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The world’s hottest and coolest biennials are set to open in early 2017

Amongst increasing interest in environmental conditions and challenges brought about by the climate change, 2017 will see the emergence of two new biennial exhibitions set in extreme weather conditions.

During three months in 2017, the Coachella Valley (California) and its desert landscape will become the canvas for an exhibition of site-specific work by established and emerging artists, whose projects will amplify and articulate global and local issues that may range from climate change to starry skies, from Tribal culture and immigration to tourism, gaming, and golf.

Baptised Desert X, the new biennial is produced by Desert Biennial, a non-profit organisation established in 2014, and initially directed by the former senior curator at MOCA in Los Angeles, Philipp Kaiser, before his relocation to Europe. To make up for this loss, the powerhouse board of Desert Biennial (which includes Ed Ruscha and Paul Clemente, the Artistic Director of highly popular music and arts festival Coachella) has recently appointed curator and writer Neville Wakefield as its first artistic director.

It’s expected that Wakefield’s knack for engaging alternative spaces will be on view as artists install in non-traditional spaces: “The desert has long exercised its fascination over the minds of artists, architects, musicians, writers and other explorers of landscape and soul,” said the curator.


The first edition of Desert X is set to open in February 2017, and is strategically timed to coincide with the Coachella Festival, which each year attracts around half a million visitors.

Wakefield told The New York Times that event organisers do not yet know how many artists will participate, where the event will be held, or if it would in fact occur every two years. He explained, “All that’s established for now is that it’s a recurring event.”

In the meantime, the first Antarctic Biennale—which we reported on last year—is also due to launch in spring 2017.

The Biennale will start on March 27, 2017 by sailing off from the port of Ushuaia and will last for 12-15 days. The Biennale is to be held aboard research ships Akademik Ioffe and Akademik Sergey Vavilov of the Russian Academy of Sciences. The Biennale activities will take place during the voyage. During the landings the artists participating in the project will make objects, installations, performances and stage actions. Their constructs are to be portable, designed to withstand weather conditions, to cause no hazard to the environment and to be dismantled by the end of each stopover. Every landing will be documented on film.


The main crew core will consist of recognised figures, including Michelangelo Pistoletto, Olafur Eliasson, Cai Guo- Qiang, Hans Op de Beeck, who have repeatedly proven their abilities to work in challenging environments and spaces, as well as young and emerging artists, who decided to realise their artistic ideas in a totally new surrounding.

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