In the calendar of anniversaries, somewhere between Christmas (an annual) and Halley's comet (a demisesquicentennial), there is the biennial. Held in about 60 cities throughout the world, the art biennial (or biennale, to give it the oft-preferred Italian name) affords local and invited international artists a chance to
Since about 85% of biennials are government-initiated, there's often a strong community aspect to these events. Instead of disappearing after the opening party, artists often stay on to give workshops and talks, and regional themes predominate at many showings. Locally sponsored events like to take advantage of everyday venues. At Singapore's inaugural biennial, launched earlier this month, some of the paintings and installations are displayed in an Armenian church and a Hindu temple.
About one-third of the world's major biennials take place in the Asia-Pacific area. While Singapore's biennial closes on Nov. 12, the region has plenty more in store for the fall and winter. Here's our pick of three must-see shows:
TAIPEI: Taipei's Biennial held from Nov. 4 this year to Feb. 25, 2007 began life as a purely local exhibition at the Taipei Fine Arts Museum but soon blossomed into an international event. Since 2000, it has been jointly curated by two curators one a Taiwan national, the other from overseas. This has led to the occasional spat, with the Taiwan curator at the 2005 event having what one official diplomatically described as "communication problems" with her Belgian curating partner. This year, Taipei will try the pairing of American curator Dan Cameron and artist-critic Junjieh Wang. Chinese video artist Cao Fei, who will produce a new work for the show, will be joined by Japanese painter-photographer Kazuna Taguchi and almost 40 other artists.
BRISBANE: The Asia-Pacific Triennial in Brisbane (Dec. 2 to May 27, 2007) is often dwarfed by the Biennale of Sydney, a 32-year-old extravaganza now classed in the same lofty league as the Venice or São Paolo events. A little competition has been good for the Queensland newcomer, however, prompting it to abandon its earlier catch-all approach in favor of a tighter focus on key movements in regional art. Regulars on the Asian art circuit, such as Indian-born British sculptor Anish Kapoor and controversial Chinese conceptual artist Ai Weiwei, have signed up to participate this year. The show also coincides with the opening of the new Queensland Gallery of Modern Art.
OGAKI: Japan has long been a pioneer in media art (the name given to work created with new, mostly digital, technologies), but the country has tended to ignore its neighbors in favor of installation makers from the West. The Ogaki Biennale (Oct. 6-15) hopes to redress this with Japan's first major showing of Asian media artists. Held in a castle, a shrine and other venues in a small city half an hour outside Nagoya, Ogaki will feature up-and-coming names from Indonesia, India, China, the Philippines and South Korea. According to co-curator and Singaporean art theorist Gunalan Nadarajan, the event will allow visitors to examine the "culturally different notions of art, media and technology." Alternatively, they can simply let themselves be charmed by the beguiling videos on display.