Censorship in Venice: sculptures covered up at Azerbaijan pavilion
The country’s president protested that the works are insensitive and promote an overly strict image of Islam
By Gareth Harris. Web only
Published online: 03 June 2011
VENICE. Two large-scale sculptural works by Moscow-based artist Aidan Salakhova, on show at the entrance of the Azerbaijan National Pavilion, were yesterday hidden from view under drapes following protests from the Azerbaijan president. The Art Newspaper understands that Ilham Aliyev took offence at the pieces because of their references to Islam. One work, Waiting Bride, 2010-11, which shows a woman covered in a black veil from head to foot, was deemed as promoting an unacceptably strict form of Islam. The other sculpture, which depicts the Muslim relic, the Black Stone of Mecca, contained in a vagina-like marble frame, was considered insensitive to the religion. The works will remain under wraps for a week.
“I am very surprised as the Azerbaijan government was aware of the works I planned to bring to Venice,” Salakhova told The Art Newspaper. In the official press material for the pavilion, she had written: “I am very proud to represent Azerbaijan, a secular country where Islam and civility are closely woven together.” The Azerbaijan Culture Ministry could not be reached for comment.
The artist is presenting “Destination”, her first sculptures, in Venice. Salakhova, who was a co-founder of First (the Soviet Union’s first contemporary art gallery in 1989) before opening the Aidan Gallery in 1992, intertwines modern and mystical imagery, and has an interest in gender and Islamic themes and their interconnection. Her sculptures in Venice, some of which weigh more than a tonne, are on display at Palazzo Benzon (to 27 September).
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