The Biennale of Sydney was created in 1973 as an international showcase for contemporary art. Its aim was to develop and present a program that challenged traditional thinking and encouraged news levels of enthusiasm for innovative creative expression.
The concept exceeded early expectations and the event proved to be a natural fit with Sydney, reflecting the blend of experiment and enjoyment of innovation and energy that has always been a hallmark of Australia’s largest city. From a small start, the Biennale quadrupled in size in less than a decade. The Biennale of Sydney quickly achieved international recognition. Alongside the Venice and São Paolo biennales and documenta, it is now one of the longest running exhibitions of its kind and was the first biennale to be established in the Asia-Pacific region.
- The Biennale of Sydney engages Australian and international audiences with bold and innovative contemporary art from around the world, challenges the status quo, promotes cultural exchange and inspires audiences to experience art, themselves and their world in new and creative ways.
- The Biennale of Sydney is committed to international cultural exchange; increasing dialogue and mutual understanding; developing audiences for contemporary art; and increasing understanding and appreciation of the important role art plays in society.
- The Biennale’s charter is to provide fresh curatorial perspective and independent artistic vision, and to offer encounters with art and artists, as well as the programs and publications that underpin the exhibition. The Sydney Biennale also offers artists the opportunity to make new work in Sydney and to reach a broader audience.
From the beginning, the Biennale of Sydney has acted as a catalyst for cultural development and discussion. It has created unique opportunities for direct contact between artists, writers, and curators from other countries – as well as collectors and gallery directors – with their counterparts in Australia. This outreach program has involved hundreds of educational and cultural institutions and as a result, has invigorated artists, students and educators alike. Over the decades, the Biennale of Sydney’s regular importation and commission of major works of art have offered rare collecting opportunities to many public institutions across Australia. Works of substantial scale by artists of international renown, and which would otherwise have been out of the reach of local collections, became accessible. The cumulative impact of the Biennale of Sydney on the holdings in public collections probably remains little known today, but is an example of the Biennale’s enduring contribution to Australian art and culture.
Presented free to the public over a twelve-week period, the Biennale of Sydney is Australia’s largest contemporary visual arts event – with over half a million visits in 2010.