Destination Biennale: an examination of the interface between biennials of art and public policy within a neo-liberal context

  • Dany Louise

Student thesis: Master's Thesis


This thesis explores the interface between biennials of art and public policy, primarily within the UK but informed by comparison with biennials of art in other countries, notably the Istanbul Biennial. It examines whether and in what ways public policy has been help or hindrance to two major biennial events in the UK – the Liverpool Biennial and the Folkestone Triennial - and positions this question within the international trend towards neo-liberal economic development. By situating the biennials within this broader perspective, I examine the question of whether biennials are expressions of policies that conform to neo-liberal agendas, or are able to function, within their limited sphere of influence and in particular circumstances, as a form of resistance and what this might mean. This research questions the dominant rhetoric of biennials of art as catalysts for regeneration using the Liverpool Biennial as a case study, complemented by exploration of the Folkestone Triennial and the Istanbul Biennial. It suggests that their influence is more symbolic than quantifiable, and sometimes perceived rather than actual. It argues that the literature does not take sufficient account of the competencies, experience and professionalism of high-level arts managers who work to deliver these large-scale events. The actuality demonstrates that the relationship between policy and arts delivery is essentially functional and perceived to be mutually beneficial. Drawing a contrast with the situation in Istanbul, it is clear that a healthy arts ecology needs public policy and finance to support it. Further, that without the constraints and motivations that public policy brings, there is no obligation for the arts, in production or presentation, to have any relevance or benefit to a wider public. Overall, this thesis suggests that the existence of UK cultural policy and other public policy agendas, allied to significant public funding, may allow biennial of art events to resist, within their limited sphere of influence, the trend towards economic neo-liberalism; even while being partially implicated within those policies.
Date of AwardJan 2015
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Brighton

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