Politically, the United States and Europe have become deeply polarized between the forces of globalism and a resurgent, antiglobal nationalism, while contemporary art, by contrast, appears to be riding the waves of globalization with little competition from nationalist holdouts.

Biennials and other large-scale temporary exhibition projects have become the bellwethers of this globalism in the art world. But they have had many outcomes, foreclosing upon one type of aesthetic practice while opening up others to a broader audience. There are well over 200 biennial-style exhibitions held around the world today, many of them in formerly peripheralized locations and quite a few short-lived or sporadic for economic or political reasons.

Initially the international contemporary art found in biennials was primarily from European and North American countries. However, by the 1980s this began to expand,...

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