With today’s mixture of classic and unconventional biennials, it is necessary to think again about the purpose and drive behind the biennial itself and to wonder where we are going globally in terms of art, its movements, and its connections to globalization.
This year’s Venice Biennale brought about many questions concerning the depth and political responsibilities of the biennial and its context. Viva Arte Viva seemed a bit superficial in terms of themes, although, yes, we all hope for Art to keep living and to remain strong in terms of significance and output around the world. It played a safe role in terms of not making anyone get too fussy about political titles, while subterfuge allowed some of the individual pavilions to give out unique passports and visas such as the Tunisian Freesa and the NSK pavilion passport. Although these ideas are not new, since it was Jorge and Lucy Orta who gave out Antarctica World Passports at the 9 th Shanghai Biennale back in 2012, they are an indication that just beneath the surface or the superficial title, artists are still challenging the viewer and the world of politics.
Recently, such avant-garde approaches to the biennial format as the Museum of Non-Visible Art Biennial (MONA Biennial), the upcoming Wrong Biennial which combines digital pavilions with physical exhibitions around the world, and the Worldwide Apartment and Studio Biennial, have created a different context all together for the purpose and even, venue of a biennial in contemporary times.The United States has seen a rise in interest in Islamic art with the displays at the Museum of Modern Art being changed over to represent Islamic art in the collection as a protest to travel bans, , as well as the active collecting happening with the important Guggenheim UBS Map Global Art Initiative, , which has expanded the collection to include more artists from South and Southeast Asia, Latin America, the Middle East and North Africa. In Spain, the recent exhibit, Making Africa, showed at the CCCB, Center of Contemporary Art of Barcelona, and represented artists and designers from all over Africa, and was a more than subtle hint at the necessity of constructing a vision of Africa of the future through art. Still in Venice, we had a limited amount of representation from Africa and the diaspora with the Diaspora Pavilion, including some key emerging artists and mentor artists of influence from multiple diaspora, and the Nigerian (for the first time), Egyptian, and South African Pavilions.
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