Biennial Exhibitions News Romania

Bucharest Biennial organisers fall out with curator four months before opening

The director of the Kunsthalle Wien, Nicolaus Schafhausen, is replaced this week by two twentysomething curators

Nicolaus Schafhausen stepped down as curator of the biennial at the end of January citing “irreconcilable” problems

After a row with the director of Vienna’s Kunsthalle, Nicolaus Schafhausen, the organisers of the Bucharest Biennial yesterday named two replacement curators. Gergő Horváth and Ștefan Voicu now have less than four months to plan the sixth edition of the international biennial, which is due run from 23 May to 24 July.

Schafhausen was appointed curator of the Bucharest Biennial last February. The organisers, Răzvan Ion and Eugen Rădescu, who also founded Pavilion, a Romanian cultural journal and arts centre, said this cooperation with the Kunsthalle Wien would create “a new type of dialogue between Vienna and Bucharest”.

But relations between Schafhausen and the organisers soon soured, and the Viennese director announced his resignation on 29 January, citing “irreconcilable” problems. In his statement, he said that “a number of curatorial and artistic differences emerged between the various parties”, which meant that he “must terminate any further commitments”. Schafhausen had been in touch with likely sponsors, and he suggested that they would no longer be supporting the exhibition. The biennial’s main sponsor, however, is still UniCredit Tiriac Bank.

The Bucharest Biennial issued a counter-statement, announcing “the end of cooperation with Nicolaus Schafhausen, due to incompatibilities and [a] conceptual approach that could generate a reputational risk”. They concluded that the biennial must be implemented in “an ethical manner”.

Schafhausen told The Art Newspaper that there were a number of issues, but the most important was that he wanted to focus on Romanian-born artists. He said the Bucharest organisers were much more interested in international artists, partly because this might generate more financial support. Schafhausen presented his selection of artists, but many of these proved unacceptable to the organisers. “They had their black list of no-go people”, he told us.

To replace Schafhausen, the biennial’s organisers have appointed a pair of young curators. Horváth, aged 20, is Hungarian-born and lives in Romania. He is a student, artist and curator. Voicu, aged 25, is Romanian-born and lives in Italy. He describes himself as “an independent theoretician”. The biennial theme they have chosen is “Apprehension: Understanding Through Fear of Understanding”. (Schafhausen theme was to be “Belonging & Longing”.)

The artists they have selected so far are the Austrian Erwin Wurm, the Italian Chiara Fumai, the Hungarian János Sugár, and the Romanians Adrian Dan, Dan Beudean, Matei Arnăutu and Zoltán Béla.

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