Ballarat’s Foto Biennale is an awe-inspiring masterpiece

Avellino, Martin Kantor Portrait Prize Exhibition, Ballarat International Foto Biennale 2017

Alice Piper

Posted September 14, 2021


From an exhibition curated by Sir Paul McCartney to an Australian exclusive on cultural legacy, Ballarat is reviving Victoria’s arts scene

As Victorians again feel the pinch of restricted freedoms and limited movements, there is still much to look forward to for the remainder of 2021, and regional Victoria is leading the charge with awesome events and family fun.  

One such regional town in Ballarat is about to be treated to one of the most prestigious and significant photographic art festivals this country has ever seen because, right now, the International Foto Biennale is taking over the town’s galleries, buildings, cafes and laneways.   

Now in its 16th year, the theme of this year’s festival focuses on some of the greatest rock stars the world have ever seen, and with 100 venues participating and more than 260 artists on display, Ballarat is set to come alive over the next two months.   

BIFB Artistic Director and CEO Fiona Sweet says, “I am glad we can give our regional community an exclusive first look at the 2021 Biennale.” When restrictions ease with Metropolitan Melbourne, she “looks forward to welcoming everyone to enjoy our truly world-class festival”.  

Linda McCartney, Sgt. Pepper's Press Launch, London, 1967
Linda McCartney, Self Portrait with Paul and Mary, London, 1969, (right) Linda McCartney, The Beatles, Abbey Road, London, 1969
Linda McCartney, Paul, Stella and James, Scotland, 1982

With some exclusive Australian exhibitions, exhibitions will be held indoors, outdoors, and in historic buildings, galleries, streets, laneways, and even the Ballarat Cemetery. 

Sweet also says the exhibition will bring back a sense of past comfort: “In the last year there have been many moments when the past and future seem to collapse and the immediacy of the here and now dominates. We long for a return to the known and imagine what may come next. This is captured in the premise for this year’s Biennale: Past. Tense. Now.”  

Here’s a glimpse of what’s on offer:

Linda McCartney: Retrospective

An Australian premiere, more than 200 photographs by the world-famous Linda McCartney will be on exclusive display. It’s an intimate look into the life of the McCartney family, including husband Paul’s music career and his time in Australia.  

Notes from a Queer Mystic

This BIFB exclusive and Australian Premiere explores the work of internationally acclaimed, trailblazing artist Steven Arnold. Arnold was a quintessential icon ahead of his time whose ideas of gender, sexuality, and spirituality are as relevant as ever in today's cultural conversation.

The Poverty Line

An exhibition by Chow and Lin explores the conversations around poverty and inequality. It asks the question: What does poverty really mean in different countries? They look at 36 countries through the lens of a camera, intending to encourage conversations about the social structures of our globalised world.  

Foto Walks

The Foto Walks program is a series of photographic tours exploring the Biennale, Ballarat’s heritage architecture and the Ballarat General Cemetery. You’ll be guided by a local professional photographer, where participants of all ages, abilities and levels of experience will learn the art of photography, receiving unique insights into photographic processes and techniques. 

Outdoor Exhibitions

Ballarat's outdoor space is coming alive with 16 outdoor exhibitions by 84 artists, invigorating the city by transforming busy streets, laneways, shopfronts and landmark buildings into exhibition spaces with public art. As you take your time meandering through the old town, you’ll find photographic art at every turn, revealing new and exciting parts of Ballarat along the way.

Biennale After Dark

When the sun sets, the fun doesn’t stop. Biennale after dark is a series of digital exhibitions, events, music, dining experiences and loads more. And on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights, a series of projected exhibitions from Jackson Gallagher (AUS), Heidi Victoria (AUS), Kris Graves (USA) will light up the historic Ballarat Town Hall. 

Can’t make it? 

That’s okay because BIFB will be online, too, so no one has to miss out! A digital program and live stream of selected exhibitions, talks and panel discussions will be available to those at home. And for the first time ever, BIFB has created virtual galleries of some of the most exciting exhibitions – just tune in online, and you’ll honestly feel like you’re there.   

Check out the website for the full program of events and ticketing information, and head to Ballarat from now until January 2022 and give some much-needed support to our local arts scene. 

After a cultural day out, why not make a night of it at RACV Goldfields Resort?
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John Gollings, Ballarat International Foto Biennale 2019
Ellen Eustic, Liu Bolin, Ballarat International Foto Biennale 2019

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