More biennials for visual arts!

December 2004 -

Sebastian Lopez (Argentina, 1949) was recently co-curator of the fifth Shanghai Biennial. We asked him whether all these biennials are necessary.

People say there are too many biennials.

'On the contrary. There are not enough! A biennial is about expressing culture. That is necessary everywhere, all the time. It is important that the public throughout the entire world come into contact with art 'live contact. When I was young I travelled to Brazil to attend the Sao Paulo biennial. To stand face to face with a real painting by Jackson Pollock made an enormous impression on me. Direct contact with a work of art is not at all like viewing a reproduction. The Sao Paolo biennial had an important regional and even continental function.

Sebastian Lopez

Western expressive arts have affected expressive art throughout Latin America. However, the West has always been in denial with reference to art from non-Western countries. This art was therefore invisible for a long time and was said to be subordinate in terms of quality. The Havana biennial was the first place were artists from Latin America, Africa and Asia could be seen together. Because these artists no longer wanted to be considered to be irrelevant, they organised themselves and started to exert cultural pressure. This pressure has caused the West to lose its cultural power; it no longer sets the tone.

I would even assert that what is being made in China these days is more interesting that what is happening in the Netherlands. Do not forget that there are now more artists than ever throughout the world. These artists need a stage. There can never be too many of those.'

Sebastian Lopez (Argentina, 1949) is the director of the Gate Foundation Amsterdam, an institute that supports non-Western expressive artists in the Netherlands. Lopez was recently the co-curator of the fifth Shanghai Biennial. He has also been invited to serve as co-curator of the triennial in Luanda (Angola) in 2006. The initiators of this triennial are expressive artists, including Frernando Alvim.