The 12th Istanbul Biennial
, organised by the Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts and sponsored by Koç Holding, will take place between 17 September and 13 November 2011. Focusing on works that are both formally innovative and politically outspoken, the 12th Istanbul Biennial will explore the complex relationship between art and politics. Serving as primary inspiration for the Biennial, the work of Cuban-American artist Felix Gonzalez-Torres (19571996) is a clear example of this kind of artistic practice. The Biennial title, Untitled (12th Istanbul Biennial), 2011, deliberately references the way in which Gonzalez-Torres named most of his works: Untitled followed by a description in parentheses.
The Biennial will include five group shows and approximately forty-five solo presentations, with each group show featuring a large number of works by both established and emerging artists, brought together under a particular theme. Referring to works by Gonzalez-Torres, the theme titles for the group shows are: Untitled (Passport), Untitled (Ross), Untitled (Death by Gun), Untitled (Abstraction), and Untitled (History). The group shows will have the character of intimate cabinet exhibitions, each occupying a distinct space, and together they will function as thematic anchors for the Biennial as a whole, surrounded by the solo presentations. Each solo presentation will be linked to the subjects of the group shows but will push the themes decidedly further, exploring the broader issues the group exhibitions have introduced.
To remain in line with Gonzalez-Torres' idea of "Untitled" and his desire to circumvent established artistic and political conventions, the names of the artists will deliberately remain undisclosed until the Biennial's opening. A critical position towards preconceived notions of the exhibition is a fundamental part of the Biennial's curatorial premise, particularly in respect to a possible consumption of the exhibition via a list of artists, the names of the curators, or the title of the show.
The organisers of the 12th Istanbul Biennial also advocate for renewed attention to the importance of the exhibition itself. In response to those today who devalue the exhibition as the primary format of artistic and curatorial expression, favouring instead ancillary events and programming (especially in a biennial context), the Biennial will be precisely installed in a single, carefully constructed space, privileging the display and juxtaposition of the artworks above all else. The space will be conceived by Tokyo-based architect Ryue Nishizawa of Sejima and Nishizawa and Associates (SANAA) winners of the prestigious 2010 Pritzker Prize with graphic design developed in collaboration with Jon Sueda of Stripe, San Francisco.