Manifesta (European Nomadic Biennial)

Manifesta (European Nomadic Biennial)
Manifesta, also known as the European Nomadic Biennial, is a European pan-regional biennale for contemporary art and culture. It is different from most other biennials in that since the very first exhibition, each edition has taken place in a different city.

The European Nomadic Biennial was founded in 1994 by a group of art lovers from the Netherlands. Conceived five years after the historic fall of the Berlin Wall, the exhibition was supposed to showcase the contemporary artistic process in Europe shaped by new geographical, social and political conditions. Since its inception, the event has been coordinated by the International Foundation Manifesta headquartered in Amsterdam.

The inaugural Manifesta was held in 1996. It was curated by Hans-Ulrich Obrist, Andrew Renton, Viktor Misiano, Rosa Martinez and Katalyn Neray, who selected works by 72 artists from 30 European countries. The exhibits were displayed at 16 different museums and 36 public spaces in Rotterdam, The Netherlands.

Since then, Manifesta has been held regularly on even years (except for the 2006 edition that was canceled), each time in a new city. Past host cities have included Luxembourg City (Luxembourg), Ljubljana (Slovenia), Frankfurt (Germany), San Sebastián (Spain), Rovereto, Trento and Bolzano (Italy), Murcia (Spain), Limburg (Belgium), Saint Petersburg (Russia), Zurich (Switzerland), and Palermo (Italy).

The size of the city doesn’t matter because the organizers believe that even small towns have artistic potential that can be tapped into. Moreover, Manifesta deliberately keeps its distance from the dominant centers of artistic production, instead seeking fresh terrain for the mapping of a new cultural topography.

The main goal of Manifesta is to introduce local, national and international audiences to the dynamics of contemporary artistic process, set within a European context that is heavily influenced by the changes in the political and social situation in Europe. Although the event is known as the European Nomadic Biennial, it features artists from all over the world, including Europe’s neighbors in Asia, northern Africa, and the eastern Mediterranean.

Manifesta typically lasts for three months, kicking off in June and closing in September. Its programming includes exhibitions held at different venues throughout the host city, meetings, discussions and seminars (the so-called “Coffee Breaks”), and other events and activities. The organizers collaborate with the host city’s leading cultural and educational organizations to provide a unique experience. Manifesta is a great platform for emerging artists where they showcase their work and make new connections.


Photo: Guo Ru © Ni Haifeng


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