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Director of Russian Pavilion at Venice Architecture Bienniale Ousted over Politics

by Mostafa Heddaya on April 9, 2014

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Grigory Revzin at the Moscow Urban Forum in December 2013 (screenshot via YouTube)

The commissioner of the Russian pavilion at this year’s Venice Architecture Biennale, Grigory Revzin, has been fired due to his political views on the Crimean situation, The Art Newspaper reported. According to a Facebook post published on his page on Monday, Revzin received a call from the Russian Minister of Culture, Vladimir Medinsky, relieving him of his duties at the Biennale. Revzin, a noted architecture critic and curator, alleged in his post that the dismissal was politically motivated and specifically mentioned Crimea. A Tuesday statement from the Ministry of Culture cited by The Art Newspaper attributes the firing to his “extremely active” public positions. A month ago, on March 2, the critic published a polemical rebuke of Putin’s administration and its annexation of Crimea on the Russian website Lenta.ru.

Revzin, who has served as commissioner of the Russian pavilion at the Biennale since 2010, is something of a celebrity curator in the country, even appearing on the cover of Russian GQ in 2012, according to a post about his firing on the blog affiliated with Maria Baibakova’s Baibakov Art Projects. (Though comprehensive on Revzin’s recent accomplishments, the post strangely omits mention of the critical Lenta.ru piece and Revzin’s acknowledgment of the underlying political motivations, instead offering that “no explanation was provided” for the firing.) His firing follows the ongoing controversy surrounding Manifesta, which is scheduled to open in St. Petersburg in June and which some artists have boycotted over objections to Russia’s anti-gay policies and, more recently, its invasion of Crimea.

Curators working on behalf of illiberal or autocratic states can find their project at odds with the ideology of their employers. Jack Persekian was relieved of his duties as curator of the Sharjah Biennial in 2011 over an allegedly offensive public installation — Mustapha Benfodil’s “Maportaliche / It Has No Importance” (2011).

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