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Manifesta Plays Down Rights Concerns

The European super-biennial scheduled for a June start at the Hermitage gives critics short shrift.

Published: March 27, 2014 (Issue # 1803)



  • Petersburg art collective Chto Delat has pulled out of Manifesta 10 over the corporate policies of the organizers.
    Photo: chto delat

Manifesta, a roving biennial of contemporary art whose tenth iteration is schedule to be held at the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg between June 28 and Oct. 31, has come in for criticism for declining to take Russias involvement in the Ukrainian crisis and its annexation of Crimea into account.

The event, which is scheduled as part of the Hermitages 250th anniversary exhibitions and festivities, has been lavishly co-funded by the city in addition to receiving funding from the European Union, the Netherlands Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, the Netherlands Foundation for Visual Arts, Design and Architecture and the Mondriaan Foundation.

Already coming under fire over Russias adoption of anti-gay propaganda legislation, a Ukrainian artist has now urged international artists to boycott Manifesta over Russias annexation of Crimea, while a group of Western European artists has launched a petition demanding the biennial be suspended. A local art collective has also withdrawn from the event to hold its own pro-Ukrainian art festival.

Meanwhile, City Hall plans to use Manifesta to improve the international image of both St. Petersburg and Russia.

Manifesta 10 is one of the main events of the Year of Culture in Russia, Deputy Governor Vasily Kichedzhi was quoted as saying on City Halls website on Feb. 12. Taking into account the international reputation of Manifesta and the interest in the event from both professionals and the general public, we believe that successful implementation of the project will contribute to strengthening the positive image not only of St. Petersburg, but of Russia as a whole.

Although Manifesta has claimed that the Hermitage and City Hall acknowledge its artistic autonomy, doubts have been expressed over how free the organizers are to mount the exhibition of their choosing in a country where a number of media outlets have been stifled and closed for criticism of the authorities.

On March 3, Germany-based Ukrainian artist Yuri Leiderman released a statement asking the international art community to boycott the biennial in support of the people of Ukraine.

Leiderman, one of the Moscow Conceptualists of the 1970s and 1980s was born in Odessa, Ukraine and resides in Berlin, Germany. He took part in the first Manifesta, which was held in Rotterdam, the Netherlands in 1996.

Dear friends! I appeal to you as an artist, a participant of first Manifesta European Biennial of Contemporary Art (1996, Rotterdam) and as a native of Ukraine, he wrote in a statement published on the Art Ukraine website.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Friday, Oct. 24


SPIBAs ongoing Breakfast with the Director series continues today, featuring Tomas Hajek, Managing Director of the Northwest Division at Danone Russia. Hajek will be discussing collaborations between businesses from different cultures. The meeting is at 9 a.m. at the Domina Prestige St. Petersburg hotel and all who wish to attend must confirm their participation by Oct. 23.


Get your gong on at Sounds of the Universe, a concert at the city planetarium this evening incorporating six different gongs to create relaxing songs that will transport you upwards into the stratosphere. Tickets are 700 rubles ($17).



Saturday, Oct. 25


AVA Expo, the eighth edition of the event revolving around all things pop culture, returns to Lenexpo this weekend. Geeks, nerds, dweebs and dorks will have their chance to talk science fiction and explore a variety of international pop culture. Tickets for the event can be purchased on their website at avaexpo.ru.



Sunday, Oct. 26


Zenit St. Petersburg returns home for the first time in nearly a month as they host Mordovia Saransk in a Russian Premier League game. Currently at the top of the league thanks to their undefeated start to the season, the northern club hopes to extend the gap between them and second-place CSKA Moscow and win the title for the first time in three years. Tickets are available at the stadium box office or on the clubs website.



Monday, Oct. 27


Today marks the end of the art exhibit Neophobia at the Erarta Museum. Artists Alexey Semichov and Andrei Kuzmin took a neo-modernist approach to represent the array of fears that are ever-present throughout our lives. Tickets are 200 rubles ($4.90).



Tuesday, Oct. 28


The Domina Prestige St. Petersburg hotel plays host to SPIBAs Marketing and Communications Committees round table discussion on Government Relations Practices in Russia this morning. The discussion starts at 9:30 a.m. and participation must be confirmed by Oct. 24.



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