Sophie Knezic reviews 'Biennials, Triennials, and documenta: The exhibitions that created contemporary art' by Charles Green and Anthony Gardner

Sophie Knezic reviews 'Biennials, Triennials, and documenta: The exhibitions that created contemporary art' by Charles Green and Anthony Gardner

Biennials, Triennials, and documenta: The exhibitions that created contemporary art

by Charles Green and Anthony Gardner

Wiley–Blackwell, $42.95 pb, 304 pp, 9781444336658

Sophie Knezic

Sophie Knezic

Sophie Knezic is a Lecturer in Critical and Theoretical Studies at the Victorian College of the Arts, The University of Melbourne.

Charles Green and Anthony Gardner’s Biennials, Triennials, and Documenta: The exhibitions that created contemporary art represents an apposite study of the biennials and triennials – also known as mega-exhibitions – that are proliferating around the world. Apposite since, with the exception of Bruce Altshuler’s two-volume account from 1863 to 2002, no art-historical text has offered a scholarly appraisal of these extravaganzas.

The current tally of international mega-exhibitions is a whopping 207, of which thirty-four will take place in 2017. They range from the grandfather of them all: the Venice Biennale, founded in 1895; the most august: documenta (founded in 1955 and occurring every five years); to the new kids on the block: Karachi Biennale; Garage Triennial of Russian Contemporary Art; and Desert X in the Coachella Valley, California (each launched in 2017). Melbourne will host the inaugural NGV Triennial in December. Remarkably, 2017 also brought the first Antarctic Biennale; an expedition aboard a research ship-cum-cruise vessel which took place over twelve days in March.

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