Elmgreen & Dragset Tapped to Be First Artists to Curate Istanbul Biennial

The art duo has big plans.

Artist duo Michael Elmgreen (right) and Ingar Dragset (left) with their sculpture Han (He).
Photo: Jens Nørgaard Larsen/AFP/Getty Images.

For the first time, an artist duo has been tapped to curate the Istanbul Biennial. The 2017 edition will be organized by Elmgreen & Dragset, who are veterans not only of the Istanbul Biennial but also of biennials in Venice, São Paulo, and Gwangju, among others.

“We are honored to be appointed curators of the 15th Istanbul Biennial, having previously taken part as artists in three editions of the biennial,” say the artists in a press release.

Recent curators of the Istanbul Biennial include Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev (2015), Fulya Erdemci (2013), and the duo of Jens Hoffmann and Adriano Pedrosa (2011).

The entrance to the 2013 Istanbul Biennial. <br>Photo: courtesy the Istanbul Biennial.

The entrance to the 2013 Istanbul Biennial.
Photo: courtesy the Istanbul Biennial.

In their edition, which will be on view September 16–November 12, 2017, the artists plan to respond to the waves of nativism that have risen in response to economic recessions and the Middle Eastern refugee crisis.

“In light of the current global geopolitical situation, in which we’re experiencing a new rise of nationalism, it will be important for us to curate a biennial based on collaborative efforts and processes,” say the artists. “Collaboration is something that feels natural to us, since we have been working together as an artist duo for more than twenty years. A biennial can be a platform for dialogue, and a format in which diverse opinions, perspectives, and communities can coexist.”

Elmgreen & Dragset. <br>Photo: Elmar Vestner, courtesy the Istanbul Biennial.

Elmgreen & Dragset.
Photo: Elmar Vestner, courtesy the Istanbul Biennial.

Michael Elmgreen, a Copenhagen native, and Ingar Dragset, born in Trondheim, Norway, are known for playful and provocative projects, including their current installation of a swimming pool in the shape of Vincent van Gogh’s ear in New York, a museum exhibition in the format of an art fair in Beijing, and a mock Prada store outside Marfa, Texas, a permanent installation created for the Donald Judd Foundation.

They’re no strangers to curating, having organized exhibitions and festivals since the mid-‘90s, when they oversaw “Update,” a performance-based festival as part of Copenhagen’s European Capitals of Culture program. More recently, they received a special mention for “The Collectors,” a project at the 2009 Venice Biennial that, for the first time, merged two national pavilions (the Danish and Nordic ones).

The pair have been given museum exhibitions at venues including Tate Modern, London (2004), Serpentine Gallery, London (2006), ZKM Museum of Modern Art, Karlsruhe (2010), and the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Castilla y León (2009).

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