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Kenya & Costa Rica pull out of Venice Biennale

Costa Rica News – Kenya’s pavilion at the 2015 Venice Biennale, an Italian-Chinese co-production entitled Creating Identities, has officially been cancelled by the Kenyan government, according to a statement from the biennial released on 23 April.

Venice Biennale 2015 1The move follows protests by Kenyan artists, who launched a petition to the country’s ministry of sports, culture and the arts to “renounce Kenya’s fraudulent representation […] and commit to support the realisation of a national pavilion in 2017.” Hassan Wario Arero, the cabinet secretary for sports, culture and the arts, announced on 14 April that the government would “ensure that no such representation of Kenyan artists occurs in the future” and “place Kenya’s official bid for participation in the next Biennale in 2017”, in a statement posted on

Creating Identities is still due to take place, without the Kenyan flag or Biennale logo, on the island of San Servolo, according to Italian media reports. The exhibition of one Kenyan artist, one Italian and 14 Chinese (five solo artists and the nine-person collective Double Fly Art Center) was organised by the same Italian commissioner and curator duo, Paola Paponi and Sandro Orlandi Stagl, responsible for the Kenyan pavilion at the 2013 Venice Biennale. That presentation, Reflective Nature, a New Primary Enchanting Sensitivity, showed the same Italian artist, the Kenya-based Armando Tanzini, along with two Kenyans and eight Chinese.

Meanwhile, Costa Rica’s pavilion was withdrawn from the international exhibition on 30 March after a plan to charge participating artists sparked controversy. Ileana Ordoñez Chacon, the commissioner of the pavilion, announced in a letter to the Biennale that the decision was due to “reasons beyond [the] control” of the Costa Rican embassy. Gregorio Rossi, the pavilion’s curator, confirmed media reports that the artists—around 50 in total, most of them from Italy—were asked to pay up to €5,000 each. He defended the “self-financing” model, saying: “Costa Rica did not finance its participation in the Biennale in any way”. Rossi plans to go ahead with the show at Palazzo Bollani during the biennial.

In its statement on the Costa Rican pavilion, the Biennale said it “does not in any way interfere with the organisational aspects of the participation of countries (the appointment of the commissioner and the curator, the curatorial project, the selection procedures for the artists, the choice of the venue, etc.), granting full autonomy to the participating country, as a matter of consolidated practice.”


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