The History of the Berlin Biennale

The berlin biennale für zeitgenössische kunst e. V. was founded on March 26, 1996 by Klaus Biesenbach, founding director of KW Institute for Contemporary Art, and a group of collectors and patrons of the arts such as Eberhard Mayntz. Eberhard Mayntz has since then been chairman of the association’s board.


The idea of establishing a biennale in Germany was inspired by the Venice Biennale in 1995. Following the demise of aperto - the forum for young contemporary art founded in 1981 - there was much discussion about the need to heighten the profile of contemporary art in Berlin, a fact which undoubtedly accelerated the project’s progress.


The aim of the association is to organise a representative, international exhibition of contemporary art in berlin every two years and to attract attention to less established younger artists. In parallel with its 20-year anniversary the Berlin Biennale has been restructured. Up until this point Gabriele Horn was both the director of the Berlin Biennale and KW Institute for Contemporary Art. As of July 2016 the two institutions are now operating as separate business units under the umbrella of the KUNST-WERKE BERLIN e. V. and Gabriele Horn is now director solely of the Berlin Biennale.


In 1998, Klaus Biesenbach took the artistic helm of the 1st Berlin Biennale in cooperation with Nancy Spector and Hans Ulrich Obrist. For the 2nd  Berlin Biennale in 2001, the baton was passed to Saskia Bos, who is in turn followed by Ute Meta Bauer for the 2004 exhibition. The 4th Berlin Biennale in 2006 was curated by Maurizio Cattelan, Massimiliano Gioni and Ali Subotnick. Adam Szymczyk was chosen for the 5th Berlin Biennale in 2008 who then appointed Elena Filipovic as co-curator. Kathrin Rhomberg curated the 6th Berlin Biennale in 2010. The 7th Berlin Biennale was curated by Artur Zmijewski together with associate curators Voina and Joanna Warsza in 2012. Juan A. Gaitán curated the 8th Berlin Biennale in 2014 and invited Tarek Atoui, Natasha Ginwala, Catalina Lozano, Mariana Munguía, Olaf Nicolai, and Danh Vo to collaborate with him as core members and advisors in his artistic team. DIS (Lauren Boyle, Solomon Chase, Marco Roso, and David Toro) curated the 9th Berlin Biennale in 2016. The 10th Berlin Biennale will take place in summer 2018. It will be curated by Gabi Ngcobo, who invited Nomaduma Rosa Masilela (New York, US), Yvette Mutumba (Berlin, DE), Thiago de Paula Souza (São Paulo, BR), and Moses Serubiri (Kampala, UG) to collaborate with her as the curatorial team.


The Berlin Biennale has established itself as an “open space” that experiments, identifies and critically examines the latest trends in the art world. The innovative character of this “art lab”, which tries and tests the greenest shoots in the art world is to be expanded, with the particular aim of giving young artists the opportunity to introduce themselves to broad sections of the public.


Although the exhibition has an essentially public character, it also has an inner forum in which event organisers, artists, curators, selected critics, cooperation partners, sponsors and promotors committed to the advancement of this association work at shaping the exhibition and its seismographic interpretation of current cultural and social developments.


Since 2008 the Berlin Biennale is part of the European Biennial Network.

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