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Ute Meta Bauer, Amar Kanwar, and David Teh. Photo: Istanbul Biennial.
Ute Meta Bauer, Amar Kanwar, and David Teh. Photo: Istanbul Biennial.

Istanbul Biennial Announces Curators for 2021 Edition

The Istanbul Biennial, perhaps Turkey’s most prestigious art event, has announced that curator Ute Meta Bauer, artist Amar Kanwar, and art historian David Teh will helm the seventeenth iteration of the biennial, which will take place September 11–November 14, 2021.

The German-born Bauer is the founding director of the NTU Centre for Contemporary Art, Singapore, and a professor at the School of Art, Design, and Media at Nanyang Technological University. A co-organizer of Documenta 11, she curated the 2004 Berlin Biennale. Kanwar, who is based in New Delhi, addresses social issues and themes of conflict through film and video installations; he has shown work at four iterations of Documenta. Teh, who was born in Sydney, is an assistant professor at the National University of Singapore, where his research centers on Southeast Asian modern and contemporary art. In 2018, he contributed a curatorial project to the Gwangju Biennale

The appointment of three cocurators marks a departure from the biennial’s usual practice of naming one curator to oversee the event. Though no theme has been officially announced for the 2021 edition, the three issued a curatorial statement suggesting a focus on ecological and environmental concerns. “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.”

The biennial is currently operating on its original schedule. Cases of Covid-19 in Turkey have remained at roughly one thousand per day since the initial outbreak, though the country recently saw a spike in reported cases as the government shifted from reporting the number of those showing symptoms to reporting the number of those testing positive. New restrictions have been announced in recent weeks, including weekend lockdowns and weeknight curfews.