From the Margins to the Center

The São Paulo Biennial, the Biennale of Sydney, and the Istanbul Biennial

in Museum Worlds
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  • 1 University of Melbourne coatesr@unimelb.edu.au
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This article explores the continuing evolution of biennials, particularly those outside the traditional European/North American “centers”. From their early beginnings in Venice in 1895, biennials have become one of the most vital and visible sites for the production, distribution, and discussion of contemporary art. A “third wave” of biennials in the 1980s was part of a growing focus on a global “south”, and played a key role in redefining notions of center and periphery in the global contemporary art world. This article shows how the São Paulo, Sydney, and Istanbul biennials were part of these trends toward the “biennialization” of contemporary art, mass spectatorship, the interweaving of the global and the local, and the rise of a generation of nomadic curators and artists whose work exemplified these themes. It argues that the most recent editions of these biennials may reflect a further shift in the evolution of the biennial model: a possible fourth wave, where the biennial provides an international platform for local politics.

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