The Strasbourg Biennale Is Postponed After a Fatal Shooting at the City’s Christmas Market

The inaugural exhibition, which was due to open at the weekend, has been pushed back while the city mourns and an intense search for a suspect continues.

Police patrol Strasbourg's Christmas market after the fatal shooting on December 11. Photo by Thomas Lohnes/Getty Images.

Update: The suspect was shot dead by police on Thursday evening in Strasbourg.

Strasbourg’s inaugural biennial has been postponed as a manhunt continues in France and across the German border for the suspect in a fatal shooting on Tuesday night in the city’s Christmas market. Due to open this weekend, organizers have pushed its launch back until December 21, artnet News has learned.

An attacker killed two people and critically injured several others on December 11 in the Christmas market held in the heart of the French city. A third victim is on life support. The shooting took place a short walk from from the historic central post office, the Hôtel des Postes, which is the main venue of the Biennale d’art contemporain de Strasbourg.

The first edition, which is called “Touch Me: Being a Citizen in the Digital Age,” will feature work by 18 international artists. The exhibition aims to question human existence in the digital age as “humane and humanistic values are being put to the test,” according to a statement on social media.

Artists include Trevor Paglen and Evan Roth, who are Americans based in Berlin, as well as the French filmmaker Alain Della Negra and his Japanese collaborator Kaori Kinoshita. The exhibition’s curator Yasmina Khouaidjia said in a statement that she wanted to organize a “non-confrontational look at the subject,” adding that she hoped the public would “think… slow their frantic pace, and take a step back, allowing all to speak their minds.”

The suspected gunman is Chérif Chekatt, a 29-year-old French national who is still on the run. Police say that he has a gunshot wound to the elbow. A petty criminal, he was under surveillance as a potential security risk because of fears that he had been radicalized while in prison. An investigation has been opened to determine whether the attack was motivated by Islamic extremism. Anti-terror security measures have been stepped up across France.

“I find it generous and empathic of the organizers of the biennale to postpone the opening in respect of the victims and the circumstances. It makes the topic of the exhibition, which talks about citizenship, stronger and gives it an urgent reflection,” participating artist Sarah Schoenfeld told artnet News. “I am very sorry for the victims of course and in general about this fear generating events.” The Berlin-based artist’s work Alien Linguistic Lab looks at the idea of otherness in highly polarizing and alienated times. Schoenfeld says that it deals with the understanding of other cultures and different concepts of understanding the world.

The exhibition “Touch Me: Being a Citizen in the Digital Age” will now run from December 22, 2018 to March 3, 2019. The opening is on Friday, December at 7 p.m.


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