As closures and cancelations related to the ongoing global pandemic of the new coronavirus (Covid-19) have continued to roil the art world, one of Latin America’s biggest biennials said that it would postpone the opening of its upcoming exhibitions.
The organizers of the Bienal de São Paulo in Brazil said that it would push back the opening of its main group show, which was set to run from September 5 to December 6. The new dates for the biennial, which carries the theme “Though it’s dark, still I sing,” are October 3 to December 13.
In Brazil, the country’s top government officials, including its president Jair Bolsonaro, have continually downplayed the seriousness of the coronavirus outbreak in the country and have so far not issued any major bans to combat its community spread. Brazil currently has at least 2,200 confirmed cases of the virus.
This iteration of the world’s second oldest biennial is set to be its most ambitious. Under the direction of Jacopo Crivelli Visconti, a São Paulo–based independent curator who had previously worked for the biennial in the early 2000s, the 34th edition of the Bienal de São Paulo has already been underway since last October through numerous public programs meant to engage different audiences throughout the city ahead of its main show.
In a statement, José Olympio da Veiga Pereira, the president of the biennial’s foundation, who has ranked on ARTnews’s Top 200 Collectors list each year since 2013, said, “With its ability to move us and connect us to one another, art is more necessary now than ever. Fundação Bienal’s teams are working (remotely) to find ways to enable the institution to contribute positively during this difficult time.”
As part of his exhibition, Visconti and his team have already staged a performance by Neo Muyanga on February 8 and a survey of Ximena Garrido-Lecca. They had planned to stage performances of work by two deceased artists, Leon Ferrari and Hélio Oiticica, and two exhibitions by living one, Deana Lawson and Clara Ianni, in the coming months ahead of the official opening of the group exhibition. These shows and events will now take place as part of the main show.
The biennial’s robust programming is also indefinitely on hold. Much of it was to take place at various partner institutions throughout the city, many of which have strong community ties, but might not necessarily be considered major art destinations for visitors. The biennial’s organizers are currently looking into how to keep those plans intact.
The purpose of all of this, Visconti said in a recent talk at the Americas Society in New York earlier this month, was for visitors to see some of the artists’ work in different contexts, settings, and times that might allow for various interpretations of the work. Citing budgetary concerns resulting from Brazil’s devalued currency, Visconti also said at the talk that he was already expecting the coronavirus outbreak to impact the biennial.
Around the world, numerous biennials in cities from Sydney and Los Angeles to Riga, Latvia, and Dakar, Senegal, have also announced changes to their exhibition dates earlier this week, as a result of the new coronavirus.
Wednesday also brought news that the organizers for the seventh edition of the Texas Biennial would postpone their fall opening until 2021. In a statement, the biennial said that the show’s curators, Ryan N. Dennis and Evan Garza, would “extend their curatorial process and planning through the end of 2020 to meet with as many artists as possible and accommodate for quarantines and travel delays in the coming weeks and months.”