From the Venetian Lagoon to the rugged shores of northern Japan, these major art festivals should be on the itinerary of any island-hopping culture vulture.
1. Venice Biennale, Italy
Titled “May You Live in Interesting Times” after the supposed Chinese proverb, the 58th edition of the art world’s original biennale has a particular focus on the challenges of living in our “post-truth” era. A few must-sees include the Golden Lion–winning Lithuanian Pavilion, a dystopian indoor beach where singers perform an hour-long opera on climate change; Laure Prouvost’s epic ode to the sea in the French pavilion; Icelandic artist Hrafnhildur Arnardóttir’s large-scale installation of multicolored synthetic hair; and superb first-time contributions by India and Ghana.
Until November 24; more information here.
2. Reborn-Art Festival, Japan
Taking place on the Oshika Peninsula and nearby Ishinomaki—one of the cities most badly affected by the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami—the Reborn-Art Festival was launched in 2017 to showcase the region’s creative scene. The second edition explores the theme “Texture of Life,” drawing inspiration from the experiences and memories of local residents to send messages of strength and hope. Beyond the artistic endeavors, organizers will stage a series of musical events, ranging from a midsummer dance festival known as Bon-odori to a high-tech “post-rock opera” performance held on a tranquil beach.
August 3–September 29; more information here.
3. Whitney Biennial, United States
This staple of the U.S. cultural calendar is once again showing at New York’s Whitney Museum of American Art. Its latest run sees young curators Jane Panetta and Rujeko Hockley putting the spotlight on emergent talent, a majority of whom are under the age of 40. The current biennial is also notable for its inclusivity: of the 75 artists and collectives, two-thirds are women and most are nonwhite. Don’t miss Daniel Lind-Ramos’ Centinelas, an assemblage of found objects washed up near his home in Puerto Rico by Hurricane Maria in 2017, and The Maid, a clever nod to the work of photographer Louise Lawler by Carissa Rodriguez.
Until September 22; more information here.
4. Singapore Biennale, Singapore
Put together by six curators born in the ’80s and early ’90s, the Lion City’s biggest contemporary art show will be held at National Gallery Singapore, Gillman Barracks, and other cultural venues around town. Among the featured works based on the theme “Every Step in the Right Direction,” there will be a mix of sound and moving image by Thailand’s Arnont Nongyao as well as Cambodian photographer-filmmaker Vandy Rattana, while local artist Dennis Tan is creating an installation to help revive the kolek, a traditional Southeast Asian racing yacht once commonly seen off the Singapore coast.
November 22–March 22, 2020; more information here.
This article originally appeared in the June/July 2019 print issue of DestinAsian magazine (“In The Public Eye”).