A history of the International Design Biennal

A history of the International Design Biennial

Born in 1998 out of the desire of a few teachers at the Saint Etienne School of Fine Arts, supported by its then director Jacques Bonnaval, the Saint Etienne Design Biennial has now become an event that is, if not unmissable, at least major in the field and in a singular local and regional landscape.
The research project aims to look back over thirty years of design and design exhibitions in Saint-Étienne by starting with the two Caravelles exhibitions - 1986 and 1991 in Lyon, Grenoble and Saint-Étienne -, the first major events outside Paris, where we find some of the names that made up the first team of the Saint-Étienne biennial, up to the 11th edition entitled "ME, YOU, NOUS: Créons un terrain d'entente" (ME, YOU, WE: Creating a common ground), held from 20 March 2019 to 22 April 2019, whose conception and reception gave rise to a number of questions.
This journey will question the transformations of an event both in its organisation - from two weeks to 1 month and 4 for the next edition - on the themes addressed - from a first exhibition on the Prisunic adventure in 1986 to a reflection on the mutations of work (2017) or on the "meaning of beauty" (2017) but also in a wider perspective including local political and economic actors - creation of the Cité du Design in 2005, inauguration in 2009, labelling of the city of Saint-Étienne as a UNESCO design city in 2010 - and nationally with the strong action of the public authorities in favour of design developed since 1981 - aid for creation, support for events, creation of the FRAC, FNAC, DRAC and CNAP, creation of the ENSCI among others.
A study carried out by the Cité du Design in 2009-2010, entitled Économie du design, summarises the weight and importance of design in French economic life over the last ten years. The number of jobs linked to this activity exceeds 50,000. The turnover (by demand) is estimated at between 3 and 5 billion euros with significant growth prospects. In this changed and constantly evolving landscape, the Saint Etienne Design Biennial now appears as a marker. The project, which aims to lay the foundations of this unique history, will make it possible to better identify, explore and qualify a notion - design - which is always difficult to define, as well as to understand the specific territorial issues at stake, both historically, aesthetically, economically and sociologically.

Methodology :
The basis of the research work will be done through the identification and analysis of the various documents at our disposal - archives of the biennial, catalogues, objects, city archives - and interviews with the various actors of the Saint-Étienne International Design Biennial - curator, designer, politician among others.