Manifesta 12 to provide ‘blueprint’ for development of Sicilian capital

Urban study by Rem Koolhaas's studio part of biennial that will serve as a platform for social change


Manifesta, the nomadic European biennial, is taking the long view for its 12th edition in Palermo, Sicily, next year. On 1 July it unveiled the Palermo Atlas, an urban study conducted by the Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA), the research and design studio of Rem Koolhaas, that is billed as a “blueprint” for the city’s long-term future development. The firm, led by its Sicilian-born partner Ippolito Pestellini Laparelli, was appointed one of the “creative mediators” co-organising the 2018 event last November.

Together with Manifesta’s director Hedwig Fijen and Palermo’s newly re-elected veteran mayor Leoluca Orlando, Pestellini Laparelli presented an interdisciplinary biennial that will serve as a “sustainable platform for social change”, according to a press statement. Orlando, a campaigner for migrant rights who gained prominence for his strong anti-mafia stance in the 1980s and 1990s, described the “joint commitment of the City Hall and Manifesta to develop a biennial that is truly engaged with Palermo’s cultural richness, its history, hospitality, spirit of peaceful co-existence and the city’s vision for the future”.  

The announcement was made in the biennial’s new temporary home, Palermo’s Teatro Garibaldi, which opens to the public on 13 July. The former theatre will host Aspettando Manifesta 12 (waiting for Manifesta 12), an archival exhibition tracing Manifesta’s history from its first edition in Rotterdam (1996) to recent incarnations in St Petersburg (2014) and Zurich (2016), as well as film screenings, educational tours and workshops, a library and a café. It is due to become one of the biennial’s main venues when it opens on 15 June (until 4 November 2018).

While the details of the exhibitions and artists’ projects planned for Manifesta 12 remain under wraps, our Italian sister newspaper Il Giornale dell’Arte reports that the collateral events programme, called 5x5x5, will include five open studios, five shows by young artists and collaborations with five Italian and international institutions. Local and regional museums and cultural organisations will be invited to submit proposals for collateral events in September.

The overall curatorial concept—to be developed by Pestellini Laparelli and the Swiss curator Mirjam Varadinis, the Spanish architect Andrés Jaque and the Dutch filmmaker and journalist Bregtje van der Haak—is expected to be announced by the end of July.