How Berlin's Biennale Became The City's Largest Contemporary Art Exhibition

'The Fear Society' exhibition at Biennale
'The Fear Society' exhibition at Biennale | © Jean-Pierre Dalbéra / Flickr
Photo of Alice Dundon
30 May 2018

Berlin’s renowned Biennale art festival turns various spots across the city into contemporary art galleries for three months. Currently in its tenth edition, the festival explores artistic developments, letting the unfamiliar find a home against the backdrop of Berlin. Here’s a brief history of the event and how it came to be one of the city’s largest celebrations of contemporary art.

Exhibition at Berlin Biennale | © Yka Sweetkokomo / Flickr

Berlin Biennale as a contemporary art lab

The Berlin Biennale was co-founded by Klaus Biesenbach and Eberhard Mayntz, and also received considerable support from collectors as well as patrons of art. Biesenbach is also the founding director of KW Institute for Contemporary Art and currently serves as Director of MoMA PS1 and Chief Curator at Large at MoMA. Begining in 1998, the Berlin Biennale creates an international forum for contemporary art within the city. In its essence, the multi-venue exhibition is an open space that critically examines and pushes the boundaries of the contemporary art world. Encompassing roughly five venues sprawling across the city, each time it occurs it’s the largest exhibition of contemporary art in Berlin. The event is also supported by the German government‘s Federal Culture Foundation, cementing it as the second most important contemporary art event in the country, after documenta.

Berlin Biennale, summer 2016, Feuerle Collection | © stephane333 / Flickr

The exhibition occurs every two to three years and is put together by a different curator or curators each time, who choose the overarching themes and artists who participate. Characterised as an ‘art lab,’ Berlin Biennale also aims to give young artists the opportunity to exhibit their work to the public and the art world.

'Uncertain Journey' by Chiharu Shiota at Blain, Southern Berlin | © mangtronix / Flickr

This year’s theme – ‘We Don’t Need Another Hero’

Currently in its tenth edition, this year the Berlin Biennale is starting a conversation about subjectivities with artists and contributors who think and act beyond art, under the title ‘We Don’t Need Another Hero’. Running from June, 9 until September, 9, this year’s event sets the tone by creating situations and perspectives that disavow the existing. By exploring geopolitical shifts and the current collective psychosis, ‘We Don’t Need Another Hero’ dwells entirely in the subjective, and rejects the desire for a saviour.

'Parasimpatico' by Pipilotti Rist | © Bruno Cordioli / Flickr

Curating the work of over 40 artists and exhibiting their boundary-pushing work in five different locations, the Berlin Biennale is the must-see all-encompassing and thought-provoking contemporary art exhibition in Berlin.

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