The berlin biennale für zeitgenössische kunst e.v. was founded on March 26, 1996 by Klaus Biesenbach, founding director of KW Institute for Contemporary Art, and a group of collectors and patrons of the arts such as Eberhard Mayntz. Eberhard Mayntz has since then been chairman of the association’s board.
The idea of establishing a biennale in Germany was inspired by the Venice Biennale in 1995. Following the demise of aperto - the forum for young contemporary art founded in 1981 - there was much discussion about the need to heighten the profile of contemporary art in Berlin, a fact which undoubtedly accelerated the project’s progress.
The aim of the association is to organise a representative, international exhibition of contemporary art in berlin every two years and to attract attention to less established younger artists. The exhibition’s original and most important institutional partner is the KW Institute for Contemporary Art, which regularly provides the Berlin Biennale with the use its exhibition spaces.
In 1998, Klaus Biesenbach took the artistic helm of the 1st Berlin Biennale in cooperation with Nancy Spector and Hans Ulrich Obrist. For the 2nd Berlin Biennale in 2001, the baton was passed to Saskia Bos, who is in turn followed by Ute Meta Bauer for the 2004 exhibition. The 4th Berlin Biennale in 2006 was curated by Maurizio Cattelan, Massimiliano Gioni and Ali Subotnick. Adam Szymczyk was chosen for the 5th Berlin Biennale in 2008 who then appointed Elena Filipovic as co-curator. Kathrin Rhomberg curated the 6th Berlin Biennale in 2010. The 7th Berlin Biennale was curated by Artur Zmijewski together with associate curators Voina and Joanna Warsza in 2012.
The Berlin Biennale has established itself as an 'open space' that experiments, identifies and critically examines the latest trends in the art world. The innovative character of this “art lab,” which tries and tests the greenest shoots in the art world is to be expanded, with the particular aim of giving young artists the opportunity to introduce themselves to broad sections of the public.
Although the exhibition has an essentially public character, it also has an inner forum in which event organisers, artists, curators, selected critics, cooperation partners, sponsors and promotors committed to the advancement of this association work at shaping the exhibition and its seismographic interpretation of current cultural and social developments.