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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 Russia’s involvement in the Ukrainian crisis and its annexation of Crimea into account.

The event, which is scheduled as part of the Hermitage’s 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 Russia’s adoption of anti-gay “propaganda” legislation, a Ukrainian artist has now urged international artists to boycott Manifesta over Russia’s 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 A local art collective has also withdrawn from the event to hold its own pro-Ukrainian art festival.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 Hall’s 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, Jan. 30 through Wednesday, Feb. 4



A retrospective of the films of Roman Polanski starts today at Loft-Project Etagi, 74 Ligovsky Prospekt, with a screening of ‘Repulsion’ at 7 p.m. and ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ at 9:15 p.m. The series runs through Feb. 4 and will include Polanski's eminently creepy ‘The Tenant,’ the cult comedy ‘The Fearless Vampire Killers’ and ‘Cul-de-sac’ among others. Tickets are 150-200 rubles and the complete schedule is available at www.vk.com/artpokaz/



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