The organizers of the roving European contemporary art biennial Manifesta announced today that they will hold their 10th exhibition in St. Petersburg, Russia, as planned, despite calls for them to relocate. The exhibition will be held at the Hermitage (June 28-Oct. 31), and is to be curated by Kasper König.
“We were invited by the State Hermitage Museum to investigate the notion of contemporary art and culture in a contested society, and we think it is necessary to continue to do so under the current circumstances,” says a statement signed by König along with Hermitage director Mikhail Piotrovsky, Foundation Manifesta director Hedwig Fijen.
Opposition to locating the show in Russia began amid international opposition to a law, signed by President Vladimir Putin in June 2013, that bans “propaganda on nontraditional sexual relationships” but is generally seen as a means to persecute homosexuals and quash Russia’s nascent gay rights movement. Irish curator and critic Noel Kelly organized a petition at Change.org calling on Manifesta to reconsider the exhibition’s locale.
Russia has further isolated itself in recent weeks by sending troops into the Crimean Peninsula, part of the country of Ukraine, on the pretext of protecting Russian-speaking people there after the pro-Russian government of Viktor Yanukovych was toppled.
“Manifesta 10 will continue monitoring the situation in Ukraine and we are hopeful for a successful diplomatic solution-one that mediates this volatile situation with enormous care and strives for a peaceful outcome,” the organizers said in the statement.
“The situation has escalated since our work began,” König said in the statement, “but I do not think that this implies support (by the State Hermitage Museum and its Director Dr. Piotrovsky, by the Manifesta Foundation and its Director Hedwig Fijen, or by me) for Russia’s present political and military actions.”
Past curators and co-curators of the biennial, founded in 1994, have included Dawn Ades, Francesco Bonami, Massimiliano Gioni, Katerina Gregos, Rosa Martinez and Hans Ulrich Obrist. The ninth edition took place in the Belgian city of Genk. Manifesta 11 will be held in Zurich in 2016.