Boca Raton Museum of Art
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April 30, 2016

Saturday, July 19 the Boca Raton Museum of Art hosted an exclusive talk for members by Curator of Exhibitions Kathleen Goncharov on the topic of biennials. The definition of biennial, or biennale in Italian, is an event that occurs every two years. It is typically used to describe large-scale international contemporary art exhibitions. The most famous biennial, as Goncharov explained, is held in Venice and began in 1895.

In her discussion, Goncharov spoke about her personal experience during the 2003 Venice Biennale. Goncharov worked together with Fred Wilson, a contemporary, conceptual artist, as the representatives of the United States. Wilson is best known for his piece Mining the Museum (1992) installed at the Maryland Historical Society wherein he juxtaposed pieces normally “hidden” in storage like iron slave shackles with expected display items like 19th-century silver decorative arts. By “mining” the museum’s holdings he forced the audience to examine, question and deconstruct the traditional display of art and artifacts.




Goncharov discussed:

  • the theme of Wilson’s exhibition - race in Venice from the Renaissance onward;
  • the experience of viewing the Biennale;
  • how every pavilion was designed to illustrate the country it represented
  • the coming together of these countries in the Italian Pavilion, which was a large space for every country represented; and
  • the artists chosen for the 2015 Venice Biennale.

Biennials, particularly the Venice Biennale, are incredible opportunities to see some of the forerunners in contemporary art from around the world. The large scale of biennials is a unique way of experiencing art without viewing it at a museum or gallery. The pavilions provide cultural context for the visitor to be immersed in the idea of a different country, and what the artist is trying to capture about his or her homeland.

Kathleen Goncharov’s lecture gave the listener a firsthand account of what it takes to create an exhibition at the Venice Biennale. Goncharov also described the eclectic mix of styles displayed. She explained that it’s not just contemporary art heavy-hitters but also less publicized artists like surrealists and “obsessive” artists (artists who work meticulously with small or delicate materials).


One of the highlights of the talk for me was the sneak preview of artists chosen to be in the 2015 Biennale. Two of particular note are Joan Jonas (Untied States) and Danh Vo (Denmark).

Having been in Italy for the 2013 Venice Biennale, I traveled to the city to see the event. While there I particularly enjoyed the Azerbaijan Pavilion, where six different artists presented their ideas on ornamentation as well as the Croatian Pavilion in which artist Kata Mijatovic delved into the realm of dreams using audience participation. Biennials are a wonderful tradition in the contemporary art world and since the Venice Biennale began countless Biennials have been created around the globe such as:

  • the São Paolo Art Biennial (second-longest running);
  • Biennale de Paris; and
  • the Whitney Biennial.
Posted by: Aleksa DíOrsi, Curatorial Intern @ Thursday, July 24, 2014 3:00:00 pm 
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