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Kiev biennale to go ahead despite withdrawal of venue, curators say

Kiev biennale to go ahead despite withdrawal of venue, curators say
Chiharu Shiota's, After the Dream, from Kiev biennale 2012

27 March 2015

The curators of The School of Kiev, the Kiev contemporary art biennale, have announced plans to go ahead with the event despite the withdrawal of its venue Mystetskyi Arsenal. The biennale, which was postponed from last February due to the Maidan protests, was expected not to go ahead, after Mystetskyi Arsenal cited financial problems and the ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine among its reasons to withdraw.

The organisers of the biennale, Austrian curators Georg Schöllhammer and Hedwig Saxenhuber, wrote in a statement: “We, together with institutions and initiatives in Kiev, Ukraine and Europe, have decided to go ahead with the biennale project, after one-and-a-half years of intense collaboration and exchange, without the support of Mysteskyi Arsenal. The School of Kiev will take place this year as planned!”

Commenting on the importance of art in times of crisis, Schöllhammer and Saxenhuber added: “Under present political conditions in Ukraine, after the revolution of Maidan and when the country is at war, the political potential of art is needed today more than ever before.”

The volatile conflict in the east of Ukraine weighed heavy on the decision of Mystetskyi Arsenal organisers to pull out of the biennale. Director of the venue, Nataliia Zabolotna, told The Art Newspaper: “Not only is the ceasefire provisional, but it is unpredictable.” According to Zabolotna, Mystetskyi Arsenal has been organising a number of charitable initiatives to help refugees and fighters wounded from the conflict.

Efforts at sourcing funding from private sponsors and the business world have also been fruitless, Zabolotna said. With potential private sponsors prioritising the financial support of relief efforts, a number of cultural projects in Ukraine which usually rely on state or private sponsorship have suffered since the conflict began.

“In conditions of war and severe economic crisis, Ukraine has gone into a regime of all-out belt-tightening,” Zabolotna said. “The Minister of Culture has even declared that this year financing will be provided only for those events that are connected with supporting the military.”

The art scene in Ukraine has taken a hit as a result of the political disturbances on the region in the last year. In June 2014, Russian separatists seized the offices of contemporary art foundation Izolyatsia, which was based in Donetsk.