Biennale Benin, continuing the projects of several organizations and artists started in the country in 2010 as a collaborative event called “Regard Benin”. Among the initiators of the new biennial of contemporary art were the photographers Malick Sidibé, Antoine Tempé and Baudouin Mouanda, the artists Dominique Zinkpé, Aston, Gérard Quenum and William Wilson and the writer Florent Couao-Zotti.
Benin presents a singular creation and a strong vitality in the sector of Visual arts from the point of view of artistic creation but also committed initiatives. The Benin artists such as Meschac Gaba, Georges Adeagbo or Romuald Hazoumé are present in the largest meeting of the international art scene as the Venice Biennale, the Documenta of Kassel and in 2012 in the Triennale of Paris.
For a dozen years, artists, art critics and curators met together to undertake various training and promotion of the visual arts sector. The most striking example is probably the Zinsou Foundation. We can also mention the association and demonstration Ayizo Boulev’art, Tchif space, space Arttistik Benin and magazine Arttistik Afrika Cultural Centre Ouadada, House Heritage and Tourism Porto-Novo, Kulturforum, Laboratorio Contemporary Art, the Art critics Association, the association Elowa etc.
The biennial is coordinated by the Consortium, a federation of three local associations – Unik lieu de création contemporaine, M3ribù agence d’ingénierie culturelle, Espace Tchif. The Consortium organizes Biennale Benin, in collaboration with other local cultural associations.
The objective of the Biennale Benin is twofold:
– to promote and develop a dynamic art scene in Benin linking artistic practices and international networks
– to develop a demonstration in international and not only pan-African dimension by questioning the issue of the role of the artist and the access of his work to the general public
The artistic speciality of Biennale Benin is based on the approximation of the artists with the public. Therefore one of the main issues of the Biennale is to question the public space. In addition to conventional exhibition spaces, the Biennale Benin explores unusual places of nearby cities. This choice is due to the current shortage of exhibition places existent in Benin but also and especially on the issue of the mobilization of the public – pursued since several years by cultural operators in Benin.
Beyond its appearance as international event the Biennale Benin intends to participate in the structuring of visual arts. To do this, capacity building actions are envisaged to further empower industry players around specific skills such as curatorial, management and installation of exhibition, the art critic, the coaching careers of artists, cultural mediation. Eventually, the specialization in different professions attached to the implementation of the Biennale will form teams with varied skills, with the capacity to defend issues of creative commitment and actions undertaken in Benin and in the subregion.