Since the Venice Biennale first opened in 1895, the ‘biennial’ exhibition has become central to the way contemporary art regions around the world represent themselves. Now spanning three centuries, the bi-annual survey exhibition continues to grow in popularity as meanings get muddled along the way. Self-described biennials are too many to count and have come to represent efforts to take the pulse of contemporary art in its global and local manifestations. Within this sprawling field, regional biennials, often folded into the programming mandates of museums and branches of government, occupy a unique role. Unlike worlds fair-styled international affairs, museums like the Orange County Museum of Art—others include the Whitney’s biennial of American art, or in Canada the triennial of Quebec artists at the Musée d’art Contemporain—organize group exhibitions that present new works to be consumed largely by audiences that reside in the same region as the artists.
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