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Suzhou Documents 2016: A Brand New Biennale for Suzhou

BY CLAIRE BOUCHARA | Blouin artinfo

Kyungah Ham, "Chandeliers" installation (Courtesy Suzhou Documents)

Suzhou, a densely populated city to the West of Shanghai, will host its first biennale from August 14 through October 20, 2016. The large-scale exhibition, entitled Suzhou Documents, will bring together over 40 international artists from the US, Latin America, Germany, India, China, South Korea, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Shadowed by the metropolis of Shanghai, Suzhou is a small city with a rich history, dating back approximately 2,500 years. With a wealth of traditional and ancient art, the city will now open up to international art.

Zhang Qing, the Curatorial Head of the National Palace Museum in Beijing, and Roger M. Buergel, the Director of the Johann Jacobs Museum in Zurich, will jointly curate the show. The theme selected for this first edition is “Histories of a Global Hub,” and the works will aim to explore Suzhou as an ancient city yet also as a “futurist global hub.” The biennale will both look back at Suzhou's deep-rooted history in the 15th century as a cultural capital during the Ming Dynasty, and look to the future towards any environmental and technological challenges that Suzhou might face.

Some of the artists participating in the biennale are John Akomfrah, Ibon Aranberri, Maya Deren, Gonzalo Diaz, Sheela Gowda, Kyungah Ham, Hu Xiangcheng, and Jügen Stollhans. Renowned Chinese artists such as Liu Ye, Xu Bing, Yang Fudong, and Yue Minjun are also included the artist lineup.

The biennial will be spread throughout the city, but the core of the exhibition will take place at the Suzhou Art Museum, which is known to hold some of the city’s historical treasures, from ancient ink wash paintings to calligraphy. Other shows will be displayed at Pu Garden, Suzhou Silk Museum, Twin-Pagoda, Yan Wenliang Memorial Museum, and Wu Zuoren Art Museum.

To not fall into the clichéd biennale format, with its emphasis on spectacle and arbitrary themes, Suzhou Documents will take a slightly different route after its first edition this summer, and is expected to subsequently develop a web of exhibitions.

“Suzhou Documents: Histories of a Global Hub” will take place from August 14 through October 20 in Suzhou, China.

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