The word biennial refers to the regularity of an art exhibition or contest. It is an opportunity to display the newest artistic trends of a country, region or creative group by exhibiting a variety of art forms such as engravings, paintings, sculptures and architecture, among others. The biennials, which arose in the late 19th century, are considered a true aesthetic revolution and one of contemporary art’s most aggressive movements in showing new trends that broaden artistic knowledge and criticism.

One of the most important biennials in Latin America and the Caribbean is focused on engraving, an artistic technique that brings together fellow communities in the region to participate in exhibiting graphic works. The Biennial of the Engraving began in 1970 in San Juan, Puerto Rico, where cultural, political and economic growth made the city the ideal home for this important artistic event.

The Biennial has greatly encouraged participation by Latin American artists in the graphic arts by giving them the opportunity to show the quality, trends and, above all, the possibilities of group participation that lend direction and validity to international exhibitions. Among the best known biennials are the Biennial of Cuenca, Ecuador, the Biennial of Caribbean and Central American Painting in Santo Domingo, the Havana Biennial of Contemporary Art, the Pontevedra Council Biennial of Art, and the biennials of sculpture, architecture and photography. All of these offer a means of creative exhibition that allow broader communication with the general public.

In addition to the biennials, there are annual fairs that are aimed at developing interest in the arts as well as demonstrating the potential of art exhibitions in the Caribbean. These fairs attract a vibrant mix of regional artists, gallery owners, institutions and collectors, as well as being representative of some international galleries. Some examples of these art fairs are ARWI (Art & Wine), which mixes art with wine tasting; ArtBa (Art in Buenos Aires); FIA (Ibero-American Art Fair) in Caracas; and Art Miami, which draws participants from Latin America, the Caribbean and Spain, even though it takes place in the United States.

The biennials and the art fairs, as artistic gathering points, are events in which artistic values, both national and international, are on display, bringing about cultural interaction among the Americas. These also lead to an intellectual debate among artists about incorporating new ideas and techniques and provide the general public with an enriching cultural experience.

Author: Ada Castillo
Published: December 20, 2011.

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