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Shanghai Biennale Announces its 13th Edition Theme: “Bodies of Water”

In the complex social setup of the pandemic, the Shanghai Biennale has announced its new theme for 2020. Can this year's edition carry on with the success of the precedent editions?
Shanghai Power Station of Art by night

The 13th edition of the Shanghai Biennale will take place from November 2020 until June 2021. The Shanghai Biennale was created in 1996 by former director of Shanghai Museum and painter Fang Zengxian. The debut edition featured 160 artworks from 29 artists, with various paintings, video, art installations and sculptures. Initially, the Shanghai Biennale was hosted by the Shanghai Museum, up until 2012 when Power Station of Art became the official organizer and venue. The museum opened that same year and quickly powered up the city with exciting contemporary art exhibitions thanks to its 97,000 square feet of space and smart curation programs. Located on the left bank of the Huangpu River Power Station of Art is China’s first state-run contemporary art museum, it was entirely funded ($64 million) by the Shanghai government.

Shanghai Biennale Concept Image by Paula Vilaplana de Miguel

This is the first time that the Chinese Biennale is titled, Shanghai Biennale describes: “水体 Bodies of Water, the 13th Shanghai Biennale will advocate for processes of planetary re-alliance relying on transspecies collectivity. Exploring forms of fluid solidarity, the Biennale will convene artists to think beyond human-centered and nation-based narratives, connecting the discussions of bodies with those of the environment.”

Curators of the 13th Shanghai Biennale

Shanghai Biennale 2019

The event will occur on an 8 months schedule structured into a crescendo project with a collective undertaking by artists, activists, and institutions, and unfolding in three phases between November 2020 and June 2021, challenging the usual art biennale format. Schedule taken from Shanghai Biennale:

Phase 01: A Wet-run Rehearsal (November 10–14, 2020). A summit bringing together contributors to present their work in the form of a performative assembly taking place in the PSA’s Grand Hall and spreading out to networks of art spaces along the Yangtze River, as well as online.

Phase 02: An Ecosystem of Alliances (November 15, 2020 – April 9, 2021). Keeping a permanent post at the PSA, the “in crescendo” project associates itself with infrastructures where online/offline social and communal life are taking place. These include streaming TV channels, social media, university programs, and serial interventions on urban dynamics.

Phase 03: An Exhibition. (April 10 – June 27, 2021). Opening with a festival, the Biennale will unfold into an exhibition that will run through PSA and expand into a series of locations along the Huangpu River and across the city of Shanghai.

Shanghai Biennale 2018 , artwork by Miguel Angel Rojas

Fei Dawei, president of the PSA Academic Committee commented about this year’s edition at Power Station of Art: “The preparation of the 13th Shanghai Biennale took place during the uncertain times of a health crisis. “Bodies of Water” presents itself in fluid forms to accommodate the ever-changing reality, while finding ways to confront conventional exhibition-making methods. The Biennale strives to reach a place previous exhibition forms could not access. More importantly, this exhibition is utterly experimental: in the face of the changing global conditions, curatorial practices will continue to explore the possibilities of self-renewal.”

Bird view of Power Station of Art

With Power Station of Art the Shanghai Biennale has become a new reference for contemporary art all around the world. Hopefully this year’s edition will be no exception despite it being challenged by the pandemic. Have you experienced any Shanghai Biennale before? What do you think about this year’s edition theme? We cannot wait to see more ambitious and eye-catching art installations.

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