[UPDATED] 10 Important Art Biennales Coming Up in 2020/21

Top Lists, Exhibition Announcements

May 5, 2020

The art biennale as an expansive art event happening every other year is always expected with great anticipation by the global art community, since it tends to look at the local social and political issues or specific phenomena from a broader and more engaging perspective. Such a task is challenging to accomplish, so every time a new biennale arises, the stakes are high, and we wonder if it is going to be able to compete with the giants such as the Venice Biennale.

Nevertheless, even on a small scale, these exhibitions are a valuable insight into the artistic production, as well as in the recent interest found in the curatorial practices.

We already made the list of the most important biennales and triennales in Europe and North America,  as well is in Asia, Africa, and South America. Here, we will focus on art biennales coming up in 2020 that reflect the latest tendencies in the contemporary art world. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, many of the ennials were pushed or even cancelled, and with this article we will keep you up to date with the latest developments. 

Featured image: Installation view, exp. 2: Virginia de Medeiros – Feminist Health Care Research Group, 30.11.2019–8.2.2020, 11th Berlin Biennale c/o ExRotaprint. Photo: Mathias Völzke.

Bienal de São Paulo

The first biennial on our list is a famous one happening in Brazil. In 2020, the thirty-fourth edition of Bienal de São Paulo will be released according to the poetics of relation, from which aroused a new operational structure that enables a series of exhibitions and actions to be presented at the Bienal pavilion starting from February 2020, as well as at more than twenty São Paulo institutions that will open their doors after the grand opening.

The team lead by the curator Jacopo Crivelli Visconti conceived a concept titled Faz escuro mas eu canto (Though it’s dark, still I sing), a line from a poem by Brazilian writer Thiago de Mello. The 34th Bienal de São Paulo is based on three different axes: time, space, and depth; three solo exhibitions and three performative actions at the Bienal Pavilion will feature some of the themes that will be explored further in the main exhibition.

In light of the challenges that the Covid-19 pandemic has imposed on the world, Fundação Bienal de São Paulo announces that the group exhibition of the 34th Bienal de São Paulo - Though it’s dark, still I sing, will take place from September 4 to December 5 2021, at the Biennial Pavilion. Therefore, the current edition of the biennial, which launched its public activities in February 2020, will extend until the end of next year. In addition, the exhibitions by Clara Ianni and Deana Lawson, as well as the performances authored by León Ferrari and Hélio Oiticica, which were to take place between April and August, will be incorporated into the group show.

Featured image: Posters for the 34 Bienal de São Paulo 2020. Courtesy ​Fundação Bienal de São Paulo.

Gwangju Biennale

Under the title Minds Rising, Spirits Tuning, the 13th Gwangju Biennale will be taking place in South Korea, exploring the notion of superintelligence by articulating the spectrum of the extended mind through artistic and theoretical practices.

The artistic directors Defne Ayas and Natasha Ginwala will deliver a dense program consisting of an exhibition, a performance program, an online publishing platform and publications, and a series of discursive programs that will bring artists, theoreticians, and thinkers to discuss various aspects of the proposed topic. The primacy of plurality will be considered regarding the dominant technological systems and vocabularies present in the West but also relatable to other cultures.

Furthermore, the 13th Gwangju Biennale tends to show how the innovative strategies of resistance will reflect on the future horizon of capitalism and imperialism, as well as the techno-spiritual tendencies that color our reality.

The Gwangju Biennale Foundation has postponed the thirteenth edition of the Gwangju Biennale, which was scheduled from 4 September until 29 November 2020 due to the global health crisis caused by Covid-19. The event will now take place in 2021, more precisely from February 26 to May 9.

Featured image: Gwangju Biennale 2020 Artistic Directors Natasha Ginwala and Defne Ayas. Photo: Victoria Tomaschko.

Eva International

Eva International takes place every second year in the city of Limerick, Ireland. It was launched in 1977 and is also recognized as the Irish Biennial.

This edition, 39th in the row, takes into consideration the notion of the 19th term Golden Vein, used to describe the pastures of the Limerick / Tipperary region in the mid-West of Ireland. This historical perspective reveals the perception of "the land as a resource to be exploited and commercialized through industrialized agricultural production and global trade." This concept will be articulated primarily in regards to the contemporary state of Irish lands, but the state of lands on a global scale in the light of climate crisis.

In response to COVID-19, the 39th EVA International will be delivered in three phases across 2020 and 2021. Phase 1 will open from 18 September to 15 November 2020, featuring venue-based, online, and offsite presentations. Venues include Limerick City Gallery of Art, The Hunt Museum, the Sailor’s Home.

Featured image: Eva International 2020.

Glasgow International

The renowned Glasgow International biennial organized every second year since 2005. The latest edition titled Attention tends to investigate "how, where and in whom our attention is placed at a time of constant distraction through social media and 24-hour news feeds."

What are the opportunities for close looking both in the making and viewing of art, and how we attend to others whom we care for, as well as ourselves? Under the curation by Richard Parry, Attention tends to open up a dialog for innovative approaches regarding this topic that seems more than relevant.

Glasgow International 2020, originally scheduled 23 April - 10 May 2020, has been postponed to 2021 due to the Covid-19 crisis, with the new dates being 11 – 27 June.

Featured image: Glasgow International 2020.

Liverpool Biennial

The 11th edition of Liverpool Biennial titled The Stomach and the Port, will explore the contemporary notion of the body under the curation by Manuela Moscoso with artistic director Fatos Üstek and the Liverpool Biennial team.

More than fifty international artists that are invited to respond to this theme will show their works in locations across Liverpool, including public spaces, historic sites, the city’s leading art venues.

Originally planned from 11 July to 25 October 2020, the 11th edition of Liverpool Biennial has also been postponed to 2021. The public opening is on 20 March, with an extension to the Biennial’s duration at most venues to 27 June 2021 and others to August and September.

Featured image: Liverpool Biennial 2020.

Berlin Biennale

Every other year, the Berlin Biennale is expected with great excitement, and so is this year’s 11th edition curated by María Berríos, Renata Cervetto, Lisette Lagnado, and Agustín Pérez Rubio. The team of inter generational, female-identified South-American curators will deliver a series of lived experiences that evolve as a process that will be presented with three chapters exp. 1, exp. 2, and exp. 3. developing from September 2019 to May 2020.

The starting point of their concept is the urbanistic and social exploration of the surroundings of the ExRotaprint complex in the neighborhood of Wedding. The central program of the Berlin Biennale 2020, which was due to take place from 13 June until 13 September 2020 at various venues throughout the city, will now take place from September 5 to November 1, 2020.

Featured image: Installation view, exp. 2: Virginia de Medeiros – Feminist Health Care Research Group, 30.11.2019–8.2.2020, 11th Berlin Biennale c/o ExRotaprint. Photo: Mathias Völzke.

Manifesta 13

The famous Manifesta is a nomadic art event happening around Europe since 1994. In 2020, the pan-European biennial will mark its 13th edition in Marseille; it will consist of three different, yet connected, programs that were conceived in the past two years and are constantly evolving.

The leading program of Manifesta 13 Marseille the Traits d’union. s is formed by the Artistic Team formed by four outstanding practitioners in contemporary art and architecture. The second program Le Tiers Programme created by educators, mediators, artists, and other inhabitants of Marseille will present a collection of research-based projects to be shown across the city from September 2019 onwards. The third program Les Parallèles du Sud will underline a spectrum of diverse cultural initiatives in Marseille and its region while highlighting international participants.

Manifesta 13 is taking place in Marseille from August 28 until November 29, 2020.

Featured image: Espace Manifesta 13.

Helsinki Biennial

The first edition of the Helsinki Biennial reflects on the notion of interdependence: every action and thing is connected, and supports the whole. It will gather around thirty-five international artists and collectives whose works will be shattered in public space and inside historical buildings.

The Helsinki Biennial 2020 curators are Pirkko Siitari, Head of Exhibitions at HAM Helsinki Art Museum, and Taru Tappola, HAM’s Head of Public Art decided to focus on the mentioned island due to its specific historical context. Vallisaari was initially designed for military purposes at the end of the 18th century, while Finland was part of Sweden, however, the construction of the fortress began in the 19th century during the Russian rule. Throughout the decades, the island was inhabited by seal hunters, pilots, people from the neighboring islands, Russian military personnel and Finnish Defense Forces personnel and their families. The last inhabitants left the island in 1996.

The inaugural Helsinki Biennial 2020, The Same Sea, which was due to take place from 12 June until 27 September 2020, will now take place from 12 June to 26 September 2021, owing to the exceptional circumstances caused by the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19).

Featured image: Vallisaari Horizon, Helsinki Biennial 2020.

Biennale of Sydney

The Biennale of Sydney's twenty-second edition will bring the curatorial concept titled NIRIN that is inspired by the 2019 International Year of Indigenous Languages. This word comes from the language of the Wiradjuri people of western New South Wales, and it means "edge".

The Biennale of Sydney 2020 will be organized around seven themes such as DHAAGUN (Earth: Sovereignty and Working Together); BAGARAY-BANG (Healing); YIRAWY–DHURAY (Yam-Connection: Food); GURRAY (Transformation); MURIGUWAL GIILAND (Different Stories); NGAWAAL-GUYUNGAN (Powerful-Ideas: The Power of Objects); and BILA (River: Environment).

Due to Covid-19 crisi, audiences around the world will be able to engage with the NIRIN exhibition by the Biennale of Sydney on the Google Arts & Culture platform. Creating a virtual Biennale will bring the exhibition and programs to life through live content, virtual walkthroughs, podcasts, interactive Q&As, curated tours and artist takeovers.

Featured image: Biennale of Sydney 2020.

Prospect.5

The fifth edition of Prospect, an annual art event in New Orleans, under the title Yesterday we said tomorrow will be curated by artistic directors Diana Nawi and Naima J. Keit. It will take place across the city’s museums, exhibition spaces, and public space.

The exhibition will feature the works of international artists coming from the United States, the Caribbean, Africa, and Europe. Its title is taken from socially conscious album Yesterday You Said Tomorrow by New Orleans–born jazz musician Christian Scott from 2010. According to the curators, Prospect.5 will "address the social body and the individual, suggesting the deferral of structural and political change."

The Prospect New Orleans Triennial, which had been set to take place from October 24 to January 24, 2021, has been postponed due to the Covid-19 health emergency. Its 2020 exhibition now has a new opening date, October 23, 2021, running through January 23, 2022.

Featured image: Prospect.5 2020.