Plans to mount Kazakhstan’s first ever national pavilion as part of this year’s Venice Biennale have been delayed due to the ongoing war in Ukraine.
The exhibition was to mark the first time the Central Asian country and former Soviet Republic would independently participate in the Biennale. When it was first announced in February, the news was seen as a potential milestone for the country that has been investing more in its cultural agenda despite being afflicted by political unrest. The nation is still reeling from mass protests over inflated fuel prices that have led to escalated policing and violence across Kazakhstan cities.
Now, the ongoing conflict in Ukraine has caused various logistical hurdles that have halted the exhibition, with artworks and materials required for the pavilion’s installation currently stuck in transit after being rerouted amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, according to a report by the Art Newspaper.
Consequently, some works planned to be showcased at the Kazakhstan Pavilion, which is located at the Spazio Arco in Dorsoduro, will be absent from the physical space in Venice. The pavilion will, however, remain open to the Biennale’s visitors during this week’s previews. It is now scheduled to be fully mounted by May 17.
Plans for the national pavilion have been curtailed before. In 2019, organizers representing the country attempted to bring a government-backed exhibition to the global stage during the Biennale, but it was abruptly cancelled. The show’s curators were dismissed just two months ahead of the opening due to lack of funding, as reported allegations of government corruption circulated.
Meruyert Kaliyeva, the commissioner of this year’s pavilion and founder of a gallery based in the country’s cultural hub of Almaty, steered this year’s edition without government backing. This was a strategic measure, Kaliyeva has said previously, to avoid any blowback caused by the government’s involvement in plans for the exhibition. The pavilion is supported instead by several private charitable organizations, including the Saby Charitable Foundation, the Nurlan Smagulov Foundation, and the Marusya Assaubayeva Foundation.
The pavilion will display works by ORTA, an artist collective established in 2015 whose members include Kazakh artists Alexandra Morozova, Rustem Begenov, Darya Jumelya, Alexandr Bakanov, and Sabina Kuangaliyeva. Titled “LAI-PI-CHU-PLEE-LAPA Centre for the New Genius,” the showcase is dedicated to the legacy of Sergey Kalmykov, an obscure Russian painter active in the first half of the 20th century.
In a joint statement with ORTA, Kuangaliyeva said the while they were “incredibly disappointed,” by the delays that have curtailed the show’s original opening, they are “minor,” in comparison to the escalating violence in Ukraine that has killed scores of civilians and decimated many public forums.