In less than a week since the war between Russia and Ukraine began, the impact on the art world has been both tangible and profound.
On Sunday, artists from the Russian pavilion at the upcoming Venice Biennale announced their decision to drop out from the event. Artists Alexandra Sukhareva and Kirill Savchenkov wrote a joint social media post, announcing their decision to not participate in the coveted event. They further explained that “there is no place for art when civilians are dying under the fire of missiles when citizens of Ukraine are hiding in shelters when Russian protesters are getting silenced.” Meanwhile, the organizers of the pavilion showed no interest in announcing replacements, suggesting that Russia will not have a pavilion at the Venice Biennale this April.
Meanwhile, the Garage Museum of Contemporary art in Moscow announced that it will not hold any exhibitions while the war wages on. The museum had already booked numerous artists for exhibitions beginning from March 16 – all of which would be cancelled or indefinitely postponed. Around the same time, Icelandic artist Ragnar Kjartansson closed his exhibitions about two weeks earlier at the GES-2 Museum in Moscow in view of the waging war.
The situation within Ukraine has been critical for everyone – artists included. Earlier this year, artists representing Ukraine’s pavilion at the Venice Biennale expressed their hopes to still participate in the event. However, the escalating conflict has made this unlikely. In the ensuing missile attacks, concerns have been raised about artworks and cultural heritages getting destroyed in the conflict. The New York Times had reported that the US Army was working on a Monuments Men-style team of experts to protect these artefacts, but progress has been slow thus far.