The 15th edition of the Dakar Biennale, in Dakar, Senegal, will not open on May 16 as originally scheduled: it has been postponed to November, the country’s ministry of culture has announced, citing “the national and international context, and the desire for new authorities in the sector to organize the Biennale under optimal conditions” that match its standards. 

The exhibition will now run November 7 through December 7.

The late-stage announcement confirms recent rumors that progress on the exhibition, the flagship artistic event in Senegal, had stalled amid the tense political climate, and would not proceed as scheduled. The Quotidien de l’Artreported that within the three months preceding the scheduled opening, “no organization for the transport of artworks” featured in the exhibition, located in the former Palais de Justice since 2016, had been initiated. 

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Senegalese President Bassirou Diomaye Faye was elected in March after a tense electoral cycle that saw large-scale protests erupt in response to his predecessor’s attempt to delay the vote. The situation threatened to destabilize the West African democracy.

Since its inception, the Dakar Biennale has established itself as a significant stop on the biennial circuit, given its size and dedication to contemporary art from across the continent. Among the talents it has helped introduce to a global art audience are Ibrahim Mahama, Emo de Medeiros, and Nnenna Okore. The 2022 edition of the Biennale marked its first in four years following a Covid-caused break. The event drew attendees from all corners of the art world, and had a jam-packed program: more than 400 shows were registered as satellite events. 

The 2024 edition, curated by Salimata Diop, is titled “The Wake.” The theme invokes various ongoing ”political, ecological, societal” transformations, with a focus on the Senegalese capital of Dakar. Some 58 artists are slated to exhibit in December.