Biennial of Graphic Arts


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Contact info
Grafični bienale
Pod turnom 3, SI-1000 Ljubljana
Phone386 (0) 1 241 3800
Fax386 (0) 1 241 3821
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Organised byInternational Centre of Graphic Arts, Ljubljana
Frequencybiennial (2017)
Festival dates28.8.2015 - 3.12.2015
16.6.2017 - 24.10.2017
Nevenka Šivavec, Director
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Karla Železnik, Public Relations
Phone386 (0) 1 241 3809
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Biennial of Graphic Arts is the world's oldest existing biennial exhibition of contemporary graphic arts. Founded in 1955 on the idea and endeavours of Božidar Jakac and under the great engagement of Zoran Kržišnik, to date the biennial has hosted around 5,000 artists from 80 countries. It is organised by the International Centre of Graphic Arts, Ljubljana and a member of the International Biennial Association (IBA), established in 2014.

The mission of the Biennial of Graphic Arts is to offer a critical review of contemporary developments in reproductive techniques and to point out the main streams which have influenced the development of contemporary graphic art.

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From the very beginning the aim of the Biennial of Graphic Arts was to exhibit the best works and the largest possible number of graphic artists representing contemporary trends on all continents. In line with this approach, the only selection criterion was the quality of a limited edition print in any printmaking technique. During the Cold War, which cut short virtually every dialogue between the West and the East, the organisers of the Ljubljana Biennial nevertheless managed to bring together artists not only from the two opposing poles but also from the "Third World".


During the 1990s a new perspective on art which was in favour of reproduction and multiplication techniques gained a foothold, thus creating favourable circumstance for the reaffirmation of the Biennial of Graphic Arts the revitalisation of the concept. Towards the end of the 1990s a new, more modern organisational approach was adopted. National presentations of artists gave way to individual presentations. The organiser of the biennial appointed curators and the number of selected artists was radically reduced. Participating artists were represented by more works or a project. Consequently, the 20th, 21st, 22nd and 23rd Biennials indeed introduced new features.


A truly radical change occurred with the 24th Biennial of Graphic Arts in 2001. It was marked by certain changes, with emphasis placed on the substance of graphic arts in the context of newly emerging global art and the new internal organisational structure. The year 2001 was comprised on four thematic exhibition segments (Print World, Fundamina, Imaging Ulysses: Richard Hamilton's Illustrations to James Joyce, and Information – Misinformation, presented in the Delo newspaper, at Televizija Slovenija, Radio Študent (RŠ), on 100 Proreklam-Europlakat billboards around Slovenia, and on 50 large digital info-screens at underground railway stations in Vienna and in Der Standard newspaper). Each of the 4 sections of the 24th Biennial was curated by one from the group of (inter)national curators. Featured were works of many established artists as Monica Bonvicini, Daniele Buetti, Claude Closky, Izabella Gustowska, Damien Hirst, Tracey Moffat, Thomas Ruff, Kara Walker, Zoran Mušič, Andy Warhol, and others.

Since then each edition has offered a new approach. In 2003, the 25th edition, curated by Christophe Cherix, was based on the importance of the multiplied image as a means of communication. The common feature of the exhibited works – artists' books, newspapers and magazines, photocopies, posters, newspaper interventions and projects, and prints – is the fact that they document the artists' ideas about their realised or unrealised, past or future projects. The biennial included works of participating artists Isa Genzken, Liam Gillick, Irwin, Raymond Pettibon, Permanent Food (Maurizio Cattelan & Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster), Tadej Pogačar & P.A.R.A.S.I.T.E. Museum of Contemporary Art and many other established artists.

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The concept (the work of Slovene art historian Jure Mikuž) for the the 26th Biennial entitled Thrust [Sunek] – underscored the 50th anniversary of the event – aimed to show the wide diversity of views on contemporary graphic arts, and process as an organisational approach to staging an exhibition. Mikuž has invited 18 prestigious institutions from all over the world to each present an exhibition that attempted to answer the question: What are the graphic arts today? Cultural and geographic settings in which these institutions operate gave the character to this edition and constituted a post-colonial perspective on art. Involved institutions: Bharat Bhavan International Print Biennial (Bhopal, India), Bibliotheque nationale de France (Paris, France), Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery (Great Britain), Brooklyn Museum (New York, USA, Calcografía Nacional, Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando (Madrid, Spain), Graphica Creativa kansainvälinen taidegrafiikan triennaali (Jyväskylä, Finland), Istituto Nazionale per la Grafica (Rome, Italy) and others.

The 27th Biennial of Graphic Arts brought 8 views on art prints, the common thread of these different exhibitions being reproducibility of art. It was comprised of The Unbound Eyes of Anxiousness, the main biennial exhibition; Stigma, the already traditional exhibition of the artist awarded the Grand Prize at the previous Biennial; and 6 accompanying exhibitions prepared by various galleries in Ljubljana.

The central exhibition of the 28th Biennial of Graphic Arts, The Matrix: An Unstable Reality was conceived by Božidar Zrinski and focused on contemporary graphic art in the broadest sense of the term. At the invitation of the International Centre of Graphic Arts, which proposed the theme of the main show, this idea was further developed and shaped by the Alkatraz, Ganes Pratt, Jakopič, Kapsula, and Škuc galleries, which served also as venues for the biennial. Alongside the central exhibition and the traditional accompanying ones, the 28th Biennial of Graphic Arts included as well the Artist's Book Salon.


The 29th edition in 2011 was curated by Beti Žerovc who proposed that the art event became a privileged artistic medium. The event-based exhibition focused on four prevailing themes: generosity, violence, the search for the sacred and the ritualistic, and emptiness.

In 2013 the American curator Deborah Cullen returned to reconsider the nature of the graphic processes, showcasing the way in which the artists respond to contemporary communication tools and processes. Nicola Lees was appointed as a curator of the 31st Biennial of Graphic Arts, with the biennial celebrating its 60th anniversary.

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In addition to the venue at the Tivoli Mansion the Biennial of Graphic Arts takes place at several Ljubljana locations, including the Švicarija Art Centre, Museum of Modern Art, Cankarjev dom, and the Jakopič Gallery, in a range of different urban open air venues, and in mass media. Based on the new concept of cooperation with the local scene and its protagonists, the recent edition also extended the venues to some smaller and independent galleries.

Prizes and retrospectives

Since the beginnings of the Biennial of Graphic Arts, each edition presents regular retrospective exhibitions of prizewinners from the previous event. Many internationally established artists have received the "Grand Prize" and the "Grand Prize of Honour", such as Robert Rauschenberg (1963), Joan Miró and Victor Vasarely (1965), Frank Stella (1993), Günther Uecker (1995), David Hockney (1997), Richard Hamilton (1999).

In 2001 one of the prizewinners was Damien Hirst and in 2003 a unique show of his drawings was organised in cooperation with British Council Slovenia and exhibited at Tivoli Mansion. In 2003 Raymond Pettibon was awarded. In 2005 the recipient of the Grand Prize was the San Juan Poly/Graphic Triennial: Latin America and the Carribean, Puerto Rico. In 2007 the Korean artist Jeon Joonho received the award; instead of a retrospective exhibition he prepared a show of the "post-gogo" generation of South Korean artists featured as practice for winners in the Cankarjev dom Gallery. The Grand Prize of 2009 went to Justseeds, an artists' cooperative from USA, María Elena González got the highest award at the 30th Biennial of Graphic Arts.

International relevance

The Ljubljana Biennial of Graphic Arts has gained huge respect and influenced many international scenes and events. In its early stage the biennial became the model for other graphic art events and biennials in the world: in the 1950s in Tokyo and Grenchen (Germany), in the 1960s in Krakow and Florence (Italy 1968) and in the 1970s in Bradford (UK) and Fredrikstad (Norway). Among still-existing graphic biennials such as the Biennial in Krakow, the Triennial in Tallin (it evolved from the Biennial of Graphic Arts of Baltic Republics into an international triennial of graphic arts) and Grafika Creativa in Finland, the Ljubljana Biennial of Graphic Arts is still the flagship.

Further, the biennial caused the establishment of the Ljubljana International Centre of Graphic Arts in 1986, prior, the secretariat was part of the Museum of Modern Art.

See also

Some of the past additional venues

External links


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