Common Seminar, Rafal Niemojewski: "Biennials: The Exhibitions We Love to Hate"

Date and time
10 November 2022 at 02:00 PM - 04:00 PM
Type of event
Place and route

LM Ericssons väg 14, Stockholm (Look at a map)
Underground station: Telefonplan

This lecture examines one of the most signi­ficant recent transitions in the contemporary art world: the proliferation of large-scale international recurrent survey shows of contemporary art, commonly referred to as contemporary biennials.

Since the mid-1980s biennials have been instrumental in shaping curating as an autonomous practice. They have also been responsible for substantially reconfi­guring the art world and disrupting the existing value chain of the art market, which now relies on biennials as much as it does on major museums' acquisitions and exhibitions. At the same time, the arrival of new biennials in various parts of the world has also been associated with some of the most palpable side effects of globalization.

Branded by some critics as dollar-generating leisure events and showcases for highly consumable works of art, biennials have been repeatedly accused of homogenizing artistic and curatorial practices and leading to inevitable fatigue. The pandemic brought a halt to international exhibitions and an opportunity to reassess not only biennials themselves but also our assumptions about them.

Rafal Niemojewski is a cultural producer and scholar of contemporary art and its institutions. He graduated in History of Art and Curatorial Studies from La Sorbonne and earned his doctorate degree from the Royal College of Art in London for his thesis on the proliferation of the contemporary biennial. More recently, his research interests have expanded to include history of exhibitions and institutions in relation to the changing ecology of the expanded artistic field.

Niemojewski has lectured extensively on the topic of biennials and his writings appeared in numerous journals and books, including The Manifesta Decade (MIT Press, 2006), Biennial Reader (Hatje Cantz, 2010) and The New Curator (Laurence King, 2016). He worked in capacity of Assistant and Associate Professor at Central Saint Martins, Sotheby's Institute, Royal Institute of Art (Stockholm), and Course Director at Chelsea College of Art and Design in London. Outside academia, Niemojewski has led projects for the Serpentine Gallery, Bergen Kunsthall, Manifesta and dOCUMENTA(13), and worked as Curator of Programs at the Hayward Gallery, Southbank Centre and Director of Programs and Education at the Neuberger Museum of Art.

Since 2013 he has been working as accredited Expert at the Education, Culture and Audiovisual Executive Agency (EACEA) and Research Executive Agency (REA) at the European Commission. He has been collaborating with Biennial Foundation since 2009 and became its director in 2016.