10th Havana Biennial 

The Havana Biennial is taking on the world — and not merely the art world. This tenth edition of the festival, which opens in Havana March 27th and runs until the end of April, is an occasion for the thriving local art scene to turn itself inside-out as never before, with Cuban artists exhibiting alongside artists from 44 countries. But what's really on display here is humanity itself.

The Havana Biennial is arguably the most ambitious art fair in the world. The Venice Biennale, the Whitney Biennial and others typically offer an opportunity to see what's happening in contemporary art. Havana, despite the limitations of a budget that wouldn't buy lunch for the festival in Sydney or New York, has always gone a step further, seeking to effect change rather than reflect change. 

Since 1984, the Havana Biennial has focused on art from the southern hemisphere. The first edition of the festival concentrated on Caribbean and Latin American artists. Subsequent shows included work from Africa and Asia. Although critics were quick to decry Cuba's perceived "anti-Western" bias, the Havana Biennial has gone on to become an important forum for underrepresented voices. When you consider the exponentially increasing numbers of artists, buyers and sellers who have been flocking to Havana from around the world every three years, the Biennial looks from every angle like a resounding success. 

 Which brings us to the 2009 Biennial. While Latin American and Caribbean artists still have priority on the invitation list, the Havana's Biennial's organisers have reconfigured their compass to include points north and west. Three artists from Canada will be attending, and so will two more from the United States. The theme — "Integration and Resistance in the Global Era" — may sound heavy, but it's not likely to put a damper on the Biennial festivities. Plays, dance performances, concerts and films are happening throughout Havana.