Athens Biennale has re-imagined the model of the biennale as a space for cultural debate and grassroots organising in contemporary Greece. It has reinvented the art biennale as a structure that enables new forms of solidarity between local and international cultural communities and wider civic engagement. The most recent biennale in 2013 was organised in the format of an Agora, which in ancient times referred to a gathering space that had overlapping social, business and political uses. The biennale took an innovative collective curatorial approach that breaks radically from a consumer-oriented model of exhibition-making. Faced with severe funding cuts, the Athens Biennale proves the power of self-organisation and building common ground through culture.
The Visual Culture Research Center was founded in the Ukraine capital of Kiev in 2008 as a platform for collaboration between academics, artists and activists. The centre is an interdisciplinary meeting ground for social activism and progressive artistic programming that is making an unprecedented contribution to the shaping of cultural production and debate in Kiev and across the Ukraine and the region. Led by a dynamic and engaged group, the centre succeeds in connecting diverse Ukrainian and international audiences to develop a more complex understanding of how art and critical cultural thinking can equip us with the skills of open-mindedness and a powerful imagination – skills that are so vital to progressive democratic society.
Athens Biennale and Visual Culture Research Center have been chosen for the 2015 ECF Princess Margriet Award for Culture for their work building on the public sphere, creating sorely needed open space for artistic imagination.
By choosing to honour these two laureates, ECF is sending a strong signal for the future of independent cultural initiatives in wider Europe that are showing us how transformative culture can be, even in the most challenging political and economic circumstances.
→ Visit the ECF Princess Margriet Award for Culture webpage for further information.