With the theme of Of Mice and Men, the Berlin Biennial grounds art in context. In doing so, perhaps it redefines what biennials are, according to New York Times article At Berlin Biennial, Art Fits Anywhere (free registration required).
By rough estimate, there are now some 200 biennials around theworld. With so many similar festivals filling interchangeable white galleries, their usefulness is a subject for colloquiums and dinner conversations from Venice to Istanbul to São Paolo. Are they here to capture trends or to advance artists' voices in a larger social dialogue? Do they promote international understanding or local interests? Are they bully pulpits for curators turned ideologues, or are they simply there to tap the art market's stopwatch till the next survey of hot new things draws the attention of an ever expanding universe of collectors?
...the curators had ample resources to come up with an answer of their own. Typically, they broke the standard biennial rules, focusing neither on new trends nor on the latest crop of artists.
'You know, we say art doesn't go bad, it doesn't rot like food,' Mr. Gioni said. 'Art used to be about making something eternal. Now it's about a product with programmed obsolescence, almost with an expiration date.'
In my view Steven Henry Madoff highlights important questions. While inevitably personal, art requires a larger context or it becomes hopelessly self absorbed, fit only for private exchange. For what does it hope? The Berlin Biennial makes the case for wider creative context.