The Artists and Curator Behind the Russia Pavilion Have Pulled Out of the Venice Biennale Amid the Ongoing War in Ukraine

The pavilion of the Russian Federation will remain closed during this year's Venice Biennale.

In the Giardini for the Venice Biennale. Image courtesy Ben Davis.
In the Giardini for the Venice Biennale. Image courtesy Ben Davis.

The artists and curator responsible for the Russian pavilion at the Venice Biennale resigned over the weekend as the Russian Federation’s offensive into Ukraine continued for a fourth bloody day. The pavilion in the Giardini will now remain closed for the 2022 edition of the prestigious art world event.

Artists Alexandra Sukhareva and Kirill Savchenkov, and the pavilion’s curator, Raimundas Malašauskas, each announced their immediate resignation from the pavilion on social media on Sunday, February 27. The commissioning body behind the pavilion also acknowledged the move on its Instagram, confirming that the pavilion would remain closed for the 59th Venice Biennale, which opens in mid-April.

“There is nothing left to say, there is no place for art when civilians are dying under the fire of missiles, when citizens of Ukraine are hiding in shelters [and] when Russian protestors are getting silenced,” Savchenkov wrote in an emotional statement posted to Instagram. “As a Russian-born, I won’t be presenting my work at Venice.”

The news of their withdrawal comes just days after the team behind the Ukrainian pavilion also announced that they had to stop all work on their exhibition due to the invasion. “I would do the same in their place,” Pavlo Makov, the artist who was set to represent Ukraine, told Artnet News, in response to the Russians’ announcements.

On February 24, Russia invaded the neighboring European nation of Ukraine with a multidirectional attack across the country. The attack has spurred a refugee crisis, causing more than 500,000 people to flee the country in just four days. Those remaining in the country, and especially the major cities, are under constant threat of air strikes.

“This war is politically and emotionally unbearable,” wrote curator Malašauskas, a Lithuanian who was born in the Soviet Union, in his statement. He added that the “people from Russia should not be bullied or cast-away solely due to their country’s oppressive policies.”

On Monday, the Italian organization acknowledged the decision in a statement to the press: “La Biennale expresses its complete solidarity for this noble act of courage and stands beside the motivations that have led to this decision, which dramatically epitomizes the tragedy that has beset the entire population of Ukraine,” it said.

The biennale statement added a condemnation of “all those who use violence to prevent dialogue and peace.”

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