Russian Artists, Curator Pull Out of Venice Biennale Pavilion Amid War in Ukraine

Following the invasion of Ukraine, the Russian Pavilion at the Venice Biennale will not take place as planned this year.

Artists Alexandra Sukhareva and Kirill Savchenkov, as well as curator Raimundas Malašauskas, said on Sunday that they would no longer participate in the pavilion. Rather than selecting another artist and curator, however, the Russian Pavilion appeared to suggest that it would not host an exhibition at all this year at the Biennale, which is set to open in April.

“The Russian Pavilion will remain closed,” the organizers of the pavilion said in a post on Instagram.

It is the latest response from institutions in the country’s art scene, some of whom have protested the invasion by shuttering art exhibitions or pausing work on future shows. The Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, an institution in Moscow that is among the most important ones of its kind in Russia, said this weekend that it would halt preparation for shows devoted to Anne Imhof, Helen Marten, and other artists of international renown. Meanwhile, Ragnar Kjartansson closed an exhibition at the GES-2 House of Culture in Moscow several weeks before it was to finish out its run.

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On Sunday, Savchenkov and Sukhareva said in a joint post on social media that the political situation unfolding in Ukraine had caused them to drop out of the Russian Pavilion. “There is no place for art when civilians are dying under the fire of missiles, when citizens of Ukraine are hiding in shelters, when Russian protesters are getting silenced,” they wrote.

In a separate statement, Malašauskas said that he felt unable to continue organizing the pavilion as a Lithuanian who had lived in the Soviet Union prior to its dissolution in 1989. “I cannot advance on working on this project in light of Russia’s military invasion and bombing of Ukraine,” he wrote. “This war is politically and emotionally unbearable.”

The news comes as Ukraine’s pavilion at the Venice Biennale also hangs in the balance. Artist Pavlo Makov and curators Lizaveta German, Maira Lanko, and Borys Filonenko said last week that they hoped to stage the pavilion this year, but that because of the invasion, they were “not able to continue working on the project of the pavilion due to the danger to our lives.”

The Biennale itself issued a plea for peace last week, saying, “We express the hope that international diplomacy will find the strength to pursue a shared peaceful solution in the shortest time possible.”