33rd edition of Ljubljana Biennial of Graphic Arts opens its doors


The world’s oldest biennial for graphic arts has opened its 33rd edition in the Slovenian capital, Ljubljana. Focused on satire and curated by the international art collective Slavs and Tatars, the 2019 biennial is titled Crack Up – Crack Downand features a mixture of modern and contemporary artworks, including new commissions, spread across nine venues.


Known for its independent spirit, at the meeting point of Western Europe and the former Eastern Bloc, Slovenia has a long tradition of supporting the arts, with a number of well-established and internationally respected museums and institutions. The Biennial itself dates back to 1955, when it was launched with the intention of bringing together artists from both sides of the Iron Curtain, as well as to showcase new directions in art and culture.


Sachiko Kazama, Nonhuman Crossing, 2013, woodcut print (panel, Japanese paper, oil ink), 180 × 360 cm, collection of Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art, Australia, courtesy the artist and MUJIN-T. Production, Tokyo


Historical artists featured in Crack Up – Crack Down include the Slovenian artist Hinko Smrekar (1883-1942) whose commitment to satirical art and political freedom ultimately led to his execution by fascist Italian occupying forces in WW2. Among the contemporary artists present is Guatemala’s Alejandro Paz, the winner of the Grand Prize at the Biennial’s 2017 edition, who has created a special project in the private garden of the renowned Slovenian architect Jože Plečnik (1872-1957). Another notable presence is self-taught Chinese artist Xiyadie, with his arresting pieces of gay eroticism putting a contemporary spin on the ancient tradition of hand-dyed paper-cuts.


Sachiko Kazama, Earthly Fart Pavilion – Booth Girls (from the series “HEISEI EXPO 2010”), 2010, woodcut print (panel, Japanese paper, sumi ink),53 × 38 cm, courtesy the artist and MUJIN-TO Production, Tokyo

The Biennial also includes new commissions by the likes of Hamja Ahsan, Pablo Bronstein and Martina Vacheva, with the latter included in a specially released print portfolio, produced following a series of residencies at the International Centre of Graphic Arts in Ljubljana.


By Richard Unwin

Crack Up – Crack Down, The 33rd Ljubljana Biennial of Graphic Arts curated by Slavs and Tatars, 7 June 2019 – 29 September 2019, various venues in Ljubljana, Slovenia,www.mglc-lj.si

Main image credit: XIYADIE, Don’t worry, mom is spinning thread in the next room (A love scene, when a high school student is at home writing homework), 2019, paper, scissors and pigments, 140 × 140 cm, courtesy the artist