture. If you’re thinking of visiting, note that the temple is very isolated and can only be reached during the summer months by boat via the Liujiaxia Reservoir. 

Wondering where to start?