Folkestone Triennial is the flagship project of Creative Folkestone and the largest exhibition of newly commissioned work presented in the UK. Artists are invited to use the town as their gallery, utilising public spaces to create striking new art that reflects issues affecting both the town and the wider world. Four Triennials have taken place attracting more than 440,000 visitors. Artists commissioned include Cornelia Parker, Christian Boltanski, Jeremy Deller, Martin Creed, Mark Wallinger, Cristina Iglesias, Richard Wilson, Andy Goldsworthy and AK Dolven.
Since its inception in 2008 (with Andrea Schlieker as the curator), Folkestone Triennial has rapidly established itself as a significant event in the international calendar of recurring art exhibitions. It has done so by being one of a small number of contemporary art exhibitions that set out to have an effect beyond the art programme itself, changing the character of the place in which they occur. These exhibitions create a spirit of place through their collection of artworks, through changes to the physical environment and especially through changes in the thinking of the communities with which they work. In doing so, they transform a village, a town, a city, a community.
Each Folkestone Triennial invites artists to engage with the rich cultural history and built environment of the locality, and to exhibit newly commissioned work in public spaces around the town. Around twenty major artworks are commissioned for each Triennial, with a good number of them remaining in situ past the duration of the exhibition becoming part of Folkestone Artworks. This ambitious process is paralleled in only a handful of outstandingly creative exhibitions around the world, including Münster (Germany), Echigo-Tsumari (Japan), and Santa Fé (New Mexico). Folkestone Triennial acknowledges the inspirational example of Skulptur Projekte Münster (founded 1977) as a progenitor.
The last two Triennials (Lookout in 2014 & double edge in 2017) have been curated by Prof Lewis Biggs O.B.E., who will also oversee Folkestone Triennial 2020. He has led on the development of the artistic strategy which has put the Folkestone Triennial on the international arts map. Lewis is currently Distinguished Professor of Public Art at the University of Shanghai, and a Trustee of the Liverpool John Moores Exhibition Trust (JMLET), the International Award for Art Criticism (IAAC) and the Institute for Public Art (IPA), of which he is the Chair.
Lewis was Advisory Curator for Kaunas Biennial 2019, Curator of Land Art Mongolia Biennial 2018, and Co-curator for the 2013 Aichi Triennale (Nagoya, Japan). He is advising Kaunas European Capital of Culture 2022 on its public art programme. He was Artistic Director and CEO of Liverpool Biennial 2000-2011, and Director of Tate Liverpool 1990-2000.