From Texas to Taiwan, these cities are hosting Nuit Blanche events and pulling art all-nighters.
From post-impressionism to surrealism, France has had a long-standing love affair with modern art that has challenged tradition and inspired creative movements globally. So it’s not surprising that one of the latest concepts to take hold around the world was sparked by an event held in the French capital—an annual, all-night contemporary arts festival in which the city becomes a canvas as artists transform familiar fixtures into visual, performance, and contemporary art installations: Nuit Blanche.
The festival, which takes place in Paris the first Saturday in October, launched 16 years ago and quickly swept across the continent. Capital cities from Brussels to Rome joined the nocturnal art party, and soon Nuit Blanches Europe formed: a partnership among European capitals that collaborate and band together for the sake of sharing their cities’ art and culture in the public realm.
The movement soon took hold in Canada—Toronto hosted the country’s first Nuit Blanche in 2006—and continued to spread across other continents, and today dozens of cities host their own versions of Nuit Blanche for one fleetingly fun night a year.
This year marks the expansion of Nuit Blanche to smaller regions and less-frequented city neighborhoods, making art even more accessible and giving travelers the opportunity to step away from tried-and-true itineraries, seeing cities through fresh eyes and learning more about the artistic communities that live there.
Here are eight unmissable events coming soon.
October 6, 2018
Join the masses as over 1 million temporary insomniacs take to the cobblestone streets at the original gathering. This year, Nuit Blanche’s flagship festival follows four “constellations,” or imaginary lines, in different spots: Hôtel des Invalides, Ile Saint-Louis, Villette Park, and Porte Dorée. The city plans to run several free metro lines and bus routes throughout the night, but for the best views, hop on a Velib city bike and pedal your way through the clusters of exhibits.
October 14, 2018
Taiwan was the first Asian capital city to join the Nuit Blanche movement. In 2016, 200,000 people took to the streets for the first edition and the next year saw 100,000 more. Curator Sean C.S. Hu takes the reins of this year’s event, which focuses on the importance of sharing Taiwanese history through art.
October 5, 2018
One of Paris’s sister cities is hosting an edition of Nuit Blanche showcasing emerging French and Japanese artists that “celebrates 60 years of friendship between Paris and Kyoto and the 160th anniversary of relationships between France and Japan.” This year, Franco-Japanese collaborations include live performances, exhibitions, and art projections. The event also centers around the five senses.
September 29, 2018
The first Nuit Blanche Edmonton took place in 2015 and was a smashing success (and featured installations from Yoko Ono), but the event hasn’t happened again—until this year. Coordinators are predicting over 70,000 visitors and say there will be at least 45 exhibits to explore in the capital’s downtown district. When it’s time for a break, stop in at the festival’s Artisan Night Market for food truck finds and some shopping—but not before experiencing “Passage,” an interactive light tunnel installation in the Financial District.
April 6, 2019
For Houston’s first-ever all-night arts festival, director Laura Matesco, a Parisian expat and former Nuit Blanche Paris promoter, hopes that featuring installations from four international artists alongside four local artists, “will showcase the diversity of the city and engage the local community.”
Nuit Blanche Houston will take over the public parks, libraries, and historic sites surrounding downtown’s City Hall, which makes it a great place to start the night. Matesco says the festival’s centerpiece will be a monumental installation designed specifically for the stately limestone building.
October 13, 2018
Melbourne has long been a popular place to experience Australia’s White Night—300,000 people showed up to the first annual event five years ago—and it expanded to Ballarat last year. Now even more cities, including Bendigo and Geelong, are joining in the fun, proving that Nuit Blanche isn’t just for capitals or a major metropolis.
The next one is in Geelong on Oct. 13 and festivities will take place on Gheringhap Street, so wander that way first to see where the night (and the lights) take you.
September 29, 2018
With this year’s program recently released, 2018 is poised to be Toronto’s biggest year yet for the free festival and promises to satisfy not only artistic appetites, but real cravings too: Enter the International Dumpling Festival, happening during Nuit Blanche. Work up an appetite as you travel through over 75 contemporary art installations crafted by several hundred artists in response to this year’s theme, “You Are Here.”
The massive festival has expanded into new exhibition zones. Venture into neighboring Scarborough to see some of the event’s biggest statement pieces, including “STYLL,” a collaboration between Scarborough-based artists that blurs the lines between city and suburb and asks how borders define us.
October 12, 2018
While not strictly a Nuit Blanche event, Kulturnatten, or Culture Night, has been going for more than 25 years. It’s Copenhagen’s largest annual one-day event—over 80,000 attended the fest last year to explore the 250 museums, theaters, libraries, churches, and parks in the city transformed for the night.
Make sure to wander through the open political and parliament buildings; many only allow the public inside for this one occasion. The full program list goes live on September 17 so you can plan your route ahead of time, but for the best chance at seeing it all, pick up an all-access pass (sold at most museums and libraries starting October 1) ahead of the festivities, which include free public transportation rides and a printed schedule and guide of the events.