The German organiser of an exhibition called Diversity United has urged its partner, the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow, to close the show immediately and return the works to their owners following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“As a gesture of protest against Vladimir Putin’s decision to wage war against Ukraine, our exhibition Diversity United will have to be closed immediately,” wrote Walter Smerling, the chairman of the private Bonn-based Foundation for Art and Culture, in an email to Zelfira Tregulova, the director of the gallery. The decision is “in no way directed against you and your dedicated staff”, he wrote. “But now we will have to act.” The show was due to run at the Tretyakov until 13 March.
Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who opened the exhibition at Berlin’s Tempelhof airport in June 2021, has withdrawn as patron of the exhibition, a spokeswoman for the Foundation for Art and Culture said.
The exhibition displayed works by 90 artists from 34 countries and sought to “showcase the phenomenal diversity and vitality of the contemporary European art scene—from Portugal to Russia, from Norway to Turkey”, according to the foundation’s website.
The demand for the exhibition’s closure comes after leading figures in the Ukrainian arts world including culture minister Oleksandr Tkachenko called for sanctions to “limit Russia’s presence within the international cultural arena”. They urged a ban on Russian participants in international art exhibitions and fairs such as the Venice Biennale, Documenta and Art Basel.