The biennale presents the works of internationally renowned artists such as Rineke Dijkstra, Anish Kapoor and Kara Walker and proposes alternative visions of the Mediterranean
Photography courtesy of De Renava Biennale featuring NUNCA, Blonde Indigenous
Words by Joe Lloyd
Many of the world’s great art festivals occupy sites of extraordinary beauty, from the canals and calli of Venice to the islands of Japan’s Seto Inland Sea. And the De Renava Biennale is no exception. It is set in Bonifacio, a citadel city at the southern tip of Corsica that appears to float atop the Tyrrhenian Sea.
De Renava is a non-profit organisation devoted to preserving the culture and heritage of Bonifacio and the Alta Rocca, a spectacular mountainous region in the island’s south. It has been organised and created by a group of friends from the area with expertise in art, architecture and engineering.
The biennial aims to bring contemporary art to this area characterised by historic villages and dramatic landscapes. Creating a dialogue between art, architecture and the location’s natural beauty, the biennial offers ‘a journey of discovery and contemplation, showing alternative visions of Corsica, the Mediterranean and the world of tomorrow.’
Photography courtesy of De Renava Biennale featuring Mao Tao, Fishing the moon
This year’s inaugural edition is themed Red Odyssey, and focuses on the image of the wave ‘as a metaphor for the constant movements that redefine identities and collective visions.’ Its title refers to Homer’s Odyssey, in which Odysseus stops in Bonifacio, then home to powerful, rock-throwing giants.
‘From the Mediterranean Sea,’ say the creators, ‘where the waves of thoughts, goods and people have never ceased to determine history, the exhibition explores the themes of exile, memory and transmission, inviting the observation of human trajectories.’
It does so with a group of artworks by 15 figures, including both major contemporary artists and less well-known local practitioners, spread across six venues in Bonifacio. Headline names include Isaac Julian, Kara Walker and Anish Kapoor.
Photography by Hugo Rosani featuring Anish Kapoor, Descension
But there is also an entire venue devoted to the Corsican art scene. The venues are hugely varied. Some, such as the Chapelle Saint-Roch, are historical structures; here, Corsican artist (and trained architect) Mélissa Epaminondi exhibits her multimedia work. The Impluvium pavilion, by contrast, was specifically designed for the biennial by the local practice Orma Architettura, and includes work by another Corscian native, Ange Leccia.
These works for the biennial Urban Itinerary, will run through a season-spanning six months. Afterwards, they will be followed by the Wild Itinerary, which will see sculptural and architecture pavilions permanently installed in Alta Rocca mountains, left for visitors to discover on their own.
In a time when the number of international art and exhibitions can seem overwhelming, opening and closing at a rate of knots, the De Renava Biennial’s commitment to thinking in long terms is a much-needed refresher.
Get a curated collection of design and architecture news in your inbox by signing up to our ICON Weekly newsletter