What a quiet month August is in Europe. While everyone is taking their summer holidays, the events schedule slows to a crawl, in preparation for the artistic onslaught of September and October. There are still things worth seeing and doing, particularly art exhibitions and biennals, so read on.

Architecture and building 

If you are heading to Italy for some R&R, don’t forget to visit the Expo Milano (to 31 October). This giant, non-commercial exhibition, featuring 130 participants from 145 countries with specially designed pavilions and held on the subject of nutrition, is expected to welcome over 20 million visitors. Also continuing is the Triennial Brugge in Bruges, Belgium (to 18 October) the tri-annual art and architecture conference is, which is this year looking at the concept of megacities with a rosta of internationally renowned artists, architects, scientists and curators.

Art and antiques

Also continuing, to 22 November, is the 56th Biennale Arte. It’s curated by man of the moment Okwui Enwezor and the theme is All The World’s Futures. 136 artists have been summoned from 53 countries, of whom 89 will be showing here for the first time. Explore extraordinary global art in the historical Pavilions at the Giardini, Arsenale and around the city of Venice.

Continuing an artistric tour of Europe’s beauty spots, Les Rencontres d’Arles in Arles, France (to 20 September), is a major photography art festival featuring almost exclusively new, unshown works. Frequently held in ancient churches and buildings not open to the public, it’s worth a look for the juxtaposition of old and new alone, let alone superb new photography. Ostrale’015 in Dresden, Germany (to 27 September) features 200 artists from around the world, including a strong African contingent centred around the theme of our planet’s delicacy –‘Handle With Care’. Last but not least Momentum 8 in Moss, Norway (to 27 September) may be the ‘Nordic Biennial of Contemporary Art’, it is also an international event, this year addressing both the contemporary desire for seclusion and hyper-connectivity.

Belgium is the place to be for art fans in August. As well as the Triennal don’t miss Art Nocturne Knocke (8-16 August). This important art & antiques fair takes advantage of the soft summer evenings by taking place in two venues a short walk from each other on the banks of the Zegemeer Lake. It features a carefully selected mix of ancient and contemporary art.

Contour 7, the Biennal of Moving Image in Mechelen (from 29 August) showcases video, film, installation and performance at special venues across this city just outside Brussels. Curator Nicola Setari is taking inspiration from local legends and famous historical figures from the rich history of the city.

The popular Newbury International Antiques & Collectors Fair in Newbury, UK (24 August) is more of a brocante/flea market-style fair than high end – look out for everything from vintage fashion & jewellery to antique furniture and textiles.

Interiors and design

There’s a handful of interior shows this month, with some exciting possibilities in Scandinavia.

Oppet Hüs in Jönköping, Sweden (6-8 August) features interior and gift products for the trade market. A more serious proposition is Formex in Stockholm (19-22 August) which is a major Scandinavian interiors showcase with the theme this year of ‘Nordic Essence’ and featuring sections for young designers, Nordic Designer of the Year and an entrance hall designed by architecture firm Codesign with the centrepiece of a giant Yule goat (yes, you read that right).

Over in Denmark Northmodern in Copenhagen (13-15 August) sounds like an intriguing prospect. Focusing on the Danish Modern movement, the expo promises exciting international talents working today along with the best of Scandinavian design heritage. The show is divided into Room, Gallery, Slow Living and Inspiration, and features sections dedicated to ‘Talents’, Nude Elegance (simple design) and the Crystal Hall, curated by 1.618.

Held at the same time Formland in Herning, also Denmark (13-16 August) is a major, well-established Nordic consumer show covering Interior (ranging from furniture to soft furnishings via ceramics), Bloom, Food, Light, Tabletop and Upcoming and including talks and workshops.

Lastly Forma Autumn in Helsinki, Finland features furniture, inspiration for interiors, giftware, household goods and home decoration.

Other interior and gifts fares include the Autumn Gift and Home Fair in Dublin, Ireland (16-18 August), All4Home, again in busy Brussels, Belgium (23-26 August) and the big and bustling Tendence 2015 in Frankfurt, Germany (29 August-1 September). Look out too for Spoga + Gafa 2015 in Cologne, Germany, a large garden industry trade fair featuring everything from barbeques to new blooms (30 August-1 September).

Sales

It’s a very quiet month in the sales world, with Sothebys, Bonhams and Philips taking August off. However Christies continues its monthly Interiors sale in London on 18 August, also featuring modern and contemporary art.

Exhibitions

The summer is all about blockbusters, whether books, cinema or in the art world, and both Paris and London offer some wonderful – and strikingly synergistic shows. The National Gallery’s new exhibition, Soundscapes (from 7 July) sounds intriguing and satisfying: the museum commissioned musicians and sound artists to select a painting from the collection and compose a new piece of music or sound art in response. Immersive and site-specific, the experience encourages visitors to ‘hear’ the paintings and ‘see’ the sound. Those invited range from Turner Prize-winning sound artist Susan Philipsz (who selected Holbein’s The Ambassadors) and rock star Jamie xx (who chose Van Rysselberghe’s Coastal Scene). Meanwhile over at the Fondation Louis Vuitton, Music/Sound (from 25 July) is the third hang of the vast art repository held in the new gallery, and features installations, sound sculptures and videos.

Back to London where the Whitechapel Gallery is having its triennial exhibition The London 2015 Like the Summer Exhibition it’s open to any artist in any media: sculpture, painting, performance, moving image, photography, printmaking and many other media and practices showcase some of the most dynamic work being made across the capital in 2015

Sculpture in the City, now in its fifth year, is a free public exhibition by the City of London, featuring cutting-edge contemporary works from leading artists sited in both busy thoroughfares and quieter, green spaces. It’s a great way to get a new perspective on London’s iconic architectural landmarks, such as the Gherkin by Norman Foster and the Lloyd’s building by Richard Rogers.

It has its counterpart in Sevres Outdoors 2015 (to 25 October) also featuring installations and sculpture from 27 cutting-edge Paris galleries in the Cité de la Céramique at Sèvres, Paris. Highlights include a strange chandelier (Vivien Roubaud) and upside down umbrellas (Georges Tony Stoll). Also on all summer is Anish Kapoor’s fabulous and monumental exhibition in the gardens at Versailles. The artist has brought a more political perspective on power and its depiction at Versailles as it celebrates the tercentenary of Louis XIV’s death.

While we’re on the subject of palaces, the State Rooms at Buckingham Palace in London opens on 25 July – a perfect opportunity to see how royalty live (and where that huge repair bill needs to go). And the wonderful, inspiring Make Yourself Comfortable featuring design from the likes of Thomas Heatherwick and Raw Edges continues at the magnificent Chatsworth in Derbyshire, UK.

If you’re looking for that historic home/contemporary show vibe closer to London, head to Houghton Hall in Norfolk, where light artist Jame Turrell’s Lightscape is centred around the Houghton collection, which also includes projections, a ‘Tall Glass’, holograms and prints, augmented by loans and a unique, site specific installation which lights the whole west façade of the house.