Itinerant Itineraries Round Up

Mosaic I
Close up of Paolo Colombo's Mosaic I in silk embroidery on muslin, 2024, ITERARTE variations.

ITERARTE has at its geographical heart the warm waters of the Mediterranean, written by history as the launch pad of civilisation. Many of its artists hail from close to its shores, or if not, have travelled there, as many itinerant explorers did who came from the East via the Silk Road, which is also on ITERARTE’s itinerary, extending and expanding across the Middle East into South Asia. 

The arts season in the Middle East falls in the first few months of the year, and for 2024 included several important moments. In Saudi Arabia this included the AlUla Art Season with the second edition of Desert X AlUla, In the presence of absence curated by Maya El Khalil and Marcelo Dantas (9 February – 23 March) and the second Diriyah Contemporary Art Biennale in Riyadh, After Rain with Ute Mete Bauer, director of the Centre for Contemporary Art in Singapore as its Artistic Director. Both included significant new commissions which tackled ecological and geopolitical themes. 

Giuseppe Penone, La Logica Del Vegetale (The Logic of the Vegetal) - Metamorphosis, bronze and locally-sourced fossilised tree trunks, 4 x 13 x. 18m. Desert X AlUla 2024 ©Lance Gerber
Kimsooja, To Breathe - AlUla, 2024, monolithic heat-soaked rested toughened glass, diffraction film, stainless steel and mild steel, 42 panels of 2.8 x 1.8m, Desert X AlUla 2024 ©Lance Gerber
After Rain, Diriyah Contemporary Art Biennale 2024, installation view, from left to right: Reem Al Nasser, Blue Windows (2022); Sopheap Pich, Rang Phnom Flower (2015); Dana Awartani, Come, Let Me Heal Your Wounds (2020); Sopheap Pich, Amulet (2015). Photo by Alessandro Brasile, ©Diriyah Biennale Foundation.
After Rain, Diriyah Contemporary Art Biennale 2024, installation view, on back wall: Christine Fenzl, Women of Riyadh (2023) and in front Ade Darmawan, Tuban (2019). Photo by Alessandro Brasile, ©Diriyah Biennale Foundation.

In the UAE, Sharjah Art Foundation play host to several significant solo exhibitions, such as the exquisite Lala Rukh: In the Round (24 February – 16 June), and Art Week from Art Dubai, in its 17th edition, was its usual buzzy, inspiring whirlwind of activity, measured a little by the Bawwaba section of the fair which focused on healing, curated by Emiliano Valdés, Chief Curator of the Museum of Modern Art, Medellin and Associate Curator for the 10th Gwangju Biennale. Alserkal Avenue has several significant exhibitions ongoing, such as the group presentation Sheher, Prakriti, Devi (19 January – 1 June) at the Ishara Arts Foundation, as does the Jameel Arts Centre with the fascinating Guest Relations (until 28 April) and a solo exhibition by Vikram Divecha, Short Circuits (until 16 June). in Abu Dhabi a highlight is the ever-evolving exhibition In Real Time (22 February – 9 June). Tunisia had a moment with the launch of a major new space by Selma Feriani, and the 9th edition of the festival Dream City. 

Lala Rukh, River in an Ocean: 6, 1993. ©Estate of Lala Rukh and Grey Noise, Dubai.

Next step on the global art tour of 2024 travelled continued south east, to catch the 24th Biennale of Sydney, Ten Thousand Suns (9 March – 10 June) curated by Cosmin Costinas and Inti Guerrero, a truly epic presentation across six venues, many of which are newly repurposed, not without their issues. Themes verge on the side of Armageddon and apocalypse, but there is a human side, with humour and compassion shining through.

As warmer months in Europe arrive, much of the art world travels to that region, with a feast of biennials and exhibitions to sample. The Venice Biennale, which always seems to open earlier than you expect, is the main draw, its 60th edition runs from 20 April – 24 November. The main exhibition Foreigners Everywhere curated by Adriano Pedrosa promises much, with a focus specifically on underrepresented artists, both due to personal circumstance and geography – with clear presence by Indigenous, queer, folk and outsider artists, as well as a larger proportion of artists from the Global South.

Installation view of Claire Fontaine, Foreigners Everywhere - Spanish, 2007, suspended, wall or window mounted neon, framework, electronic transformer and cables, The Traveling Show, curated by Adriano Pedrosa, La Collección Jumex, Mexico ©Claire Fontaine Studio and Mennour, Paris.

Other large-scale events over the coming months include Spaces of Possibility, the 4th edition of the Bruges Triennial (13 April – 1 September) which looks specifically at public space; the 6th Mardin Biennal (10 May – 10 June) in Turkey, which takes as its theme Further Away…curated by Ali Akay, the 10th Glasgow International (7 – 23 June 2024) and the 16th Biennale de l’Art africain contemporain in Dakar, the wake (16 May – 16 June), with the Artistic Director Salimata Diop. 

The autumn sees the return of the European Nomadic Biennial Manifesta landing in Barcelona for its 15th edition (8 September – 24 November), and the 17th Lyon Biennale (21 September – 5 January 2025). The delayed 3rd Lahore Biennale will open on 5 October, organised around the theme of ecologies and sustainable futures. Many question the biennial model, but it remains a vital global platform for the production of new artworks, a space for experimentation and gathering.