Biennials and art fairs
- Chin-tao Wu
Over the two decades straddling the end of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st, biennials and art fairs mushroomed across the globe. While art fairs have a specific commercial interest, which biennials do not necessarily possess, both are institutional structures designed to display art works on an impressively large, transnational scale. They comprise often hundreds, if not thousands, of distinct exhibits ranging from painting and sculpture in traditional modes to avant-garde installations and post-modern films and videos. While biennials and art fairs both have histories dating back many decades, the progressive globalisation of the contemporary art world since the 1980s profoundly modified these two means of exhibiting art in the public arena, and, particularly in the case of biennials, radically re-orientated their forms as well as their functions. Whether or not such changes have been accompanied by a measure of democratisation or by a meaningful re-alignment in the power structures of cultural politics, as has sometimes been maintained, remains an open question....