Kenya Disowns Controversial Venice Biennale Pavilion

Michael Soi, The shame in Venice 2 (2015)
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Controversy continues to mount over the Kenyan pavilion at the upcoming Venice Biennale (see “Shame in Venice”: Italian-Chinese Line-up for Kenya’s Biennale Pavilion Sparks Outrage), with the country’s government officially denouncing the enterprise.

The slate of artists chosen to represent the country includes six Chinese artists, none of whom live or work in Kenya, and one Italian expat, Armando Tanzini, who was also included in the inaugural Kenyan pavilion in 2013, giving rise to similar controversy.

The lone Kenyan artist who will be shown at this year’s edition is Yvonne Apiyo Braendle-Amolo. The pavilion is being organized by two foreign curators, Sandro Orlandi Stagl and Ding Xuefen, and was commissioned by Italian citizen Paola Poponi, who seems not to have a history of curating shows.

Hassan Wario, the country’s minister of culture, sports, and the arts, spoke out against the pavilion at a press conference, insisting that “the government of Kenya dissociates itself with this group and strongly condemns their acts of impersonation.”

Wario promised that in the future he would work with art organizations and artists to “select the finest Kenyan artists to represent our nation.”

In addition to the national pavilions, including a brand-new one for Australia (see Australia Unveils New Venice Biennale Pavilion), and a presentation from Joan Jonas commissioned by the List Visual Arts Center at MIT for the US (see Performance Art Great Joan Jonas Will Represent US at 2015 Venice Biennale), the Biennale also includes an international exhibition curated by Okwui Enwezor (see The 2015 Venice Biennale List of Artists Is Out—See Our Exclusive).

The 56th Venice Biennale will be on view May 9–November 22, 2015. 

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