The New Year brings a packed calendar of biennials, triennials, and other art events taking place the world over. But with both the Whitney Biennial and the Venice Biennale both having taken place in 2019, this year the art world will be turning its attention to the many intriguing exhibitions planned across Asia and the Pacific.
There’s the Dhaka Art Summit in Bangladesh, the Gwangju Biennial in South Korea, and the Kochi-Muziris Biennale in India all this year. But that doesn’t mean there still won’t be a lot to see in Europe, including the Liverpool Biennial, Berlin Biennale, and Manifesta 13 in Marseille. And the São Paulo Biennial will take place in the newly shaken-up political landscape created by far-right president Jair Bolsonaro, while in the US, Prospect 5 returns to New Orleans on the 15th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.
Here are our picks for the splashiest art biennials and triennials to include in your 2020 diary.
Dhaka Art Summit
WHERE: Dhaka, Bangladesh
WHAT TO KNOW: The fifth edition of the biannual Dhaka Art Summit is titled “Seismic Movements” and will focus on re-examining established art histories, movements, borders, and fault lines. Some 500 academics, artists, curators, and collectives from all over the world will contribute to panel discussions, performances, and symposia spread across four floors of the Shilpakala Academy. Curated by Diana Campbell Betancourt, the summit aims to answer the question “What is a movement and how do we generate one outside the confines of an exhibition?”
April 24–May 10
WHERE: Glasgow, Scotland
WHAT TO KNOW: The theme of the 2020 edition of the Glasgow International is “Attention.” It will include new commissions by UK and international artists, including Martine Syms and Bodys Isek Kingelez, as well as exhibitions by artists Urara Tsuchiya, Eva Rothschild, Dawn Mellor, Ingrid Pollard, and others. The theme asks artists to consider where our attention is focused amid the distracting noise of contemporary life. Glasgow International’s director, Richard Parry, and curator Poi Marr also ask: “How we attend to others whom we care for, as well as ourselves?”
Biennale of Sydney
March 14–June 8
WHERE: Sydney, Australia
WHAT TO KNOW: Brook Andrew, the artist-curator of the 22nd Biennale of Sydney is putting the issues facing indigenous and First Nation peoples, along with the planet’s most “urgent concerns” center stage. The biennale’s title is “Nirin,” which means “edge,” and its performance program is called “Wir,” or sky—both phrases that come from the curator’s ancestors, the Wiradjuri people of central western New South Wales. Andrew wants artists to expose “unresolved past anxieties and hidden layers of the supernatural.” For the first time, artists from Nepal, Georgia, Afghanistan, Sudan, and Ecuador will take part in the exhibition held across six venues in the Australian city and beyond to the Blue Mountains. They will be joined by artists including Arthur Jafa, Jose Dávila, Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Teresa Margolles, Zanele Muholi, Lisa Reihana, and Laure Prouvost.
May 16–October 11
WHERE: Riga, Latvia
WHAT TO KNOW: The second edition of the Riga International Biennial of Contemporary Art is titled “RIBOCA2: And Suddenly It All Blossoms.” Curated by Rebecca Lamarche-Vadel, the exhibition will channel the concept of “re-enchantment” amid a global context of ecological, economic, and political upheaval. The title is borrowed from a Latvian poem by Māra Zālīte and speaks to the exhibition’s goal of forging some more hopeful alternatives to apocalyptic narratives about humanity’s future. Nearly 60 percent of the featured artists are from the Baltic region (which includes Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and Russia), and at least 85 percent of the work on view will be new commissions. Participating artists include Nina Beier, Hicham Berrada, Pierre Huyghe, Lina Lapelytė, Tomás Saraceno, and Augustas Serapinas.
Venice Biennale of Architecture
May 23–November 11
WHERE: Venice, Italy
WHAT TO KNOW: The curator of the biennale, MIT architecture dean Hashim Sarkis calls on exhibiting architects to imagine spaces in which we might better live together. Sarkis wants architects to achieve this by working with artists, builders, craftspeople, “and also politicians, journalists, social scientists, and everyday citizens.” Finding solutions to the problem caused by climate change, widening political divides, and growing economic inequalities are uppermost on the brief. The curators of the American pavilion plan to celebrate wood-frame houses built with humble two-by-four timbers. Paul Anderson and Paul Preissner point out that in America, “The richest and poorest people live in houses that were built the same way.” They add that John F. Kennedy lived in a wood-framed house, as does Beyoncé.
June 5–September 19
WHERE: Arnhem, Netherlands
WHAT TO KNOW: The historic art exhibition has taken place (more or less regularly) in the quiet city of Arnhem since 1949 as a way to help the city recuperate from the damages it endured during World War II. Curating the Dutch show in 2016 was a career-making moment for the art collective ruangrupa, which will also curate documenta in 2022. The director of Sonsbeek 2020 is the independent curator Bonaventure Soh Bejeng.
June 7–November 11
WHERE: Marseille, France
WHAT TO KNOW: The roving European biennial is heading this year to Marseille in the South of France. Titled “Les Parallèles du Sud,” the 2020 edition will include 96 artistic projects, 75 percent of which are from institutions, associations, galleries, artists, and curators based in southeastern France. As usual, Manifesta will seek partners at a local level and the 350 participating artists will engage in talks, performances, and screenings via various local networks. Manifesta 13 is committed to gender parity, so 50 percent of the participants are female artists.
June 12–September 27
WHERE: Helsinki, Finland
WHAT TO KNOW: The inaugural edition of the Helsinki Biennial is titled “The Same Sea” and curated by Pirkko Siitari and Taru Tappola, the head curators at the Helsinki Art Museum. The exhibition promises to reflect on interdependence and will highlight some 35 leading Finnish and international artists, including Katharina Grosse, Alicja Kwade, BIOS Research Unit, and Laura Könönen. The exhibition will take place on a former military base on the city’s Vallisaari island. Eighty percent of the work on show will be new commissions or site-specific works.
11th Berlin Biennale
June 13–September 13
WHERE: Berlin, Germany
WHAT TO KNOW: Four South American curators have taken the helm of the yet-to-be-titled upcoming edition of the Berlin exhibition, which has already launched its prequel programming this fall. María Berríos, Renata Cervetto, Lisette Lagnado, and Agustín Pérez Rubio, a group of “intergenerational, female identified” curators, are currently unfolding a series of events from now until May in order to build more sustainable relations with the city and its artists.
July 3–October 11
WHERE: Yokohama, Japan
WHAT TO KNOW: Yokohama is on trend picking an art collective to curate its triennial. Delhi-based Raq Media Collective’s proposal caught the attention of the selection committee because it promises to go beyond “superficial globalization,” to infinity and beyond. Titled “Afterglow,” the three artists who make up Raqs Media Collective riff on the fact that we all unknowingly experience the residues of light from the Big Bang.
July 3–October 11
WHERE: Limerick, Republic of Ireland
WHAT TO KNOW: Ireland’s leading contemporary art biennial, EVA International, returns to the city of Limerick. This year the exhibition links up with IMMA, the Irish Museum of Modern Art in Dublin. Somewhere between the two cities there will be a “major artistic production” to be announced. This year the rolling pasture land between Limerick and Tipperary, known as the “Golden Vein” in the 19th century, provides fertile ground for participating artists (who have yet to be announced). Their brief will be to explore “ideas of land and its contested values within the context of Ireland today.”
July 11–October 25
WHERE: Liverpool, UK
WHAT TO KNOW: The Liverpool Biennial is the UK’s largest festival of contemporary art. Titled “The Stomach and the Port,” the 11th edition will engage more than 50 international artists to explore notions of the body and ways of connecting with the world. Curated by Manuela Moscosco with the biennial’s new artistic director, Fatoş Üstek, participating artists include Linder, Rashid Johnson, Judy Chicago, Larry Achiampong, Nicholas Hlobo, and Zheng Bo.
September 4–November 29
WHERE: Gwangju, South Korea
WHAT TO KNOW: The 13th Gwangju Biennale coincides with the 40th anniversary of the bloody Democratic Uprising in Gwangju. Directed by Defne Ayas and Natasha Ginwala, the exhibition investigates the world’s co-evolution with technology, and the way it might prompt new forms of intelligence through global networks, queer technologies, and modes of communal survival. Participating artists include Pacita Abad, Gala Porras-Kim, and Patricia Domínguez.
São Paulo Biennial
September 5–December 6
WHERE: São Paulo, Brazil
WHAT TO KNOW: The stakes have never been higher for the Brazil exhibition. The show will be organized by São Paulo-based curator Jacopo Crivelli Visconti and will explore the concept of “relation” in an increasingly polarized political climate in Brazil. It is also changing its format with a consecutive series of solo shows that will take place in the lead-up to the official start of the show in September. In the biennial’s Oscar Niemeyer-designed home, artists including Deana Lawson from the US and the Peruvian artist Ximena Garrido-Lecca will present solo projects.
September 5–November 8
WHERE: Folkestone, UK
WHAT TO KNOW: The fifth edition of the Folkestone Triennial is called “The Plot,” which can refer to both a narrative and a conspiracy, or materially to plot a course or a graph. Curated once again by Lewis Biggs, it will include 20 new commissions and will present artworks in public spaces across the town on the south coast of England. As in previous editions, a selection of the works remain on long-term loan from the artists, which already boasts such names as Yoko Ono, Christian Boltanski, Mark Wallinger, and Cornelia Parker, among many others.
Casablanca International Biennale
September 24–November 1
WHERE: Casablanca, Morocco
WHAT TO KNOW: For its fifth edition, the North African biennale is working in partnership with the FRAC Reunion, the Francophone contemporary art space on the island in the Indian Ocean. Six Reunionese artists, Jean-Sébastien Clain and Yannis Nanguet (aka Kid Kréol & Boogie), Brandon Gercara, Christian Jalma (aka Pink Floyd), Gabrielle Manglou, and Myriam Omar Awadi will take part. Their work will confront the history of slavery, colonization, and various independence struggles. Curator Christine Eyene has also formed a surprise partnership with the New Art Exchange in Nottingham, in the Midlands of England.
October 24, 2020–January 24, 2021
WHERE: New Orleans, USA
WHAT TO KNOW: The fifth edition of Prospect New Orleans is titled “Yesterday We Said Tomorrow,” a line borrowed from an album by the New Orleans-born jazz musician Christian Scott. The exhibition will be curated by Los Angeles-based Naima Keith and Diana Nawi. It will address “the social body and the individual,” taking its cue from the contemporary moment as well as New Orleans’s specific history of intersecting and coexisting histories and cultures. The list of participating artists, who will offer up a “polyvocal retelling of history that is attuned to our complex era” will be announced in the spring.
October 24, 2020–February 28, 2021
WHERE: Taipei, Taiwan
WHAT TO KNOW: The curators of the Taipei Biennial 2020, Bruno Latour and Martin Guinard, have picked a topical title for the exhibition: “You and I Don’t Live on the Same Planet—New Diplomatic Encounters.” It points to the gulf between Donald Trump and Greta Thunberg as examples of polar opposites. Latour is a distinguished philosopher and Guinard is a curator. This will be the latest in a series of curatorial collaborations.
December 12, 2020–April 10, 2021
WHERE: Kochi, India
WHAT TO KNOW: The Singapore-based artist and writer Shubigi Rao has been appointed curator of the fifth edition of India’s leading biennial. While Rao has yet to release a concept or participating artists for the show, she said she sees biennales as “floating cities that are unmoored from their locality/regionality,” noting that multiple histories of Kochi can provide an important site for critical, political, and social practices.
Bangkok Art Biennial
December 12, 2020–April 10, 2021
WHERE: Bangkok, Thailand
WHAT TO KNOW: The Bangkok Art Biennial is set to take place across various art and cultural venues, including the holy temples of Wat Prayoon, Wat Arun, and Wat Phra Chetuphon. This upcoming edition boasts an eye-catching artist list that so far includes Anish Kapoor, Bill Viola, and Rirkrit Tiravanija.
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