Pure Scandinavian Bliss: The Nordic Biennials You Shouldn’t Miss This Year

Plan your Midsummer tour, now.

A rendering of the upcoming new dome extension at ARoS. Courtesy Schmidt Hammer Lassen.

The Scandinavian art scene is definitely heating up. Besides the slew of biennials taking place throughout the year, the art space Copenhagen Contemporary is slated to launch a permanent base in the Danish Capital.

“Highlights from the summer program at our current home on Paper Island include a never-before-seen complete installation by the celebrated German artist Anselm Kiefer and a dynamic sculptural assemblage by New York-based artist Sarah Sze” Jens Erik Sørensen, director of Copenhagen Contemporary, told artnet News.

Meanwhile, the first retrospective of Marina Abramović in Europe—currently on view at Stockholm’s Moderna Museet—will soon travel to Louisiana, just outside Copenhagen.

From exhibitions focusing on digital works to biennials pushing the boundaries of the format, there’s a lot happening up north this summer. Here, we have compiled a list of the biennials happening in the region this summer, so you can plan your Midsummer tour.

Rachel MacLean, Let it Go (2015). Courtesy the artist, Daata Editions, ARS17

Rachel MacLean, Let it Go (2015). Courtesy the artist, Daata Editions, and ARS17.


Helsinki, Finland, on view until January 14 2018.

ARS17—whose current edition commemorates the centenary of Finnish Independence—is currently on view at the Kiasma Museum in Helsinki. Focused on the rising wave of online art, the exhibition features a mix of international and Finnish artists, including Rachel MacLean, Cécile B. Evans, Ed Atkins, Jon Rafman, LaBeouf, Rönkkö & Turner, Tuomas A. Laitinen, and Reija Meriläinen.

All selected artists are considered to have “conquered the internet.”

Tomás Saraceno, <i>Aerocene Explorer</i> (2016). Courtesy Studio Tomás Saraceno.

Tomás Saraceno, Aerocene Explorer (2016). Courtesy Studio Tomás Saraceno.

Socle du Monde Biennale

Herning, Denmark, April 21–August 27, 2017.

This year’s Socle du Monde Biennale, dedicated to the work of artist Piero Manzoni, will take place across 5 locations—the Herning Museum of Contemporary Art (HEART), Herning Højskole, the Carl-Henning Pedersen & Else Alfelt Museum, The Geometric Gardens, and HEART’s Sculpture Park.

“To Challenge the Earth, the Moon, the Sun & the Stars,” will be curated by a team headed up by Mattijs Visser, the founding director of the ZERO foundation. Olivier Varenne, Jean-Hubert Martin, Daniel Birnbaum, and Maria Finders will work with Visser, each curator responsible for interpreting one of five “chapters” of Manzoni’s career. Announced artists include Yayoi Kusama and Hannah Heilmann.

momentum Nordic Biennial

Hrafnhildur Arnardottir a.k.a Shoplifter, Nervescape IV (2015), at the 8th edition of Momentum. Photo Vegard Kleven, courtesy Momentum.

Momentum 9: Alienation

Moss, Norway, June 17–October 11, 2017.

Momentum—the Nordic Biennial that takes place in the small city of Moss, near Oslo in Norway—is in its ninth edition. This year, the title of the exhibition is “Alienation.” The small biennial will be installed in Punkt O, a large warehouse style space, and in other venues around the city.

The eighth edition, titled “Tunnel Vision,” was highly experimental, and the new iteration promises more of the same.

ARoS Museum. Photo courtesy ARoS

ARoS Museum. Photo courtesy ARoS

The ARoS Triennial

Aarhus, Denmark, June 3–July 30, 2017.

The Danish city of Aarhus is the European Capital of Culture for 2017 and they are celebrating it in style.

The first edition of the ARoS Triennial in Aarhus, Denmark promises to be a huge affair, encompassing the city of Aarhus, the impressive ARoS Museum, and four kilometers of coastline.

The biennial, titled “The Garden—End of Times; Beginning of Times” has three thematic strands, which are simply called The Past, The Present, and The Future. It will include works by Edvard Munch, Elmgreen & Dragset, and Katharina Grosse among many others.

Starchitect Bjarke Ingels’s firm BIG will also be creating an installation for the exhibition, one of 15 in total.

Foto: Eivind H. Natvig/INSTITUTE

Lofoten International Art Festival (LIAF)

Henningsvær, Norway, September 1–3, 2017

LIAF is one of the furthest-flung biennials in the world, with the most dramatic backdrop, each edition taking place in a different island from the Lofoten archipelago, above the Arctic Circle in Norway. It is also the country’s longest running visual arts festival.

This edition of the migratory festival takes place in the small cod-fishing village of Henningsvær, and is curated by Heidi Ballet and Milena Hoegsberg. The theme along with a list of participating artists will be announced in May.

Göteborg International Biennial for Contemporary Art (GIBCA)

Gothenburg, Sweden, September 9–November 19, 2017

This biennial is one of Sweden’s largest arts festivals, taking place in Stockholm’s edgier sister Gothenburg and organized by Röda Sten Konsthall. Now in its ninth edition, the festival is being curated by Nav Haq, senior curator at M KHA, in Antwerp.

GIBCA 2017 will address the question “What role should secularity have in society today?,” which is sure to trigger some interesting discussions.

GIBCA has also organized a symposium exploring the rise of Nordic biennials, which is taking place later this month.

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