Manifesta 10 will go ahead as planned in St Petersburg this year, despite a petition signed by more than 1,500 artists calling for its suspension in light of Russia’s occupation of Ukraine. ‘To stop our work for any reason other than its literal and practical impossibility is not an answer to the current situation’, argued the curator Kasper König in a statement on the festival’s website.
The biennial event came under scrutiny for different reasons towards the end of last year, when the Irish artist Noel Kelly called for a change in location in response to Russia’s anti-gay laws. At that point Manifesta’s director argued that dialogue and mediation was a better option than boycotting, cancelling or otherwise disrupting the event.
Recent controversy surrounding the Sydney Biennale has prompted fresh debate about how to tackle the ethical issues that frequently attach to international arts events. It’s not just a question for the short-lived Biennales, but for all museums and arts institutions with international programmes.
The Victoria & Albert Museum and the British Museum have both promised major loans to the Kremlin this year, and questions will undoubtedly be raised as to whether such collaboration can be justified. At a certain point, should museums respond to political disputes by breaking relations? Or is the opposite true that, in periods of tension, ongoing cultural exchange is more important than ever?
Protest at the Guggenheim over Saadiyat Island labour conditions (Imelda Barnard)