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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 A local art collective has also withdrawn from the event to hold its own pro-Ukrainian art festival.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, Aug. 22


Get ready to pledge allegiance to the flag during National Flag Day, paying tribute to when, 23 years ago today, the iconic hammer-and-sickle was replaced with the tricolor that now flutters in the wind. Petersburgers will be treated to a free concert on Palace Square, a military parade and a culminating air show featuring Russias Russian Knights stunt pilots.



Saturday, Aug. 23


Uppsala Park plays host to Fairy Noon today, a performance of five separate fairy tales ranging from folk classics to more haunting selections. There will be three different renditions of the tales throughout the day and tickets start at 500 rubles ($13.80) for adults and 300 rubles ($8.30) for children.


Classic Finnish cartoon characters the Moomins expect to receive a warm welcome from Russian fans during todays Moomin Festival at the Pearl Plaza Shopping Center at 51 Petergofskoye Shosse. Become a kid again or introduce a new generation to the beloved creation of Finnish writer Tove Jansson.



Sunday, Aug. 24


The tortured genius of Dutch master Vincent van Gogh gets his day in the centers Konnushnaya Ploschad during Make Art Like Van Gogh, a daylong celebration of the artist that will allow amateur artists to try and replicate the work that made the famed painter world-renowned.


Experience a variety of dances highlighting the diversity of the world around as at the final day of the Ethno-Dance International Dance Festival that has been at the St. Petersburg Humanitarian University of Trade Unions this past week. Tonights performance will feature Egyptian dancers accompanied by local orchestras.



Monday, Aug. 25


Today kicks off the Elena Obraztsovoy International Competition for Young Vocalists in the large hall of the Shostakovich Philharmonic. Talented youngsters will showcase their range over the next six days before a winner is chosen on Aug. 30.



Tuesday, Aug. 26


Love movies but hate all those words? Then check out Rodina Cinema Centers Factor of Consensus film forum this evening. Silent movie classics from the beginning of the 20th century will be screened and accompanied by a pianist, who will provide the soundtrack for the ongoing action. The screenings begin at 7 p.m. Check Rodinas website for more details.



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