Lecture series: Bienniales in Transition (Porto Alegre, April 2018)

8 April 2018
Andrea Buddensieg

The recent history of biennials has gone through several stages and is closely linked to the expansion of what is called global art. The first stage dates back to the 1990s. At the time, biennials began to expand around the world. Initially counting about 20 events, today there are more than 200 and this number continues to grow. The reason for this growth of biennials from China to South America, from Gulf States to Asia is based on the fact that global art production has expanded massively. On the other hand, institutions for the presentation of art did not expand proportionally in quantity and, above all, in their budgets. After the boom in the opening of contemporary art museums (MOCA), biennials took on the role of transmitting international art and connecting with local art. Thus, curators became the principal agents of this period. In 2011, we documented this development in the exhibition “The Global Contemporary and the Rise of New Art Worlds” in Karslruhe, ZKM, with the help of data visualization that shows the migration of artists and curators around the world. The point, however, is that we are now approaching a new stage in which the biennial’s function is undergoing profound changes and that the questions asked so far may have to be re-examined in the face of new facts and new objectives.