Half a Century of the Ljubljana Graphic Arts Biennial

The Ljubljana Biennial of Graphic Arts, founded in 1955 (the same year as the first Documenta in Kassel), enjoys a long and uninterrupted tradition. In the international context, it quickly established itself as an event that, in the difficult post-war decades, had managed to present art in “global” terms – regularly hosting artists from both sides of the Iron Curtain and, very early on, transcending the Eurocentric viewpoint by showing art works from the Third World, in particular from the non-aligned countries. At the same time, the Biennial recognized and included new art trends and changes in style. For example, the very first Biennial featured at the heart of the exhibition the most current print work of the École de Paris, while the recipients of the Biennial’s Grand Prize include, as early as 1963, the Pop artist Robert Rauschenberg. The Biennial’s quick responsiveness was in part the result of its close ties with a number of world-class art experts and curators, including, among others, Gulio Carlo Argan, Jorge Glusberg, Pontus Hulten, Pierre Restany, Ryszard Stanisławski.

At the local level, the Biennial has been a significant inspiration and support to Slovene artists, bringing them closer to what was happening internationally and introducing them to new contemporary art currents. It was in the context of such close ties that the Ljubljana Graphic School developed.

In the 1990s, the global and local political changes, as well as new cultural and technological developments, meant the Biennial had to rethink its role and find new ways of working. The Biennial started going beyond the boundaries of the printmaking medium and today includes various modes of artistic expression.


Jury session of the 16th International Biennial of Graphic Arts in Moderna galerija in 1985. From the left: Živa Škodlar Vujić, Miki Tamon, Carlo Gulio Argan, Ryszard Stanisławski, Jorge Glusberg, Zoran Kržišnik, Pierre Restany. (MGLC archive)