In a quest to bring two of my burning passions (travel and art) together, I jumped on a plane bound for Marrakech to experience my first Biennale. I had a window of two days to enjoy the festival, and having experienced the madness that is Marrakech last year, I was keen to do some pre-trip homework to ensure I had a plan to enjoy the festival to its fullest.
After talking with my friends and colleagues about my mini adventure, I was surprised to learn how few people knew what a Biennale was. So, if your one of those people here’s a little background...
Biennales - A global celebration of art
Biennales are international art festivals hosted by large cities across the world, and are typically held every two years. Currently, there are 46 countries that stage Biennales. Typically lasting over 12 weeks, they provide a platform to showcase international artists, attracting thousands of visitor, which provides a great boost to a city's tourism.
While it's good to have a plan, my pre-trip planning and what actually happened in Marrakech were two very different things! When I had initially conducted my research, the website for the Marrakech Biennale wasn’t that easy to navigate and sadly, I didn't fare much better navigating my way around Marrakesh, so what I saw happened quite by chance, which added to the drama. I am pleased to say the website is now much more coherent.
The Biennale can be felt throughout the city with museums, hotels and galleries hosting exhibitions and workshops under its working title NOT NEW NOW. Despite reading the explanation for this a number of times, the meaning still eludes me, so you I’ll leave you to work that one out for yourself! There are three main exhibition sites and I was lucky enough to stumble upon Palais El Badi, a vast ruined palace. Here 22 international artists were invited to create a site-specific piece responding to the history of the palace and the ruins that are now left.
As I stepped back out onto the streets of Marrakech, senses heightened, I became more aware of the art around me - even the local plumber promoting his services seemed like art to me and reminded me of a piece I’d seen in the Palais El Bahia. Over the course of 24 hrs, I had seen a mind-boggling variety of art from incredible photos of Jamaa El Fna, the main square in the medina, to a 'pimped out' photo booth where you were invited to share your stories, it all intermingled to create a fascinating experience.
Bringing together art and travel, a Biennale is a fantastic way to learn about a new city and enhance the visitor's experience. I love that art is a safe space to explore some really challenging issues we face in the modern world, allowing others to open up debate in a unique way. I think I have found my calling - Biennales here we come! So, if you're looking for a weekend in a fascinating city and you want to see some art – get yourself to Marrakech before the first week in May – you won’t regret it.
Arts, Culture & Entertainment