Melbourne

“Signs of Life”

Melbourne International Biennial

Every biennial, from Istanbul and Johannesburg to the Whitney, is scrutinized for answers to the question “Where is art going?” or “Where is art at?” Many curators prefer to dodge these questions. The artistic director of the first Melbourne Biennial, Juliana Engberg, comes with a reputation as the most ambitious maverick curator working in Australia, and she’s enormously popular among artists. Her previous exhibitions, such as “Persona Cognita” at Melbourne’s Museum of Modern Art in 1994, have interwoven unexpected juxtapositions of the present and the recently rediscovered past. Engberg has an eye for positive fashion statements and the big picture, and “Signs of Life”—the centerpiece of the biennial—is her diagnosis of the state of art.

Presenting work in a wide range of media, Engberg concentrated on four themes—miniaturization, the gigantic, knowledge systems, and collecting—drawn from

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