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The FotoFest 2014 Biennial, the Fifteenth International
Biennial of Photography and Photo-related Arts, takes place
March 15 - April 27,2014.

In 1986, FotoFest created the first international Biennial of Photography and Photo-related Art in the United States. After visits to the Rencontres Photographiques d’Arles, the oldest European photography festival, and the Mois de la Photo in Paris, FotoFest co-founders Frederick Baldwin, Wendy Watriss, and German gallery owner Petra Benteler founded FotoFest with a mission emphasizing discovery, internationalism, social commitment, and global/local perspectives. The Biennial has been formed to foster creative energy, new opportunities for artists, new audiences for photo-related art and broader visibility for Houston’s cultural resources.

Thirty exhibitions of photographic art were curated and commissioned for the first Biennial in Houston, Texas. FotoFest has presented fourteen consecutive Biennials, every two years since that time.

Biennial exhibitions curated by FotoFest generally follow the theme and focus of each Biennial. In addition to FotoFest’s own exhibitions, over 100 art and civic organizations organize and present their own exhibitions for the Biennial. For each Biennial, FotoFest publishes a four-color Biennial Catalogue, with hundreds of images from Biennial exhibitions and essays by important curators and historians.         


FotoFest 2014 Biennial - Contemporary Arab Photographic Art
Photography, Video and Mixed-Media Art
March 15 - April 27, 2014

FotoFest International announces Contemporary Arab Photographic Art as the theme for its 2014 Biennial Exhibitions of photography, video and multi-media installations. The Biennial is showcasing more than 40 contemporary Arab artists addressing a broad range of aesthetic and cultural values impacting Arab culture. The FotoFest 2014 Biennial, the Fifteenth International Biennial of Photography and Photo-related Art, takes place March 15 through April 27, 2014, in Houston, Texas.

“The FotoFest 2014 Biennial will present a focused selection of the best contemporary photography, video and photo-based installation art being done by Arab artists in the Middle East and North Africa,” says FotoFest Senior Curator and Artistic Director Wendy Watriss. “The Biennial emphasizes ideas and subjects important to contemporary Arab artists working with these media.”

FotoFest has commissioned one of the world’s leading experts on contemporary Arab art, Karin Adrian von Roques, as the principal curator for these exhibitions. Ms. von Roques has worked for over 20 years in the Middle East with exhibitions and publications on contemporary Arab art. She is one of the first curators in Europe to have initiated a series of exhibitions strategically aimed at bringing the work of Arab artists to the attention of a broader, international public.

“The FotoFest 2014 Biennial will be the first presentation of contemporary photo-based, video and mixed-media art from Arab countries to be done in the United States in recent years,” says Ms. von Roques. “We are presenting work from some of the most important Arab artists working today.”

Photography and video are particularly important mediums for creative expression in contemporary Arab societies. With the expansion of the Internet in the 1990s, a whole generation of younger people took up photography and video as a way to present artistic ideas.

“In looking at the works of many contemporary Arab artists working with photography, we have seen a number of common themes,” says Ms. von Roques. “The FotoFest 2014 Biennial will feature these recurring subjects. They include: the emergence of secular art and culture in modern societies; the desert as metaphor; religion and faith in everyday life; a sense of belonging and feelings of estrangement; the complexities of East-West relationships; the rapidity of social, economic and environmental change, particularly in the Gulf region; the position of women in Arab societies; and the recent political changes in so many Arab countries.”

The exhibitions feature Arab artists living and working in 14 states and territories, including the Gulf States, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon, Yemen, Morocco, Algeria, Syria and Iraq. Among the artists are Ahmad Mater, Boushra Almutawakel, Steve Sabella and Khaled Hafez. A full list of artist names will be released in January 2014.

FotoFest’s Artistic Director and Senior Curator, Wendy Watriss, known for her expertise in international photography and close working relationships with artists throughout the world, is collaborating with Ms. von Roques on the selection of artists and artworks for the biennial exhibitions.

“We are very pleased to be working with Karin von Roques,” says Fred Baldwin, FotoFest Chairman. “Having curated exhibitions worldwide with contemporary Arab artists, she is a respected and knowledgeable authority on the region and its cultures. She is one of the world’s major consultants on contemporary art in this field.”

Additional Arab programs organized by FotoFest for the Biennial include Lectures and Forums with Arab artists, curators, scholars and cultural activists; artist and curator Tours of the Arab exhibitions; and a Student Curriculum for grade schools about Arab art and culture. FotoFest will produce a four-color hardcover book on the Arab exhibitions with scholarly essays, artist biographies and related information on contemporary Arab photographic arts.

As one of the world’s best known and respected photography festivals, the FotoFest Biennial will feature over 100 independent exhibitions and events organized by participating museums, art galleries, non-profit art centers and corporate spaces across the city of Houston and adjoining areas.

FotoFest’s contemporary Arab programs will be accompanied by FotoFest’s renowned 16-day international portfolio review for artists, The Meeting Place, March 15–April 2, 2014. FotoFest’s international Fine Print Auction, done with Sotheby’s New York, is scheduled for Monday, March 24, 2014, with a weekend of special programs for collectors.

FotoFest will also present the non-thematic, biennial Discoveries of the Meeting Place exhibition of works by 10 artists selected by multiple curators from the FotoFest 2012 portfolio review.


Past Biennials 1986-2012
In 1985, FotoFest brought four of the world’s best known photographers, Helmut Newton, William Klein, Franco Fontana, and Ikko Narahara, to Houston to photograph the Houston Rodeo and Livestock Show. The photographers were celebrated by prominent Houstonians and their photographs were exhibited as part of the very first FotoFest Biennial in 1986. Subsequent Biennial exhibitions have focused on photo-related art from Latin America, China, Russia, Central and Eastern Europe, Korea, Japan, England, Germany, France, the Middle East and North Africa. FotoFest has created presentations on Latino photography in the U.S., African-American women artists, artists working with digital technologies and Contemporary U.S. Photography. FotoFest’s Biennial exhibition programs have addressed issues such as Water – The Global Crisis, Artists Responding to Violence, and the Global Environment.

> Index of Past Biennials


FotoFest 2012 Biennial - Contemporary Russian Photography
March 16 - April 29, 2012
The FotoFest 2012 Biennial Contemporary Russian Photography: 1950s-2012, celebrated its opening March 16, 2012 in Houston, Texas with record attendance and acclaim from local and international audiences

For its Fourteenth International Biennial, FotoFest programming included three main exhibitions on modern and contemporary Russian photography over five decades, from the post-Stalinist period of the 1950s to 2012, as well as events, workshops, forums on contemporary curating, the world’s largest portfolio review for artists, an International Fine Print Auction, book signings, film screenings, and satellite exhibitions at participating spaces throughout Houston.

Concurrent with FotoFest’s own programs, 122 independent Participating Spaces, including the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, the Menil Collection, and the city’s major commercial art galleries, participated in the 2012 Biennial by mounting exhibitions of photography. 

An international team of curators from Russia and the United States organized the three main Biennial exhibitions, The exhibitions focused on Contemporary Russian Photography: 1950s-2012, and presented three periods of Russian modern and contemporary photography. The exhibitions included over 1,000 works by 147 artists from Russia, Belarus and the Ukraine. Many of the works, including those on loan from private collections and the archives of the artists themselves, were exhibited for the first time outside of Russia. The Russian curators were Evgeny Berezner, head of the “In Support of Photography in Russia” Project, The Iris Art Foundation, Moscow; Irina Chmyreva, Senior Researcher at the Russian Academy of Fine Arts; and Natalia Tarasova, a writer and cultural affairs consultant for the “In Support of Photography in Russia” Project. The Russian curators were joined by Wendy Watriss, Senior Curator and Artistic Director of FotoFest.

More than 4,000 visitors attended the 2012 Grand Opening Night at FotoFest headquarters and gallery. Guests included 34 Russian artists and 60 Russian dignitaries who traveled to Houston for the exhibitions and events. Representatives from the Garage Center for Contemporary Culture, The IRIS Art Foundation, Stella Art Foundation, ROSIZO, Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation, Lumiere Brothers Center for Photography,, art collectors, and press were in attendance from Moscow and St. Peteresburg. Early estimates for  overall attendance at all venues over the six weeks of the Biennial is estimated at over 265,000 visitors.

FotoFest’s celebrated International Fine Print Auction took place on Tuesday, March 20, 2012, presenting vintage and contemporary prints from the U.S., Latin America, Asia and Europe – including 30 leading Russian artists from the 1960s to the present. 

The Meeting Place Portfolio Review, one of the most popular events of the Biennial, took place from March 16 – April 3, 2012 at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Houston Downtown.

The two-volume FotoFest 2012 Biennial Catalogue is sold out. A hardcover book of the Russian exhibitions is being planned for early 2013 with Schilt Publishing of Amsterdam, The Netherlands. For information on the hardcover book, email or visit