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Over Venice? Here are the best biennials to visit this autumn

8 August 2017

Moscow Biennale of Contemporary Art
19 September 2017–18 January 2018

For the first time since its inception in 2005 the Moscow Biennale will run for a total of four months, presenting a range of Russian artists and international luminaries including Olafur Eliasson and Björk. Curated by Yuko Hasegawa, artistic director of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Tokyo, the biennale’s main project will be staged at the State Tretyakov Gallery, which houses some of the finest examples of Russian art from the 1800s onwards. The show has been conceived around the idea of the internet as a virtual eco-system in which works of different cultural origins collide. If not to take in the rich sights of Moscow (the State Tretyakov Gallery is within walking distance of the Kremlin and the Armoury Chamber), then go for an insider’s view of contemporary art from a Russian perspective.

Laure Prouvost is among the exhibitors at the 7th Moscow International Biennale of Contemporary Art. Photo: courtesy the artist and MMK Frankfurt

Laure Prouvost is among the exhibitors at the 7th Moscow Biennale of Contemporary Art. Photo: courtesy the artist and MMK Frankfurt

Jakarta Biennale
4 November–11 December

The Southeast Asian contemporary art scene is being touted as one to watch. Earlier this year, for example, Tate Modern launched a special film and video art programme dedicated to Thai filmmaker Apichatpong Weerasethakul, and a blockbuster exhibition showcasing the best art from the area is currently open at both the National Art Center and Mori Art Museum in Tokyo. Using the theme of ‘Jiwa’, which means ‘life force’, the Jakarta Biennale promises to bring the artistic talent of Indonesia to a larger audience. Be sure to visit the Puppet Museum and the Textile Museum in West Jakarta, two of the programme’s main locations in addition to the central venue of the Gudang Sarinah Ekosistem. MACAN, a new museum of contemporary art, opens in Jakarta in November to coincide with the event.

Opens 14 September

Conceived as an art exhibition that ‘erases distances and borders’, BienalSur has its roots in Buenos Aires but showcases work by over 250 artists in more than 30 cities across 15 countries. Organised by the Universidad Nacional de Tres de Febrero (UNTREF) as a celebration of South American art on a global stage, it counts Havana, Lima, Santiago and Tokyo among its eclectic venues. One of the most anticipated works is Misterios, an installation by French artist Christian Boltanski that consists of audio recordings and footage from the coast of Patagonia during the wales’ breeding season.

Istanbul Biennial
16 September–12 November

The 15th edition of the Istanbul Biennial is curated by the Danish-Norwegian artist duo Elmgreen & Dragset, best known for their Prada Marfa installation in the Texan desert, so you can expect a good dose of playful energy. Exploring the theme of ‘a good neighbour’, the artists selected for the biennial will tackle thorny concepts of home, belonging and co-existence. One of the 55 artists participating in the show is the Iraqi-Canadian Mahmoud Obaidi, whose practice has centred on how conflict has shaped political narratives within the Middle East.

Asian Art Biennial, Taiwan
30 September 2017–25 February 2018

Unlike previous iterations, which had solo curators, the 6th Asian Art Biennial will be devised by an in-house curator with a team of three international collaborators – Kenji Kubota from Japan, Ade Darmawan from Indonesia and Wassan Al-Khudhairi from Iraq. While the list of participating artists has yet to be announced, the biennial’s last edition featured up-and-coming artists and collectives such as Studio Revolt, established by the Cambodian artist Anida Yoeu Ali and Japanese filmmaker Masahiro Sugano. Expect a repertoire of multimedia installations this year.

The National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts hosts the 6th Asian Art Biennial

The National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts hosts the 6th Asian Art Biennial this year. Photo: Jeanette/Wikimedia Commons (used under Creative Commons licence [CC. BY 4.0])

Screen City Biennial, Stavanger
12–31 October

Sleepy Stavanger in Norway might not be an obvious destination for contemporary art, but the curators of Screen City Biennial hope to change this. Much like some of the other events on this list, the third edition of Screen City explores modern migration patterns as a key theme. Set in the Stavanger harbour area as well as in the city’s concert hall and art museums, the biennial links moving images, audio technology and urban spaces to present a vision of how video and live cinema can alter our environment.

Jonkonnu-Gens-Inconnus (2015), Olivia Mcgilchrist

Jonkonnu-Gens-Inconnus (2015), Olivia Mcgilchrist

Bamako Encounters
2 December 2017–31 January 2018

Malick Sidibé’s death in April last year was a huge loss to photography, and Somerset House paid tribute to him months later with a retrospective of his work, which mostly chronicles the textures and colours of Mali’s pop culture. Sidibé might have been Mali’s most successful photographer on a global stage, but there is also a burgeoning wave of talent within the country. Founded in 1994 with the objective of showing the freshest contemporary African photography, Bamako Encounters returns for its 11th edition this year with a programme that includes workshops and public installations. A notable inclusion this year is the Black Athena Collective, founded in 2015 by Egyptian artist Heba Y. Amin and Eritrean-Canadian artist Dawit L. Petros. Expect striking images that address contentious subjects such as territorial boundaries and conflict.