The Russian artist Vadim Zakharov launched a protest at the Venice Biennale yesterday. He displayed a protest banner outside the Russian pavilion in the Giardini declaring that “the murder of women, children, [and] people of Ukraine is a disgrace to Russia”. Zakharov represented Russia at the Biennale in 2013 when he showered visitors to the pavilion with gold coins. “I am standing here in front of the Russian Pavilion against the war and against Russian government cultural ties,” the banner said.
Zakharov staged his protest outside the Russian Pavilion yesterday but was eventually removed by the Italian police. “They blocked me,” he says. “It took a while for them to establish who I am. They took away [my protest] poster and a leaflets [with my statement].” He was then released by police. He adds in a statement that “everyone must decide for themselves how to behave in relation to the war in Ukraine which began in 2014 and reached its bloody climax in 2022”.
The artist tells The Art Newspaper: “I do not know what the reaction will be, but there will be [a response] for sure. I grew up in the Soviet system. I still have a Russian passport but have lived in Berlin since 2010.” In his lengthy statement, he describes how the war “led to a complete rupture on a family, friendship and personal level”, adding that he prohibits his work and pieces housed in Russian museums and collections from being exhibited there.
The Russian Pavilion is closed after the curator, Raimundas Malašauskas, and the artists Alexandra Sukhareva and Kirill Savchenkov, cancelled their participation in the event in February. “There is nothing left to say, there is no place for art when civilians are dying under the fire of missiles, when citizens of Ukraine are hiding in shelters [and] when Russian protestors are getting silenced,” Savchenkov wrote in a statement posted to Instagram. “As a Russian-born, I won’t be presenting my work at Venice.”
According to his website, a retrospective of Zakharov’s work was held at the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow in 2006; in 2017, he presented a performance at the Whitechapel Gallery in London called Tunguska Event: History Marches on a Table, marking the centenary of the 1917 Russian Revolution.