What is the role of biennials, triennials, quadrennials, and evenquinquennials in the contemporary art? For art world outsiders the significance and attention surrounding these events may be difficult to understand.

Today, Biennials are international showcases for contemporary art taking place every two years, and are the most popular -ennial by far. In the globalized world of contemporary art, there’s over 100 biennials in cities such as São Paulo, Istanbul, Moscow, and Sydney competing for star curators and big-name artists, and the events have increasingly become a source of local pride, tourism, cultural capital, and revenue for cities.

“It is the Biennial’s role, as an independent foundation, to be a platform that actively promotes diversity, freedom and experimentation, while exercising critical thought and producing an alternative reality,” Jochen Volz, curator of the upcoming São Paulo Biennial told artnet News in an email. “It is a pluralistic space where autonomous perspectives can enter into dialogue and debate with one another. I strongly believe in the transformative role of art as it holds an inherent integration of thinking and doing, reflection and action,” he said.

Founded in 1895, the Venice Biennale is by far the oldest and most prestigious. It was created for the precise reason of establishing a platform for art world participants to compare and contrast the art created across the world, and is colloquially known as the “Olympics of art.”

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