Exhibition review: the 4th Prague Biennale and the 1st Prague Photo Biennale

The 4th Prague Biennale and the 1st Prague Photo Biennale took place in Prague simultaneously in 2009. I reviewed the Biennale in Studija magazine and the Photo Biennale — in Foto Kvartals magazine. See the respective reviews below.

Read more about the 4th Prague Biennial and the 1st Prague Photo Biennial here on Art Map.

“Biennale Without a Budget.” Review of the 4th Prague Biennale. Prague, May 14 — July 26, 2009.

Published in Studija 67, no. 4 (2009).

Download article pdf.

View the article on Studija magazine online archive here.


The Prague Biennale, although it carries the name of the city, is in a sense an import of culture from Western Europe. That is, in 2001 the Italian publisher and curator Giancarlo Politi, the man behind the well-known international art magazine ‘Flash Art', started up a new initiative which could be described as the mini budget biennale, or the biennale without a budget. Politi held the first such exhibition in the capital city of Albania, Tirana, but thereafter it was continued in Prague, where in 2003 Politi together with the curator Helena Kontova founded the Prague Biennale. The international outlook of the magazine ‘Flash Art' is reflected in the biennale exhibition where, just as in the pages of the magazine, art works of the most varied contents and quality, from just about half the countries of the world, flash past the eyes of the viewer.

This comparison of the exhibition to the magazine comes to mind spontaneously. As when putting together a magazine, where the information is arranged in a number of chapters and subheadings and even smaller units, with different authors responsible for the constituent parts, the Prague Biennale also is built around a similar structural model. The three thematic groups are Expanded Painting, Art in General and Focus on Italy. Each of these groups consists of a number of micro-shows, which have been created by the curators invited to take part by Politi and Kontova. This somewhat decentralized web-like model, in the context of the biennale ideology of working without a budget, in a way offers almost a kind of "do-it-yourself" alternative - you won't encounter the works of contemporary stars and big-name artists. In addition, the cheap plywood stands and the timeworn vestiges of the industrial past of the building still remaining in the exhibition hall are a far cry from, for example, the chic way that art is presented in the new Francois Pinault gallery in Venice, Punta della Dogana, which opened its doors in June. Everything has been done as simply as possible: there is a space, there is light, and there are works of art.

View of the exhibition hall, the 4th Prague Biennale. Photo: © Zenta Dzividzinska

"Outlining the Future of Photographic Art." Review of the 1st Prague Photo Biennale. Prague, May 14 — July 26, 2009.

Published in Foto Kvartals 18, no. 4 (2009). In Latvian only.

Download article pdf, or click on any image below to download full article pdf.