Venice Biennale refuses to exclude Israel

Following an ongoing campaign, the Venice Biennale officially announced on Wednesday (February 28) that it would not exclude the Israeli national pavilion. The Contemporary Art Biennale specifies in a declaration that “all countries recognized by the Italian Republic can autonomously request to participate officially” and that as such, it does not “will consider any petition or appeal to exclude the participation of Israel or Iran.”

The Biennale recalls that several Palestinian artists will also participate in the event, and that the decision to close the Russian pavilion at the 59th international art exhibition in 2022 was not its responsibility, since it had been taken by the curator exhibition designated by the Minister of Culture of the Russian Federation.

This statement is a direct response to criticism addressed to it in an open letter from the Art Not Genocide Alliance (ANGA) collective, signed by thousands of artists, architects and curators, which calls on the Biennale to exclude Israel from the edition 2024. The letter points out that the Venice Biennale had already banned South Africa due to its apartheid policies, and that it excluded Russia following the invasion of Ukraine in 2022. Yet , she would be “remained silent on the atrocities committed by Israel against the Palestinians” while nearly 30,000 people have been killed to date in the Gaza Strip since the bloody Hamas attack of October 7, 2023. “Any official representation of Israel on the international cultural scene is an endorsement of its policies and the genocide in Gaza”she adds.

Gennaro Sangiuliano, the Italian Minister of Culture, condemned the letter in a statement on Tuesday February 27, calling it“unacceptable”, “shameful” and believing that she “threatens freedom of thought and creation”. He claims that“Israel not only has the right to express its art, but also has the duty to represent its own people at a time when they have been hit hard by surprise by merciless terrorists”.

The 60th Venice Biennale International Art Exhibition will take place from April 20 to November 24, 2024, under the direction of Brazilian curator Adriano Pedrosa. Its theme is “Stranieri Ovunque – Foreigners Everywhere” (Foreigners everywhere) and will honor foreign artists, particularly those from immigration and exile. For the occasion, the ninety invited countries will be able to exhibit their works as usual in national pavilions within the Giardini, but also at the Arsenal and in other places in the city.

Installation Archeology of the present by Tsibi Geva on the Israeli pavilion in 2015 which evokes the tense relationships between peoples.

© Ludovic Sanejouand for The Arts Journal

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