This draft edition of OnCurating began life by a group of scholars and researchers asking a series of questions about the nature of art production and curating today and what role, if any, biennials play within this paradigm. We wanted to examine and question the underlying assumptions and factors that are generally attributed to the rise in the number of large-scale recurring exhibitions and create a draft-working document that may spur further research and analyses by practitioners and scholars in the field. Is the biennial format really a worldwide phenomena? And if so, to what extent? Do biennials look the same everywhere because mostly world-renowned artists are exhibited? To what extent is the local context important? Who can see these kind of globally connected exhibitions? Who profits in the end? Is the rise in biennials foremost a power move of the financial side of an unregulated art market? Are there still narratives of colonial past at work?
We felt that an empirical understanding of global biennales may help inform trends and decipher tropes that have emerged as the format has been popularized around the world. Therefore, unlike previous art-historical studies into biennials, our goal with this project was to conduct an empirical study on biennales. We began by creating data sets for nearly 320 biennales we found in existence, examining a number of varying parameters for our current research. On the one hand—we hope—you can easily see the increase and new development of biennales over time, and on the other, you can compare certain regions geographically and draw new inferences from the data.