The world of contemporary art is an ever-evolving tapestry of creativity, innovation, and cultural exchange. Amidst this vibrant ecosystem, two distinctive phenomena have garnered considerable attention and intrigue: the Biennale and the Triennale. These terms, often spoken with reverence in artistic circles, encapsulate the essence of recurrent international art exhibitions, which, by their nature, transcend conventional boundaries of artistic expression and engagement.
Biennales or Biennials, as the name suggests, are exhibitions that unfold every two years, while Triennales, occurring every three years, operate on a similar principle but with a different temporal cadence. While these periodic gatherings of artists, curators, and art enthusiasts have become fixtures in the global art calendar, they encompass a complexity and richness that extends far beyond their temporal regularity.
This is the first part of our Biennials and Triennales series, stay tuned for our next list!
Here are 11 Biennials and Triennales that are reshaping the landscape of contemporary art:
1. Venice Biennale, Italy
La Biennale di Venezia is a prestigious cultural institution that was established in 1895. It hosts various festivals such as Art, Music, Cinema, Theatre, Architecture, and Dance. The exhibition takes place in Central Pavillion (Giardini) and in the Arsenale, including 213 artists from 58 countries. Every year, over 500,000 visitors attend the Art Exhibition making it one of the most attended events in the world.
Exhibition Dates: 20 April to Sunday 24 November, 2024 (pre-opening on April 17, 18 and 19), curated by Adriano Pedrosa.
2. Documenta, Germany
Documenta is an art exhibition held every five years in Kassel, Germany. It's renowned for its experimental and unconventional exhibition structures that emphasize conceptual art. The event features around 53 artists who get two years to create their projects for Documenta. Documenta 15 drew 738,000 visitors.
Last exhibition date: 18th June- 25th Sept 2022
Next date: Sat, 12 Jun, 2027 – Sun, 19 Sept, 2027
3. São Paulo Biennial, Brazil
Discover the Sao Paulo Biennial, a dynamic art event in the heart of South America celebrating Latin American art and global artists. Founded in 1951, it is the second-oldest art biennial in the world after Venice. Initially, it aimed to promote contemporary art from the US and Western Europe in Brazil and establish Sao Paulo as an international art center. Today, it attracts around 100 artists and 750,000 visitors.
Previous exhibition dates: Sep 6- Dec 10 2023
4. Istanbul Biennial, Turkey
The Istanbul Biennial is a biennial art event that combines tradition, modernity, and global artistic discourse. It's organized by the Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Art and started in 1987. During the 17th edition, 82 artists and collectives participated along with contributors featured in the biennial catalog and film program, taking place over two years.
Next Exhibition: 14th Sept-17 Sep 2024
5. Whitney Biennial, USA
The Whitney Biennial is a triennial exhibition hosted by the Whitney Museum of American Art, showcasing contemporary American art. It is the longest-running survey of American art, and has been a hallmark of the Museum since 1932. The biennial has been a survey show of work in all media occurring every two years since 1973. More than 103 (in 2014) artists have participated and almost 131,471 have attended the biennial.
Date: 20th March 2024
6. Sydney Biennale, Australia
Dates: 9 March – 10 June 2024.
7. Shanghai Biennale, China
The Shanghai Biennale is a significant international biennial of contemporary art that takes place in Shanghai every two years. It provides a platform for artists from around the world to explore the intersection of tradition and modernity, challenge their work, and expand their experience. The Biennale aims to expand Shanghai’s importance as the ‘gateway to the west’ through the arts sector and serve as an international platform for the self-portrayal of China and Shanghai. It hosted almost 150 artists in its last edition.
Dates: 9th Nov- 31 March 2024
8. Bienal de la Habana, Cuba
The Havana Biennial was founded in 1984 with a focus on artists from the South whose works represent common concerns and conflicts, often of universal scope, within their regions. The biennial is organized through research and a curatorial process, and has held at least 10 exhibitions featuring 1,127 artists, mostly in Havana. The most recent edition of the biennial had 83 artists and collectives participating.
Dates: 25th March- 30th Nov 2023
9. Gwangju Biennale, South Korea
The Gwangju Biennale is a platform for visual arts and cultural exchanges, established in the mid-1990s in Gwangju, South Korea. It aims to heal the traumatic history of the May 1980 uprising through aesthetic means. The Gwangju Biennale, featured 79 artists from around the world and unveiled 40 new works in five exhibition venues, attracting over 620,000 visitors.
Dates: 1st Sep- 7th Dec 2024
10. Lyon Biennale, France
The Lyon Biennale in France showcases contemporary art with a focus on exploring art, technology, and society. Originating from a project by Lyon's Museum of Contemporary Art in 1984, the first edition took place in 1991 after being inaugurated by the City of Lyon and the Ministry of Culture. The curatorial selection includes over 100 artists from 40 countries.
Dates: September 21, 2024 – January 5, 2025
And an addition of our very own: Kochi-Muziris Biennale, India
The Kochi-Muziris Biennale, situated in the city of Kochi, Kerala, India, stands as the country's largest art exhibition and holds the distinction of being the largest contemporary art festival in all of Asia. An initiative of the Kochi Biennale Foundation, with backing from the Government of Kerala, this artistic endeavor was envisioned and realized by Dr. Venu Vasudevan IAS, the cultural secretary of the Government of Kerala. Spread across various locations in Kochi, including galleries, halls, public spaces, heritage buildings, and vacant structures, the biennale showcases an array of artworks by both Indian and international artists, spanning diverse mediums such as film, installation, painting, sculpture, new media, and performance art. Beyond its celebration of global contemporary art, the Kochibiennale aims to rekindle the historic cosmopolitan legacy of Kochi, along with its mythical predecessor, the ancient port of Muziris. Complementing the exhibition is an extensive program featuring talks, seminars, screenings, music, workshops, and educational activities tailored for school children and students.
We would also like to highlight Manifesta in Amsterdam, the Yokohama Triennale in Japan, the Liverpool Biennial in the UK, the Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennale in Japan, the Marrakech Biennale, the Taipei Biennial, DAK'ART, and the Berlin Biennial, among others. Stay tuned for our next article, where we delve deeper into these remarkable art events!
As we come to the end of this exciting artistic journey, it's evident that Biennials and Triennials are more than just exhibitions. They are vibrant celebrations of creativity that connect the past and the present. These events redefine the art world, challenge conventional thinking, and inspire audiences around the globe. Whether in Venice, São Paulo, or Shanghai, these art gatherings offer a glimpse into the ever-evolving world of contemporary art, where boundaries are pushed, traditions are reimagined, and ideas are transformed into masterpieces. Mark your calendars for these remarkable Biennales and Triennales!