The inaugural Long Island Biennial, a collaborative venture between Huntington's Heckscher Museum of Art and Cinema Arts Centre, opens Saturday with the visual art portion of the event.

Acting Heckscher curator Lisa Chalif credits her curatorial predecessor, Kenneth Wayne, with the idea. "Ken felt it was important to get more artists involved with the museum," she says. "They're a major constituency of ours."

That was the Heckscher's original mission when it was established in 1920. Founder and namesake August Heckscher collected contemporary works, many by local artists. "So it seemed natural for us to tap Long Island's creativity," Chalif says.

More than 260 artists working in widely varying media submitted entries. Three jurors - Isabelle Dervaux, Morgan Library curator of modern and contemporary drawings; Renato Danese of Manhattan's Danese gallery, and Richard Lippe, a Long Island art collector - selected 44 works for the show.

A separate jury culled winners from 19 entries in video and film, which will be shown at Cinema Arts late next month.

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WHY A BIENNIAL? Why a Whitney Biennial? Or, internationally, a Venice Biennial? Like the Olympics, which occur every two years, alternately in winter and summer sports, a two-year interval heightens interest. "There are plenty of juried competitions on the Island," says Chalif, "but there's no biennial. This focuses on currently working artists from across the Island."

 

WHAT'S IN THE EXHIBIT? The best-in-show winner will not be revealed until tomorrow's opening, followed by a members-only reception. Of the 44 artworks selected, 17 are photographic. "We gave the jury free reign," says Chalif, adding, "We anticipated about 40 works because that's what we can comfortably fit." But the show, she says, is "wide-ranging," with paintings, sculptures and mixed media. "We have abstract, realist and surrealist, landscape and figurative. About the only thing we couldn't handle were installations. We've arranged the works by subject matter - seascapes displayed together, for instance."

All 260 entries, including the jury-selected art, will be displayed on Heckscher's website, heckscher.org, in a Biennial Gallery running for two years - until the next biennial.


WHAT Long Island Biennial art exhibition


WHEN | WHERE 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday; 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesdays through Fridays; until 8:30 p.m. the first Friday of the month, through Sept. 26 at the Heckscher Museum of Art in Huntington.

INFO $8, $6 seniors, $5 kids 10 and older, younger than 10 free; heckscher.org, 631-351-3250 Check cinemaartscentre.org in August for film/video showings.