The 1st Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art



curated by Klaus Biesenbach with Hans Ulrich Obrist and Nancy Spector


The 1st Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art was based on an interdisciplinary approach. In order to reflect contemporary art in its multiple layers the exhibition was designed as a forum for artists, architects, designers, writers, musicians, choreographers and fashion designers, theatre directors and cinematographers.


The curatorial team started their work by looking at Berlin itself. Ideal points of departure became: the city’s hybrid cultural landscape, its future role as cultural capital (at the time a big topic for the media) and presentations that showed the rich diversity of contemporary art production.


More than 70 international artists that were then based or at least temporarily lived in Berlin showed their art (mostly new productions) at this three-months exhibition. The selected exhibition venues—the KW Institute for Contemporary Art on Auguststraße, the dilapidated building of the Academy of Arts at Pariser Platz and the former Postfuhramt on Oranienstraße—were chosen to reflect the transition and diversity of Berlin. Aimed at an international public, the exhibition Berlin/Berlin intended to highlight the permanently changing character of the city and foster interdisciplinary collaborations between individual artists over the course of the biennale.


The idea of a biennale in Germany was born in the context of the Biennale di Venezia 1995 after the forum for young contemporary art aperto (founded in 1981) had been lost. Departing from the local, the 1st Berlin Biennale was an international exhibition, which tried to describe the city’s current discourse and give international artists living in Berlin a public platform.


The Curators of the 1st Berlin Biennale

Klaus Biesenbach with Hans Ulrich Obrist and Nancy Spector



Congress 3000

Ulrike Kremeier, Daniel Haaksman



Graphic design

Stephan Müller (aka Pronto)


from left to right: Klaus Biesenbach, Ulrike Kremeier, Hans Ulrich Obrist, Nancy Spector, Douglas Gordon, Miriam Wiesel, Jens Hoffmann, Daniel Haaksman. Photo: Jens Ziehe, 1998

Klaus Biesenbach, Hans Ulrich Obrist and Nancy Spector in the catalogue of the 1st Berlin Biennale

Conceptually, the berlin biennale raises many expectations. Historically, the international biennial exhibition has functioned as both an arena for competitive, nationalistic presentations and a public relations tool for its host city. The economies of tourism, high-level visibility, and cultural legitimacy [...]More >

2nd Berlin Biennale
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