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Manifesta - European Biennial of Contemporary Art
Manifesta logo Large B&WII.jpg
Genre biennale, focus on contemporary art
Begins 1994
Frequency biennial, every two year.
Location(s) Itinerant.
Organised by International Foundation Manifesta

Manifesta, the roving European Biennial of Contemporary Art, is a European pan-regional contemporary cultural biennale, described in 2010 by the Wall Street Journal as "stunning in its scope and uncompromisingly experimental in its approach".[1]


Manifesta began as a Dutch initiative to create a pan-European platform for the contemporary visual arts. Unlike most biennials, Manifesta is held in a different location each time it is held, and the concept of an itinerant event first took shape in Rotterdam in 1996, in consultation with a specially appointed International Advisory Board (the forerunner of the present International Foundation), and the support of various national governmental arts organisations and ministries of culture in Europe. The main office of the International Foundation Manifesta, initiator of the various editions of the Manifesta Biennial is located in Amsterdam, Netherlands.[2]

Manifesta developed into a fast-growing network for young professionals in Europe and one of the most innovative biennial exhibition programme to be held anywhere. This is due, in no small measure, to its pan-European ambitions and its uniquely nomadic nature. Both the network and the exhibition, with its related activities, are equally important components of this itinerant event. Manifesta offers a platform for emerging artists, on the basis of a networking organisation, which is able to respond flexibly to new artistic, technological and cultural developments. The most obvious aspects of Manifesta's inbuilt flexibility is the fact that a new, pan-European theme or concept is developed on each occasion by a team of outside curators, working in close consultation with representatives of all kind of cultural, social, academic institutions in the host city. In other words, each new edition aims to establish a close dialogue between a specific cultural and artistic situation and the broader context of European visual contemporary art.

Manifesta 1 was held in Rotterdam, Netherlands in 1996 in 16 different museums and 36 public spaces. A team of five curators, from Barcelona, Budapest, London, Moscow, and Paris/Zurich, selected 72 artists from 30 different European countries and five from elsewhere. Since then it has been held in Luxembourg (1998), Ljubljana (2000), Frankfurt (2002) and San Sebastian (Spain) in 2004. The event was due to be held in the ethnically-divided city of Nicosia, Cyprus, in 2006 but was cancelled at the last moment. In 2008 Manifesta 7 took place in Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol, Italy. Manifesta 8 took place in the region of Murcia Spain in 2010. Manifesta 9 took place in 2012 in the region of Limburg, Belgium.

The Manifesta biennials and organization have not operated without controversy. The most notable problem was in 2006 when the event, planned to be held in Cyprus, was met with opposition from Cypriot artists.[3] It was cancelled due to political reasons and relocated to Berlin.[4] Manifesta Foundation is Ambassador for European Culture within the framework of the EACEA Culture Programme 2007–2013


Manifesta 1, Rotterdam, Netherlands, 1996[edit]

Manifesta 1 was developed by Hedwig Fijen and Jolie van Leeuwen as the first edition of the Manifesta Biennal. Curated by Andrew Renton,[5] Katalyn Neray, Rosa Martinez, Viktor Misiano and Hans Ulrich Obrist,[6] it was held in 16 different museums and 36 public spaces in Rotterdam, Netherlands.[7] All the works displayed at Manifesta 1 were specially made for this event and many of the participating artists where exhibiting outside their own countries for the first time in their career. Many of these artists went on to exhibit extensively in public and commercial galleries in Europe and the US, and to take part in major international events, such as the Venice Biennale and the documenta. A novel aspect of this exhibition – taken on by subsequent editions of Manifesta – was the emphasis given to collaborative work between artists, curators, representatives of different disciplines and the general public. In the months prior to the opening, the curatorial team responsible for realizing the exhibition held a series of so-called ‘open’ and ‘closed house’ meetings in a dozen different cities all over Europe, in which professionals and members of the general public were invited to participate.

Manifesta 2, Luxembourg, 1998[edit]

Manifesta 2 was held under the patronage of the Ministry of Culture of Luxembourg, curated by Robert Fleck,[8] Maria Lind and Barbara Vanderlinden, and included mostly site-specific work.[9] For the first time, Manifesta included a series of international discussions and debates and launched a cumulative ‘Info lab’ (the basis of Manifesta’s present growing archive), with up-to-date printed and audiovisual material about current artistic tendencies in 30 different European countries. Another innovative feature of Manifesta 2, which has been further developed for Manifesta 3 and 4, was the involvement of 30 young people from all over Europe in a training programme specially devised for Manifesta 2 with organisational and educational purposes. More than 43 European countries participated financially and organisationally in Manifesta 2, contributing, for example, to the curators’ and artists’ travel costs and other expenses related to transport and additional activities. The exhibition catalogue contained information about the infrastructure for contemporary visual art in approximately 30 European countries.[10]

Manifesta 3, Ljubljana, Slovenia, 2000[edit]

For Manifesta 3 the work by artists, artists’ collectives, urban planners and architects was spread over three main venues. The curatorial team (Francesco Bonami,[11] Ole Bouman,[12] Maria Hlavajova[13] and Kathrin Rhomberg) gave the exhibition the theme of Borderline Syndrome. Energies of Defence. In order to support the subject they were exploring they also solicited catalogue contributions not only from a wide range of Slovenian and foreign intellectuals (philosophers, historians and sociologists among others), but also from the general public. The catalogue has turned today into a collector’s item. The nature of the events in Ljubljana reflected the thriving intellectual life of the city and the relevance of interdisciplinary practice in the arts – particularly, the crossover between visual art, cinema and performance, and interaction with new media.

Manifesta 4, Frankfurt, Germany, 2002[edit]

Manifesta 4 took place in more than 15 venues and urban sites in the city of Frankfurt/Main and more than a dozen theoreticians played a major role in site-related workshops, discussions and programmes. The three female curators Iara Boubnova, Nuria Enguita Mayo[14] and Stephanie Moisdon Trembley created an extensive digital and physical Manifesta archive that resulted from their extensive travel, a library called ‘Trespassing Space’[15] and a Manifesta online project called On this occasion, Manifesta 4 incorporated the support of more than 16 sponsors and non-profit organisations, as well as the direct support through artist’s projects by more than 40 national arts organisations.

Manifesta 5, Donostia-San Sebastian, Spain, 2004[edit]

The Basque region – one of a specific dynamic historical and socio-political background – has a strong sense of cultural and political identity and a determination to develop coherent cultural policies. This attitude together with its geographical position in Southern Europe made Donostia-San Sebastian a perfect location for the 5th edition of Manifesta, as curated by Massimiliano Gioni and Marta Kuzma.[16] At the time of M5, one of Manifesta's long-term strategic aims was to achieve a stronger North-South balance, in addition to the already existing East-West balance in all aspects of its activities, including location, board members, curatorial teams and artistic representation. One particularly innovative program within the Biennale was Manifesta 5’s long-lasting partnership with the post-graduate Berlage Institute Rotterdam in the Netherlands, functioning as an urban mediator at the biennale and as a collaboration between architects and artists, exploring how contemporary art practices is extending in the reality of architecture and urban planning.TOOAUP

Manifesta 6, Nicosia, Cyprus, 2006[edit]

Manifesta 6 was to be held in Nicosia, Cyprus. The curatorial team of Mai Abu ElDahab, Anton Vidokle and Florian Waldvogel[17] intended to use the capital, network and infrastructure of Manifesta along with the local resources to start an experimental art school. The school was to be formed in Nicosia around a site-specific exhibition materialized through short and long-term residency programmes and was mooted to be the starting point for a permanent institution. However, the plans that emerged from the Manifesta 6 curators were met with strong opposition by prominent Cypriot artists. Helene Black wrote an open letter to Manifesta, accusing them of using Cyprus's demilitarised Green Line as a cultural commodity.[18] Stass Paraskos said of the event, it is little more than 'a capitalist plot to hijack and destroy what is uniquely Cypriot in our culture and replace it with a bland globalism.' [19] Expanding the scope of these attacks, Dr. Michael Paraskos, of the Cyprus College of Art, pointed out there was a "lack of even basic background research by Manifesta" on the local political, social and cultural scene, and he concluded that "the artists of Cyprus are being treated as if they are uncivilised natives, suitable for anthropological study, and possible conversion by missionaries, but not to be treated as equals."[20] Manifesta 6 in Cyprus was cancelled three months before the opening.[21] It was relocated to the once divided city of Berlin. Vidokle and some of his Manifesta collaborators renamed it unitednationsplaza.[4][22][23]

Manifesta 7, Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol, Italy, 2008[edit]

In 2008, Manifesta was hosted by not one city but in a whole region: Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol, Italy. The area has been selected for its historical heritage, its artistic and cultural facilities and especially for its striking examples of industrial archaeology buildings, which are linked to the work history and the progressive industrialisation of the territory. Manifesta 7 formally came to an end on November 2, 2008 after a period of 111 days of intense activity. Manifesta 7 was curated as a collaborative effort by three teams, consisting of Adam Budak, Anselm Franke/Hila Peleg and Raqs Media Collective, and was organised by a large international team, which was managed by Hedwig Fijen, Andreas Hapkemeyer and Fabio Cavallucci. Manifesta 7 attracted more than 108,000 visitors.

The positive response to Manifesta 7 has been confirmed by the presence of numerous, different audience groups, as well as the widespread coverage in the local, national and international press. Art critics have described this edition as the best Manifesta so far. 1,615 journalists from Italy and abroad registered to visit the Manifesta 7 exhibitions. These events showcased painting, sculpture, video, installation and sound works, the majority of which were specially conceived for the occasion by 230 participating artists, architects and writers from around the world.

Manifesta 8, Murcia, Spain, 2010[edit]

On January 9, 2011, Manifesta 8 – the European Biennial of Contemporary Art, came to a close after 100 days in the host cities of Murcia and Cartagena in southeast Spain. Manifesta 8 took place in 14 venues, five of which were historical buildings specially refurbished for Manifesta, plus four media spaces. Manifesta 8 was curated by three independent curatorial collectives, each of them developing a project as an autonomous curatorial contribution. The collectives are ACAF – Alexandria Contemporary Arts Forum, CPS – Chamber of Public Secrets and The positive results achieved by Manifesta 8 in the Region of Murcia have been attested by 110,000 visitors, who have been welcomed at the 14 venues during the exhibition period. Furthermore, over 10% of the total visitors to Manifesta 8 participated to one of the many education, outreach and art mediation programs on offer.

The Biennial integrated a sub-theme in its title – a dialogue with northern Africa as a direct consequence of geopolitical issues in the region where it took place. In different interdisciplinary projects, this theme was sometimes explicit, sometimes inferred and sometimes highlighted in historical films, photographs and aligned works by artists from Africa, with particular emphasis on the history of Arabic culture rooted in the Region of Murcia. Manifesta 8 incorporated a large number of Parallel Events spread throughout the region of Murcia, as well as television and radio programs, publications, Internet sites and multi-media projects.

Manifesta 8 was described as "monstrous in size, stunning in its scope and uncompromisingly experimental in its approach" by the Wall Street Journal.

Approximately 150 artists were commissioned to participate at Manifesta 8.[24]

Manifesta 9, Limburg, Belgium, 2012[edit]

Manifesta 9, ‘The Deep of the Modern’, took place from June 2 until September 30, 2012 at the impressive site of the former Waterschei mine in Genk, Limburg, Belgium and attracted over 100,000 visitors.

Manifesta 9 presented not only exclusively contemporary art as previous editions but incorporated an impressive collection of historical works and displayed the rich mining heritage to both local and international audiences.

Curator Cuauhtémoc Medina (Mexico City) developed the concept for Manifesta 9, addressing the social and societal impact of the recent past in Limburg. The exhibition The Deep of the Modern was presented as a triptych. For the first section, 35 international contemporary artists were invited to create new work, paying heed to regional context, linking the local theme with global issues. The art historical section provided an overview of works of art from the 19th and 20th Centuries, with the impact of the coal industry as their subject. The third section focuses on the extensive legacy that the Limburg mining industry has left behind.

Manifesta 10, Saint Petersburg, Russia, 2014[edit]

2 November 2014 marked the end of four months of Manifesta10 Biennial in the State Hermitage Museum and other venues across the city of St Petersburg. The biennial attracted an astounding 1,510,309 visits across all venues of the biennial: the Winter Palace and, General Staff Building – (both of the State Hermitage Museum), the Apartment Art as Domestic Resistance and to the various education and public program events that took place across the city. 2014 marked the 20th anniversary of Manifesta, the European Biennial of Contemporary Art, which was initiated in response to the new social, cultural and political reality that emerged in the aftermath of the Cold War. This Jubilee year event analysed the 25 years of changing realities and experiences as they transformed within this new global world order. One of the oldest and most prestigious museums in the world, the State Hermitage Museum was founded in 1764 by Catherine the Great as her personal art collection and has been open to the public since 1852. In 2014 the museum celebrated 250 years of existence. The newly renovated General Staff Building, the new premises of the State Hermitage Museum dedicated to modern and contemporary art, was the main stage of Manifesta 10, curated by Kasper König.

Manifesta 11, Zurich, Switzerland, 2016[edit]

Zurich has a very long history of artistic and intellectual liberalism. It was historically an incubator for revolutionary political and artistic movements. During periods of historical upheaval in Europe, Zurich offered asylum to intellectuals from around the world. Today, Zurich is one of the most economically and technologically advanced cities in the world. This rich and rapidly evolving urban setting will give Manifesta 11 the opportunity to explore critical global issues relating to the processes of urbanization, urban space and society while reassessing the role art can play within these concepts. Zurich’s dynamic and complex urban environment will provide a socially, politically and artistically significant trajectory for Manifesta in the coming years. Manifesta 11 is curated by Christian Jankowski.

Manifesta 12, Palermo, Italy, 2018[edit]

Manifesta 12 will be hosted by Palermo, Italy in 2018.

Parallel Events[edit]

Parallel Events are collateral events taking place in the same period as Manifesta. This edition focuses on cultural projects being organised in the region of Belgian Limburg and neighbouring communities in Dutch Limburg, Germany and Wallonia.

The parallel events are initiated by Manifesta 9, together with the Region of Limburg. The Parallel Events program aims to present a broader view of different aspects of the local cultural scene to the regional, national and international public.

Manifesta Journal[edit]

Founded in 2003, Manifesta Journal is an international journal that focuses on the practices and theories of contemporary curating. Manifesta Journal is an independent project, initiated by the Manifesta Foundation. The format of Manifesta Journal (MJ), like the Manifesta biennial, is a changing model. It aims to be both self-reflective and critical toward international curating and biennials in general, but also toward its own functional mechanisms. Every six editions, a new editorial team from diverse areas of Europe and beyond is invited to develop a different concept for the series, to reflect on contemporary Europe and the world.

After the comprehensive grammar and manual for contemporary curatorship established in the first six issues of Manifesta Journal, MJ #1–6, by Viktor Misiano and Igor Zabel and which continued in the series of six issues that were realized between 2009 and 2011 by Viktor Misiano, Senior Editor Nathalie Zonnenberg and Associate Editor Filipa Ramos, the editorial work of the Manifesta Journal for the upcoming six issues, MJ #13–18, has been taken over by Nataša Petrešin-Bachelez as Chief Editor and Virginie Bobin.

Manifesta Journal can be regarded as a porous platform to reconsider the meanings and the effects of curatorial practices today focusing on urgent (geo)political, humanistic, instigating and controversial potentialities. The new, encompassing subtitle, “Around Curatorial Practices” marks the trajectory from the previous subtitle, “Journal of contemporary curatorship”.

The editorial team wishes to reflect upon current practices of reading, researching, publishing and curating that have been enabled by the internet and its social technologies, while exploring new formats and advocating the open circulation of knowledge through a free online and downloadable Manifesta Journal. Most of its texts are now licensed through Creative Commons. Every two months, a blogger-in-residency is invited to share his/her research in progress: reflections on, assessments of, and reactions to a specific subject. Go to the blog here. Changing Guest Editors have been invited to collaborate on one or more issues of the series.

MJ #13 was guest edited by the Manifesta 9 curatorial team under the guidance of Cuauhtémoc Medina, in collaboration with the associate curators Katerina Gregos and Dawn Ades. MJ #14-16 were realized with the collaboration of Lebanese curator, Rasha Salti.


  1. ^ Schroeder, Mariana (15 October 2010). "Touching the Taboo". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 23 April 2013. 
  2. ^ M A N I F E S T A
  3. ^ Dr. Michael Paraskos, "In darkest Cyprus: Manifesta 6", The Cyprus Weekly, 20–26 January 2006.
  4. ^ a b "Manifesta Destiny", ArtForum, 11 April 2006. Retrieved 2013-09-24.
  5. ^ Frieze Foundation | Andrew Renton
  6. ^ Edge: Hans Ulrich Obrist
  7. ^ kunstaspekte - kunst international
  8. ^ Goethe-Institut Curators - A - G - Fleck, Robert
  9. ^ Artfacts.Net: Manifesta 2 - Luxembourg
  10. ^ Umelec international
  11. ^ Manifesta / e-flux
  12. ^ Netherlands Architecture Institute - _detail
  13. ^ BAK
  14. ^ Enguita Mayo
  15. ^ ArtMargins
  16. ^ Madrid: MANIFESTA 5 San Sebastián European Biennial of Contemporary Art 11 June - 30 Sept 2004
  17. ^ Goethe-Institut Curators - S - Z - Waldvogel, Florian
  18. ^ Helene Black: Open letter to Manifesta, Retrieved 2013-09-24.
  19. ^ Quoted in Michael Paraskos, In Darkest Cyprus: Manifesta 6 in The Cyprus Weekly (Cyprus newspaper), 20 January 2006 Click for article
  20. ^ Michael Paraskos, In Darkest Cyprus: Manifesta 6 in The Cyprus Weekly (Cyprus newspaper), 20 January 2006 Click for article
  21. ^ See Anthony Gardner et al, Biennials, Triennials, and Documenta: The Exhibitions That Created Contemporary Art (London: Wiley-Blackwell, 2016) p.154 and p.173, n.17
  22. ^ "Schools Out". [1]. September 2006.  External link in |publisher= (help)
  23. ^ "Manifesta no more". [2].  External link in |publisher= (help)
  24. ^ "Manifesta 8 :: Alfabeticamente". Retrieved 24 April 2014. 


Barbara Vanderlinden & Elena Filipovic, ed. (2006). The Manifesta Decade; Debates on Contemporary Art Exhibitions and Biennials in Post-Wall Europe. Brussels: Roomade. ISBN 9780262220767. 

External links[edit]

Manifesta 10 links[edit]

Manifesta 9 links[edit]

Manifesta 8 links[edit]

Manifesta 7 links[edit]

Manifesta 6 links[edit]

Manifesta 5 links[edit]

Manifesta 4 links[edit]

Manifesta 1 links[edit]