A Brief History of the ten International Biennials of Engraving

1993 – The First Biannual - The Acqui Biannual was started by the local Rotary Club whose then President, Giuseppe Avignolo, has been responsible from the beginning right up to today for the promotion of the region through a cultural initiative dedicated to the art of engraving. Angelo Dragone, in his introduction to the catalogue, explained the reasoning behind the initiative: “It doesn’t make engraving a secondary area of artistic effort, but is one almost at the forefront, that’s got nothing to do with mystification […], but is at one with the real problems confronting artists particularly with regard to the boundaries between technique and expression […], and therefore the perfect medium for making a distinctive and valid cultural contribution.”

From the very first days, the award ceremony has been accompanied by a lecture on the history of engraving, given by Paolo Bellini.

There were 46 entrants. There was also a section for thirteen “masters”, invited to participate apart from the competition, amongst whom were names like Calandri, Della Torre, Donna, Mastroianni and Spacal. The winner was Giulia Napoleone with her engraving “Ombre lontane” and in the experimental section, Cristina Pavesi with her mixed-technique work “I segni ritrovati”, other participants included Kantor, Ruggeri and Scano.

Giulia Napoleone e Giuseppe Avignolo

The winner of the First Biannual Giulia Napoleone with her work “Ombre Lontane”


1995 –The Second Biannual - The entrants increased to 54. The winner was André Beuchat with his work on copper “La casa al n. 4”. For the experimental section, there was a distinction for “Viaggio d’inizio” by Gabriella Locci, and the wood engraving prize went to “Girasole” by Alberico Morena. Amongst other “masters” invited to participate were Facchinetti, Ferroni, Mezzadra and Zaliani.

From the 1995 catalogue onwards, the Declaration of Milan on original engraving has been included, giving notice of the willingness of organisers to allow artists time at the Biannual for association and reflection.

1997 – The Third Biannual - For this year, the number of participating artists jumped to 107. In order to attract even more public participation, new initiatives were created: The People’s Jury, the print display, the Omaggio a Giovanni Barbisan and Engraving in Italy in the 20th Century exhibitions, in which were displayed works by Bartolini, Boccioni, Boldini, Calandri, Carrà, Casorati, Castellani, De Chirico, Della Torre, Donna, Galli, Manzù, Marini, Morandi, Music, Plattner, Santomaso, Spacal, Vedova and Veronesi.
More prizes were awarded: The Acqui Etching prize to “La Città” by Agostino Zaliani, the special judges’ prize to the etching “Autunno” by Franco Menegon and the Purchase Prize to Vincenzo Gatti for his etching “Nello studio, di sera”.

1999 – The Fourth Biannual - This year there were 196 artists and two concurrent exhibitions: Omaggio a Mario Calandri and Masters’ Prints, with 100 works from the Bertarelli Collection (from the Palazzo Reale at Milan). This year prizes went to “Uscita del labirinto II” by Bruno Missieri and “Grande fiore”, an etching by Roberto Rampinelli; a special etching prize was given to Tino Aime for “L’eclisse” and the Purchase Prize for “Il dosso e la neve”, an etching by Teodoro Cotugno.

2001 – The Fifth Biannual - The word “international” was added to the name of the competition for the first time, there being some 439 artists participating from 31 different countries. There was a special exhibition dedicated to the works and collection of Benvenuto Disertori, and the competition exhibition was themed around the Fruits of Bacchus.
More prizes were awarded: the Acqui Prize for Engraving went to “Il Carro del Sole” by Lanfranco Quadrio, and the special Jury award to the lino work “A White Bloom” by Jim Samek. The Purchase Prize was awarded to Giovanni Turria for “Oroxarabih”.

2003 - The Sixth Biannual - Some 800 international artists took part in 2003. There was an exhibition titled “Omaggion a Leonardo Castellani” and one themed on the Dreams of Aphrodite. The Acqui Prize was awarded to Livio Ceschin for “Nel sottobosco tra betulle e foglie”, the special Jury prize went to Chen Chao-Liang for “Otro espacio” and the Consorzio Brachetto d’Acqui Prize to Chen Xue Lun for the woodcut “Case”.

2005 – The Seventh Biannual - With some 1,320 artists taking part from Europe, America, Africa and Asia, this was a very special Biannual, celebrating the 100 years of the foundation of Rotary International. The exhibition marked another very special event: the work of Georges Rouault. There was an additional exhibition dedicated to the centenary. The Acqui Award was given to Giovanni Turria for “Spetter Sorra”, an engraving; the special Jury prize was given to the mixed-technique work by Susana Venegas Gandolfo, “Ventana”, the Acqui Prize to Alicia Diaz Rinaldi for the etching “Mas alla silenzio” and the Consorzio Brachetto d’Acqui Prize to Julianna Joos for her work “L’atelier gèomètrique”.

2007 - The Eight edition entirely renewed - “en plein air”, in the town center, in order to involve even the most disattentive bystander. The “ad hoc” exhibition made the artworks’ sight tour perfect and charming. The international jury was composed by Gabriela Aberastury, Enrico della Torre, Elena Pontiggia and Maria Will. The catalogue deeply renewed in its graphic shape. The exhibition, showed by Countries, to underline the international panorama of participants.

Perfect the success formula of prize giving by a non-expert people jury: to Sandro Bracchitta “Acqui Prize 2007”, to Arichi Yoshito “Jury Special Prize”, to Donald Furst “Brachetto d’Acqui Prize”, to Cleo Wilkinson “Purchase Prize” and, newcomer in VIII edition, to Mari Tashiro “Young Artist Acqui Prize”.

2009 – The Ninth edition: The event presents once again the en plein air exhibition. 51 Countries are represented; there has been a big participation of young artists. The Jury, made up of Abderrahmane Aidoud, Eve Kask, Dan Welden and with Giuseppe Avignolo as President, selected 236 works and, among these works, pointed out 26 to be presented in the finals.
Acqui Prize has been awarded, by the Popular Jury, to Man Zhuang, a young Japanese specialist in mezzotint, the Special Prize by the Jury to Roberta Zamboni, the Purchase Prize to Girolamo Russo. The prize offered by Brachetto d’Acqui Consortium has been awarded to the Russian Vladimir Zuev, whereas the Youth Prize has been awarded to Elena Petrocco. In the meantime the V Ex Libris competition takes place having as subject Monferrato: between history and legend; the winners are: Paolo Rovegno, Piazza Vincenzo, Venegas Gandolfo Susana.

2011 - the Tenth Biannual - It develops during the celebrations for the twentieth anniversary of the event and for the 150 years of Unification of Italy. The Jury of Acceptance is all-female: Brita Prinz, Gabriella Locci, Giulia Napoleone, Marta Raczek, Anouk Van De Velde; their contributions are published in the catalogue. The Acqui Prize is assigned to the work Apparenze by the roman engraver Elisabetta Diamanti, realized with the  wax techique; to the black traditional View from the other angle by the serbian engraver Snezana Petrovic is assigned the Jury Special Prize. Put up by CTE spa, the Special Prize is awarded to the work of the engraver Polish Marcin Bialas 10m2; the Consorzio Brachetto d’Acqui Prize to the Human warmth by the argentinian artist Maria Blanca Saccomano; among the works of young artists has been chosen Cavaliere rampante by Andrea De Simeis. The Ex Libris Competition is dedicated to 150 years of the unification of Italy, with lots of interesting participations: the winner is Unification, engraving by Roman Sustov, other two prizes are awarded to Nino Baudino and Veronica Longo. The exhibition is enriched by the events: Tribute to the artists Hitoko Okamoto and Gabriella Locci; "Artisti in erba" - a wonderful initiative with educational workshop dedicated to the engraving and exhibition of the artwork -; "Annullo postale" dedicated to the Biennial.