Biennial Contemporary art News Ukraine

Kiev Biennale postponed as violent protests continue to hit capital

Ukraine’s unstable political situation has made preparing for the exhibition “impossible”, organisers say

The 2012 Kiev Biennale helped transform the Mystetskyi Arsenal from a vast former weapons store into a contemporary art space

The second Kiev Biennale will be postponed until 2015, the organisers announced on Monday 10 February, due to the unstable political situation in Ukraine, where anti-government protests have continued to hit the capital since last November. The event was scheduled to open in September at the Mystetskyi Arsenal, a vast former weapons store in the centre of the city, and an artist list was due to be released soon, but the organisers changed their plans according to a statement posted on the Arsenal’s website.

“Ukraine is experiencing an unprecedentedly difficult time, when the question of the state’s future is being decided,” said Natalia Zabolotna, the general director of Mystetskyi Arsenal museum complex, in the statement. “Taking this into account, it is impossible to carry out responsibly the preparation needed for a large-scale artistic project of international significance like the biennial. For this reason, it was decided to postpone the biennial until 2015.”

Protest against the rule of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych exploded into violence last month, and at least six people have been killed while hundreds have been injured. Protesters, who accuse the government of corruption, remain in a tense standoff with police.

The country is also in dire financial straits and Zabolotna suggested in her statement that a shortage of funds could affect the biennial. “We hope that the Ministry of Culture of Ukraine, understanding the biennial’s exceptional role in the country’s cultural scene, will continue to include it in its plan of events and allocate the necessary funds,” she said.

Zabolotna, who was the commissioner of the first biennial in 2012, was credited for successfully transforming the vast tsarist-era venue, a former weapons arsenal, into a contemporary art space and landing the British curator David Elliott to head the project. Last November, the Austrian curators Georg Schöllhammer and Hedwig Saxenhuber were announced to lead the second edition, and Zabolotna said in her statement that they had agreed to defer the biennial until next year.

However, Zabolotna has also faced criticism for allegedly censoring the work of the Ukrainian artist Volodymir Kuznetsov when she painted over his mural, which was due to be included in an exhibition at the Mystetskyi Arsenal last summer. A number of Ukrainian artists had said they would boycott the next biennial, because of this.

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