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By Marina Neklyudova

​From New York to Sydney it seems like every self-respected city nowadays has a Biennial. One can make it a hobby of traveling the world, attending biennials - depending on where you are located you can still visit at least twenty-five biennials, triennials and quadrennials by the end of 2012.

Spelled Biennale in Europe, these large-scale contemporary art exhibitions are designed to take place once in two years and are usually build around a chosen by a group of curators theme. As a phenomenon biennial was born in 1893 when the city council of Venice passed a resolution of establishing the Biennale of Italian contemporary art. Transcending the outdated French Salon, the newly established Biennale of Venice was maybe closer in tradition to nineteenth century World Fair Exhibitions, which had not only acted as nations’ barometer of technological progress but was also important means for countries to claim prestige nationally and internationally.

As a platform of international art exhibition biennial became increasingly important in the nineties, following the boom of the art market a number of new biennials was founded in various locations in Asia, Latin America, Africa and Oceania, The establishment of the new biennial outside of Western hemisphere helped shift the focus of art from major art center to other locations and expand local tourism.

Today the number of biennials, triennials and even quadrennials has grown significantly. Between 1895 and 1980s there were only seventeen biennials existing in the world; by 2000 that number went at least double. Nowadays specialists are having difficulties defining a number of existing biennials, vaguely stating that the number can be as high as somewhere between one and two hundred. And this number is ever growing, adding new Biennales every year as communities struggle to place themselves on the map of the art world. This phenomenon that has been already coined as ‘biennialisation” should be explained from the market point of view for biennial became an important tool in art market economic strategy and means of establishment of city’s cultural significance.

In an attempts to critic the phenomenon of ‘biennialisation’ Dallas has recently went even farther and hosted a curious one-time Biennial, organized by Dallas Contemporary. Commenting on this the director of Contemporary, Peter Doroshenko in his interview to KERA Radio said: “A lot of the biennales are about the biennale. Or a particular theme. Or about a curator.

And the art becomes second or third. And the artists sometimes is even stratted on the forth or fifth place.

So for us it is about getting the artist and the art back to No. 1 position.”. Branded as ‘The first and only’ this unorthodox event had no theme and was intended as “a conceptual exploration of the biennale as a platform for exhibiting art”. Well aware that the biennials are by definition exhibitions recruiting every two years Contemporary however announced that there will be no follow up in 2014 explaining that to explore and rethink the idea of the Biennial “one will be enough”.

To get acquainted with some of the most influential of these mega-exhibitions, head to Kassel, Germany for the 13th edition of dOCUMENTA in June, drive by Genk Belgium for Manifesta 9 and in September head to Brazil for the 30th São Paulo Biennial. The Dallas Biennale is on view until May 13, 2012.

For more Art related articles see below

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Marina Neklyudova was born in USSR in 1987. She has studied History in the University of Kyiv, Ukraine and has an Art History degree of the University of Leiden, the Netherlands. A restless traveler, she is currently living and studying in London.

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