September 23, 2011

The Istanbul Biennial: Vintage is the new vanguard

VIRTUALLY every day of the year sees another art biennial opening somewhere in the world. The role of these exhibitions is to showcase contemporary art, attract affluent tourists and stimulate local culture. Most biennials are a sprawling mess—and the worst look like commercial art fairs studded with brand-name trophies. However, those that succeed in making sense of some aspect of global culture can be both enlightening and memorable. This year’s Istanbul Biennial, which opened on September 17th and runs for almost two months, is a case in point. 

Poignant, relevant and intellectually engaging, it has managed to create a coherent exhibition out of works by 130 artists from 41 countries—a rare achievement.The Istanbul Biennial is held in two huge former warehouses on the banks of the Bosporus. Untamed, the buildings would force viewers into a monotonous marathon of spectatorship. 

The biennial also has an intelligent structure. There are five group shows around the main themes that inspired Gonz├ílez-Torres’s work—love, death, abstraction, contested histories and territories. Each group show occupies a large grey room and acts as a hub for a cluster of solo shows featuring 50 artists, all in smaller white rooms. 

Read more on The Economist: The Istanbul Biennial: Vintage is the new vanguard

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