Taiwanese artist Sakuliu Pavavaljung has been removed from representing Taiwan at the 2022 Venice Biennale following several accusations of sexual assault, the Taipei Fine Arts Museum (TFAM) announced on 12 January in a public statement. The decision was made by the Taiwan Pavilion Nomination Committee in consultation with an ad hoc advisory group comprised of representatives from the pavilion, gender experts, lawyers and TFAM, the statement said.
“TFAM has always taken pride in promoting the development of high professional standards in art. We also oppose any violation of individual rights,” the statement reads. “Following these developments coming to the attention of the international art world, the museum made this decision in order to maintain Taiwan’s international diplomatic image and reputation and to avoid detracting from discussions of artistic expression at the Taiwan Pavilion.” It did not address what steps would be taken to appoint a replacement artist.
The allegations first emerged on 16 December when artist Kuo Yu-ping posted on Facebook an anonymous 19-year-old woman’s account of being raped by an Indigenous Paiwan artist, called Kulusa, a wordplay for Sakuliu. Several more accounts of sexual assault and harassment from other women shortly followed.
Subsequent accusers on Facebook included artist Yu Yue Lien, who claimed Sakuliu sexually assaulted and attempted to rape her in 2006 in Taitung. Sakuliu’s studio on 23 December issued a statement denying all allegations. The following day, a lawyer for the initial accuser released recordings of phone conversations in which Sakuliu’s partner pressured the alleged victim, invoking TFAM’s political and global sway to coerce her into accepting a settlement.
Documenta 15 also announced the suspension of Sakuliu’s participation in a statement issued 21 December, pending further review to “obtain a differentiated picture of the situation”. The organisers stated they oppose “any form of structural and individual violence against people”, and take the accusations very seriously.
Sakuliu, 61, is among the leading Indigenous artists in Taiwan, hailing from the Paiwan people in Pingtung County. Pingtung prosecutors have announced a probe into the allegations against him. Sakuliu’s work centres around preserving and promoting traditional culture through multidisciplinary art and architecture, garnering accolades such as the 2018 National Culture and Arts Award, which awarding body the National Culture and Arts Foundation has said it is considering rescinding.