The Panama Art Biennial is the most prestigious event for the advancement of the contemporary visual arts in Panama. It offers creative individuals a non-commercial space within which to produce and exhibit their art, providing contact with the general public and with critics, as well as promoting their work through a bilingual catalogue published after the exhibition, which is distributed nationally and internationally.
The Biennial has been held in Panama’s Museum of Contemporary Art since 1992, when it was founded by Irene Escoffery and Monica Kupfer. Over these past 15 years, the Biennial has experienced a process of constant renovation, from its initial stages as a painting competition to its status today as a contemporary art exhibition that includes all artistic media. It is a show that does not attempt to survey contemporary art in Panama, but rather to contribute to its renewal in a significant way.
The eighth edition of the Panama Art Biennial’s main axis will be an exhibit conceived by the Mexican curator Magali Arriola.
Arriola has invited the following artists based in Panama City to participate in this project: Abner Benaim, Enrique Castro Ríos, Donna Conlon, Jonathan Harker, Rich Potter, and Ramón Zafrani, as well as Humberto Vélez, a Panamanian artist residing in London. She has also selected artists from the United States such as Sam Durant and Richard Prince (who, interestingly, was born in the former Canal Zone); the Belgian artist based in Mexico City, Francis Alÿs; and three artists who reside in Berlin: Sean Snyder (from the U.S.), Roman Ondak (from Slovakia), and Michael Stevenson (from New Zealand).
The 8th Panama Biennial seeks to take full advantage of the potential of a small-format exhibition for the creation of new meanings; by generating, together with a small group of artists, a working process based on the curator’s initial premise – that the art projects be developed around the idea of the former Panama Canal Zone, its past and its present, as well as the process through which Panamanians have appropriated this territory, which was under the administration of the United States Federal Government from the time of its creation and until the implementation of the 1977 treaties.
The artists are expected to generate works of art that reflect upon the appearance, disappearance, and transformation of territories, as well as the mobility of geographic borders in today’s world, reconsidering the way in which each individual negotiates and constructs his or her notions of identity or belonging.
The idea behind this edition is that the Biennial focus its efforts towards establishing a space that will stimulate, support, and value the artists’ research projects as well as the development of more solidly grounded creative processes that not only make sense, but are pertinent to both the local and international contexts.
The Panama Biennial has always been open to Panamanian artists as well as foreign artists who are residents of Panama. In 2007, for the first time, the Biennial has also invited international artists who do not live in Panama, in order to bring about a dialogue that includes local and external points of view, thereby promoting more complex visions within the contemporary practice of art.