Foto finish for booming Biennale

January 14, 2022 BY

Bump out: BIFB general manager Kate O’Hehir is currently working with venues including the Art Gallery of Ballarat, and artists, to remove the festival’s exhibitions. Photo: EDWINA WILLIAMS

THE lens officially shut last Sunday on the biggest Ballarat International Foto Biennale ever.

BIFB general manager Kate O’Hehir said despite it being the most challenging festival to deliver yet, it was an “enormous success,” opening in September to regional Victorian visitors, and then to metro audiences at the end of October.

“This year has been incredibly hard for our very small, hardworking team, but since opening up to Melbourne visitors, the festival has just been so well received,” she said.

“In the last two weeks, we had more than 10,000 visitors. In terms of visitation, it’s been our most successful yet.

“It’s been really rewarding to be able to give people an experience to enjoy during these really hard times.”

Eighty-nine exhibitions in 75 venues, indoors and outside, were part of BIFB this time around.

The major Linda McCartney: Retrospective, and Number One | Gudinski shows proved most popular in spaces at the Art Gallery of Ballarat and Ballaarat Mechanics’ Institute respectively, as did the “moving” Raining Embers in the Mining Exchange.

“I’d really like to acknowledge all of the venues that provide the exhibition spaces for us, not only the open program but our core curated indoor program,” Ms O’Hehir said.

“The Art Gallery of Ballarat staff have been phenomenally supportive, the City of Ballarat’s been incredibly generous, and we acknowledge that this year has been difficult for everybody involved, but they have rallied around us and shown us incredible support.”

It was the first time BIFB had also offered three-day passes, allowing visitors to take a “deep dive” not only into the festival, but into Ballarat more broadly.

The Art Gallery of Ballarat and BIFB team had seven days from Monday to pack up the works within the Linda McCartney: Retrospective, which are all owned by the McCartney family.

“All of the framed prints are being carefully packed away into art crates, they will be collected this week, and shipped back to London,” Ms O’Hehir said.

“The exhibition won’t be on display anywhere for another 12 months.”

Former artistic director and chief executive officer of five years Fiona Sweet has now left the organisation. The BIFB board is in the process of appointing two people to fill separate artistic director and CEO roles.

The 2023 Biennale will be the 10th anniversary event, “bigger and better than ever before,” and major renovation works to develop the new National Centre for Photography on Lydiard Street will take place over the next two years.