With over 100 biennials around the world, international showcases for contemporary art are now so prolific, and come so rapidly, that they often seem more like major sporting events than exhibitions. In 2013 the 11th edition of the Sharjah Biennial opens in March, the 55th Venice Biennale starts in June, followed in September by the 13th Istanbul Biennial, the 12th Lyon Biennale and the fifth Moscow Biennale. And those are just the best-known of the biennials that will take place during the year.
For many cities biennials have become important sources of cultural pride, international recognition and tourism. Venues vie with each other for star curators and big-name artists.