The Istanbul Biennial, perhaps the most closely watched recurring Turkish art event in the international circuit, has revealed the curators that will helm its 2021 edition, which is due to run from September 11 to November 14. Past editions have often been helmed by just one curator, as is the case with most major biennials. For 2021, however, the Istanbul Biennial will enlist three curators, one of whom is a well-known artist.
The three selected to oversee the 2021 Istanbul Biennial are curator Ute Meta Bauer, artist Amar Kanwar, and art historian David Teh. Since 2013, Bauer has directed Singapore’s NTU Centre for Contemporary Art, which has proven to be one of the city’s most important art spaces. Kanwar is known for his video installations focused on conflict. Teh’s research has largely centered around Southeast Asian modern and contemporary art.
All three have been involved previously with major biennials in various capacities. Bauer curated the 2004 Berlin Biennale, co-organized Documenta 11 in 2002, and worked on the U.S. Pavilion at the 2015 Venice Biennale; Kanwar has shown at four editions of Documenta; and Teh created a project for the 2018 edition of the Gwangju Biennale in South Korea.
Details of Bauer, Kanwar, and Teh’s curatorial vision are still vague, though the biennial appears to this time be focused on ecological and environmental concerns. Their curatorial statement reads: “Rather than a great tree, laden with sweet, ripe fruit, this biennale seeks to learn from the birds’ flight, from the once teeming seas, from the earth’s slow chemistry of renewal and nourishment. There may be no great gathering, no orchestrated coming together at one time and place; instead it might be a great dispersal, an invisible fermentation. Its threads will be drawn together, but they will multiply and diverge, at different paces, crossing here and there but with no noisy culmination, no final knot. It may begin before it is to begin and continue well after it is over.”