For you who are looking to understand the importance of biennials for the art market, make sure you are in the right place. But, even before we discuss a little about the biennials, it is important to present the different layers and actors involved in this market.

When we talk about the art market, we think about the relationship between buyers and sellers who trade goods, services and works of art commonly associated with the various arts. This market is also concerned with the production of new art that goes into negotiation.

The art market can be divided into primary and secondary markets. The primary is the one, in which the works are sold for the first time after being created by an artist; the secondary deals with any subsequent resale, either through a reseller's private transaction or at auction.

Auctions are often considered as the only viable reference to the value of an object, as the price formation process can be observed openly and the results are generally accepted as objectives.

Auctions have existed since classical antiquity, although they fell out of use in the Middle Ages. During the Renaissance period in Italy, art sponsorship flourished, but there was hardly a liquid market for portable art objects of the type that defines art markets as we know them today. When talking about art and auctions we are obliged to discuss a little about the space in which, in most cases, auctions are held. This architectural space can be called an art gallery or museum, this will depend on the cultural and historical importance of a particular work.

Therefore, such spaces exhibit and commercialize works of art properly and are defined to provide security and a correct appreciation of the objects on display. Museums only differ from the art gallery, when analyzing economic and commercial issues, as a gallery has as its main function: selling the work of art and not just displaying it, the museum has the purpose of exhibiting certain works, referring to its historical value and its cultural importance. And it is exactly in art galleries, where the biennials take place, but, don't worry, because in this next topic, you will better understand what the art biennials are. Do you want to know more about the art market? Access and download this material, an infographic with a wealth of information about the art market.

What are art biennials?

By better understanding the art market, we can go a little deeper into the concept of the biennial. Today, Bienais are international showcases for contemporary art taking place every two years (etymology-bi), and are the most popular exhibitions of this type. In the globalized world of contemporary art, there are more than 100 biennials in cities like São Paulo, Istanbul, Moscow and Sydney competing for star curators and big-name artists, and more and more, events become a source of local pride , cultural tourism generating capital and revenue for host cities.

In the two decades that last until the end of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st century, biennials and art fairs have spread across the world. Although art fairs have a specific commercial interest, which biennials do not necessarily have, both are institutional structures designed to display works of art on an impressively large transnational scale.

They generally include hundreds, if not thousands, of separate exhibitions ranging from paintings and sculptures in traditional ways to avant-garde installations and postmodern films and videos. While biennials and art fairs have stories that date back many decades.

When talking about history, we could not quote anything other than Timelinefy. Timelinefy is a digital tool that makes it possible to tell stories in different ways and also organize information over time, chronologically, through the structure of timelines. Because it is digital, the tool makes this activity a different dynamic and interactive experience, but at the same time similar to the methodologies used by museums and art galleries to tell the story.

How do art biennials work?

As already mentioned, the biennials take place every two years, so, within this two-year course, numerous artists are discovered, highlighted and honored, giving each biennial different themes and different artistic personalities. Biennials are very important for the art market, since, from the famous biennials, we can identify the success of certain exhibitions, the work, and even its value.

Founded in 1895, the Venice Biennale is by far the oldest and most prestigious. It was created precisely to establish a platform for participants in the art world to compare and contrast art created around the world, and it is colloquially known as the “Olympic Games of Art”. Thus, until today, a biennial like the one in Venice, has the power to present the world of art with an unknown name or to resurrect the success of personalities that were already obsolete. The biennials impact not only the cultural artistic world, but also the economic one, as they always deal with artistic works with high acquisitive values.

Discover the 5 great art biennials around the world

When talking about the most famous biennials, which dictate the future of art in the world. We have chosen 5 of the most important ones, around the world. Since these biennials, many things have changed from water to wine, many trends and artists have been discovered, such as Pablo Picasso.

The most remembered of all the São Paulo Biennials, for example, is known as “Bienal da Guernica”, referring to the most famous work by Pablo Picasso, from 1937. With almost twice the number of works compared to the previous edition, the 2nd Biennial it was already held at Ibirapuera Park, taking advantage of its inauguration and occupying two pavilions designed by Oscar Niemeyer.

Even though Picasso was an artist already renowned at the time, he gave at the time, through the biennial, the great boom of modern art that had been consolidated for some years. Therefore, the impacts of biennials have always been important for the life and work of an artist, including the artistic life of those who appreciate them.

Venice Art Biennial

As already mentioned, the Venice Art Biennial is the main precursor to this art universe. It has been held since 1895 in Venice, Italy. The name "Bienal" is naturally derived from the biennial frequency in which the various events are held, with the exception of the Venice Festival, held annually. It describes the main most renowned works of the period, allied artistic institutions, schools of fine arts, among others.

The entire event is held under the curatorship of specific directors of the Bienal, the artist who makes up the works council. The last event was in the year 2010, from May 11 to November 24. With a date not yet confirmed for the year 2021, the Venice Biennale of Art is still preparing for a post-pandemic return with a lot of art.

São Paulo International Biennial

Founded on May 8, 1962 by businessman Ciccillo Matarazzo, the institution houses a historical archive on modern and contemporary art that is a reference in Latin America. Its actions aim to democratize access to culture and stimulate interest in artistic creation. Visits to exhibitions, teacher training, classroom and distance courses, lectures and seminars are some of the activities developed. The last International Biennial of São Paulo took place from September 7 to December 9, 2018, being considered 33rd edition, named as: AFFECTIVE AFFINITIES.

In this year of 2020, two years after the last Bienal, São Paulo was already preparing for its new biennial, however, the organization of the 34th Bienal de São Paulo informed in July 2020, the new date of the show, changed due to the pandemic of Covid-19. Initially scheduled to begin next October, the exhibition should take place between September 4 and December 5, 2021, at the Ciccillo Matarazzo Pavilion, in Ibirapuera Park. With the change, the event will once again be held in odd years, a tradition interrupted in 1994.

Liverpool Biennial

Founded in 1998, Liverpool Biennial presents the British contemporary art biennial. Taking place every two years in the city's public spaces, galleries and historic buildings, the Bienal instructs artists to make and present works in the context of Liverpool. The festival is supported by a program of research, education, residences, projects and commissions throughout the year. Since its creation, the Liverpool Biennale has ordered more than 340 new works of art and presented works by more than 480 renowned artists from around the world. Among the artists featured in previous editions are Yayoi Kusama, Takashi Murakami, Yoko Ono, Ai Weiwei and Franz West.

The most recent Liverpool Biennial, as well as the São Paulo Biennial, took place in 2018, from July 14 to October 28. The 11th edition of the Liverpool Biennial was scheduled to take place in 2020, but was postponed due to the outbreak of COVID-19. Now rescheduled for 2021, the program will be delivered as originally conceived, but responsive to the new context - curated by Manuela Moscoso, with the list of artists announced in November 2019.

Istanbul Biennial

The Istanbul Culture and Arts Foundation (İKSV) has organized the Istanbul Biennial since 1987. The aim of the biennial is to create a meeting point in Istanbul, in the field of visual arts between artists of different cultures and the public. The fifteen biennials that İKSV has organized so far have allowed the formation of an international cultural network between local and international artistic circles, artists, curators and art critics, bringing together new trends in contemporary art every two years. Its last edition took place in an odd year, from September 14 to November 10, 2019.

Therefore, the Bienal is able to breathe more easily, when thinking about its plans for its next edition, which will take place in 2021, in which we hope to have a more favorable scenario

Berlin Biennial

The Berlin Biennial also takes place every two years, in different locations in Berlin and is characterized by different concepts from well-known curators. It promotes experimental formats and gives responsible curators the freedom to present the latest relevant and courageous positions, regardless of the art market and the interests of collections.

Countless young artists helped their participation to achieve an international breakthrough. Its last edition took place from June 9 to September 9, 2018, thus, another biennial that had to be redesigned due to the pandemic of the new coronavirus. However, the Berlin Biennial will take place on a new date, but still in 2020. Therefore, instead of June, as planned, the biennial will take place between September 5 and November 1, 2020. The places chosen as venues for the program is ExRotaprint, daadgalerie, Gropius Bau and the KW Institute for Contemporary Art.


By reading an article like this, you can understand not only the importance of biennials for valuing art, but also for valuing your artistic market. After this information, everything became clearer, right? From this article, it was possible to see the history of the biennials, around the world and their importance for history, in which it occurs as a scenario of favoring art, certain works and artists. But as you read this article, you may have noticed the great impacts that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the arts.

Therefore, to go a little deeper into these impacts, access the timeline on the impacts of the pandemic in museums, closings of the institutions and strategies adopted to deal with the pandemic, are some of the issues based on this timeline.