As the reopening of various major museums has given hope that swaths of the art world are beginning to recover following coronavirus-related closures, two major biennials announced that they would post their upcoming editions. South Korea’s Gwangju Biennale and France’s Biennale de Lyon said that they needed extra time for the production of new and site-specific works and raised concerns regarding international travel restrictions.
The 13th edition of the Gwangju Biennale, which is curated by Defne Ayas and Natasha Ginwala, was set to open in September, but has now been pushed back to February 2021. In a statement the organizers said, “The decision prioritizes the safety of the artists and other participants, while also addressing concerns regarding the production of new site-specific commissions particular to the Gwangju Biennale, as well as issues surrounding the transportation of artworks and international travel.”
Though they tend to operate on a smaller scale than the biggest biennials, a number of art fairs—including the world’s most high-profile one, Art Basel—scheduled for the spring and summer have been pushed to the fall. Most fairs have not yet commented on concerns regarding international travel for its exhibitors and visitors.
South Korea has been among the few countries praised for its rapid response to the spread of coronavirus, though reports over the weekend saw that there had been new outbreaks following the reopening of some businesses, including nightclubs. In a statement, Ayas and Ginwala said, “As contagion and vulnerability become entwined conditions, with massive numbers of lives lost globally, it has become even more vital to sustain public culture amidst drastic pulls between isolation and mass movements as well as human and planetary asymmetries. Despite the optimism brought by the response to the pandemic in South Korea, the decision to postpone the 13th Gwangju Biennale to February 2021 had to be taken.”
In a statement, the organizers of Biennale de Lyon, which was scheduled for 2021 and will now take place in September 2022, cited numerous reasons that led to their decision to postpone the exhibition, writing, “The current global public-health context is considerably slowing down direct contact with the artists, development of potential residencies and productions, activity with the stakeholders of the visual-arts sector, and interaction between art projects and the business world—all of which help to guarantee the quality of the Biennale.”