The young artists Biennale origins can be traced back in 1984 thanks to an idea of ARCI Kids, the section focused on young people of ARCI, an Italian Association of Social Promotion. Following a recent similar experience held in Rome, ARCI Kids decided to organize, together with the Youth Department of the Municipality of Barcelona, an informal artistic exchange between Spain and Italy. To the event, held in Barcelona at the end of 1984 and named Tendencias, were invited also some French and Yugoslavian artists.
Tendencias can be considered as the prologue of the Biennale, which was organized for the first time with the name of Biennale of Young Artists from Mediterranean Europe, the following year in Barcelona.
The Biennale was conceived as a multi-disciplinary meeting, open to young artists under 30 years old coming from all the Euro-Mediterranean Countries. To the first edition participated artists from 6 different Countries: Italy, Spain, France, Greece, Portugal and Yugoslavia. In this occasion the International Committee of the Biennale was also founded.
The boost that moved ARCI Kids to ideate the Biennale was the belief that youth creativity represented a resource and an opportunity while, in that period, the artistic production of young people was perceived as a marginal sector in the world of art and in the cultural market. Therefore, the Biennale represented a way to let young artists express their vision on the world and, at the same time, encouraged young European and Mediterranean artists to meet periodically in the main cities around the Mare Nostrum.
Despite the title Biennale, the first four editions of this joint event were annual and moved from Barcelona to Thessaloniki, in 1986, returned to Barcelona in 1987 and then moved to Bologna in 1988. Only from the fifth edition, held in Marseille in 1990, the Biennale became to be organized every two years and then moved to Valencia in 1992 and Lisbon in 1994.
In Lisbon the International Committee decided to change the name of the event from Biennale of Young Artist from Mediterranean Europe to Biennale of Young Artists from Europe and the Mediterranean, highlighting the will to enlarge the boundaries of the event itself, considering the large requests of new memberships the network received during the last years, from Countries of different part of Europe and of the South Mediterranean shore.
The following editions of the Biennale were held in Turin (1997), Rome (1999), Sarajevo (2001), where the International Committee decided to found BJCEM Association, Athens (2003), Naples (2005), Bari (2008) and Skopje (2009).
The 15th edition, which took place in 2011 brought a new format, with the involvement of two hosting cities, Thessaloniki and Rome and a new name, Biennale de la Méditerranée, to focus and strenghten on the Mediterranean area and their influence not only from Europe but also from the Arab countries and more in general Africa and Middle East.
By now, to the Biennale have participated almost 7.000 artists and over 700.000 people had visited it from more than 40 Countries all over the world.
During the 30 years of its history, the Biennale has been considered as the main window over the creation in the Mediterranean, presenting the productions of young artists working on different fields of artistic research and creativity included: Visual Arts, Design, Fashion, Architecture, Gastronomy, Literature, Cinema, Music, Performing Arts, Theatre and Dance.