In Brief

Curator Admits Manifesta Art Biennial in Russia Is in Trouble

by Hrag Vartanian on June 7, 2014

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Manifesta 10 curator Kasper König looms above the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg. (image of Konig via Calvert Journal, image of Hermitage via Dennis Jarvis/Flickr)

The chief curator of Manifesta, the roving European Biennial of Contemporary Art, told the Deutsche Welle media outlet that the Russian staff of the event has not been paid regularly, and the biennial has hit an “impasse: nothing’s happening.”

Scheduled to launch in St. Petersburg’s Hermitage Museum later this month, curator Kasper König says he still believes in art’s power to change but the current situation in Russia is far from ideal. “I’ve stopped watching Russian television — I can’t stand the brainwashing anymore. So I’ve also started to protect myself from certain things,” he said.

The Calvert Journal reports that Manifesta has been beset by trouble since Russia’s anti-gay law came into effect last year. Since then close to 2,000 cultural figures from across Russia and Europe signed a petition for a change of location in protest of the anti-gay law. After the Crimean crisis that began this year, a new wave of protests emerged, and two of artists who were scheduled to participate, Paweł Althamer and the Chto Delat art collective, withdrew from the event.

In March, Chto Delat published a statement that was critical of König:

It is clearly art over politics. Kaspar König’s most recent statement denigrates any attempts to address the present situation in Russia by artistic means, demoting them to “self-righteous representation” and “cheap provocation” and thus effectively preemptively censoring them.

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