Artists Bridget Riley, Antony Gormley and Arts minister Estelle Morris will launch British Art Week on Tuesday.
The Bridget Riley exhibition will be free on Friday
The new annual event at Tate Britain will take a fresh look at the meaning of British visual culture.
The week of debate will culminate in a special late-night opening on Friday with free entry to the Bridget Riley exhibition.
There will also be previews of future exhibitions and live music.
Ben Luke, the spokesman for Tate Britain, said British Art Week was designed to get people thinking about what UK art means.
"British art doesn't really need a boost but we have a range of collections just opening and we thought it would be good to find a point every year to focus on the work the UK produces," he told BBC News Online.
The organisers are keen to make sure the whole of the country can get involved.
"While some of the key events are at Tate Britain in London, we have various exhibitions taking place at art galleries around the UK so that people from all regions can go along," said Mr Luke.
Riley's lecture about her influences and the development of her work takes place on Wednesday but is already sold out.
Andrew Graham-Dixon, an historian and Sunday Telegraph critic, will argue in his lecture on Thursday that British art has a unique and highly distinctive character and can justifiably be compared to some of the greatest works produced abroad.
Exhibitions outside London collaborating with British Art Week includes ceramics artist Richard Slee's work at The Potteries Museum and Art Gallery in Stoke-On-Trent.
Yorkshire's Sculpture Park is hosting an exhibition of work by artists such as Richard Deacon, Damien Hirst, Anish Kapoor and Rachel Whiteread.