Key Curator Withdraws From First-Ever Antarctic Biennale

Defne Ayas explains why on Facebook.

Image for the Antarctic Biennale. Courtesy of the Antarctic Project.

Just a day after The Art Newspaper ran a lengthy story online about the first-ever Antarctic Biennale and its call for “adventurous artists under 35,” controversy is flaring up on social media about the unorthodox project.

On Facebook, Defne Ayas, director of the Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art in Rotterdam, wrote:

Given that neither the framing nor the announcement content nor the age limit was signed off by me, as part of a member of the Artist Advisory Board, and as my press quote that offered a critical opening to the initial outset and prospect was nowhere used on the promotional materials but rather superceded by those I personally disagree with in content and direction,without any communication with me in person, I decided to pull out my name.

Courtesy of Facebook

Courtesy of Facebook

In response, artist Linda Persson writes on Facebook: “Another ageist venture from the art world. And disrespectful to Antarctica environ. The more we start going to these places, the more we destroy them.” Another Facebook user queries: “What possible motivation can this biennial have for discriminating against artists over 35,” adding the hashtag “bullshit.”

Antarctic Biennale ship. Courtesy of

Antarctic Biennale ship. Courtesy of

According to the Biennale website, Moscow-based artist Alexander Ponomarev, who is also a trained nautical engineer and former submariner in the Russian Navy, is commissioner of the first edition. He’ll be commanding a research vessel that will embark from Ushuaia, Argentina, in March 2017 and travel to Antarctica with about 100 artists on a 12-day trip.

“This sublime continent is like a white sheet of paper on which artists from different countries and nationalities will try to write the new rules of cooperation,” says Ponomarev in the press release. Works from the voyage will subsequently become part of the Antarctic Biennale collection.

artnet News reached out to Ayas and Antarctic Biennale press representatives for comment but did not receive an immediate response.

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