The Organizers of Ukraine’s Venice Biennale Pavilion Say They May Not Be Able to Stage the Event ‘Due to the Danger to Our Lives’

Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the curators of the Ukrainian pavilion at the upcoming Venice Biennale have temporarily suspended preparations for the exhibition, which was set to feature work by Ukrainian artist Pavlo Makov.

“We are not in immediate danger, but the situation is critical and changes every minute. Presently, we are not able to continue working on the project of the pavilion due to the danger to our lives,” wrote Makov and curators Lizaveta German, Maira Lanko, and Borys Filonenko in a statement published on Instagram.

“We can not confirm yet that our project will be completed, but we can promise that we will do everything possible to save unique artwork produced by Pavlo Makov and our big team specially for the upcoming biennial during the past five months, and to represent Ukraine in the international contemporary art scene the way it deserves to be represented,” the statement continued.

The project was set to recreate The Fountain of Exhaustion, a 1995 sculptural installation by the artist featuring water spilling through rows of bronze funnels hung on the wall. The piece was on track to be shipped to Italy just two weeks from now—but that was before the invasion. Flights out of Ukraine are now grounded.

A 3D rendering of Pavlo Makov’s Fountain of Exhaustion. Courtesy the artist.

Makov, who lives in Kharkiv, spoke with Artnet News this morning while sheltering with his family as bombs fell on the city. All three curators live in Kyiv, the Ukrainian capitol, where airstrikes began before dawn. Additional team members for the nation’s pavilion live in Lviv, in western Ukraine.

The Russian invasion follows month of escalating tensions between the two eastern European countries. Russia last took military action in the Ukraine following the 2014 revolution that ousted president Viktor Yanukovych by annexing the Crimean region.

At the 2015 Venice Biennale, a group of activists called On Vacation from, the Izolyatsia Center for Cultural Initiatives in Donetsk, which was seized during a separatist occupation, criticized Russian military presence in Ukraine by handing out camouflaged army jackets and raffling off a trip to Ukraine. The action mocked remarks by separatists leaders that Russian soldiers in uniforms were actually visiting tourists.

Many in the Ukrainian art world are hoping the global art community will speak out against Russia in the wake of the outbreak of war.

“We call for the international artistic community to use all our impact in order to stop the Russian invasion of Ukraine,” the pavilion curators wrote. “Guns may hurt our bodies, but culture changes our minds.”

Read the full statement below.

Dear friends, colleagues and art community.

The curators of the pavilion as well as the artist Pavlo Makov have received many incoming inquiries from the press and colleagues. We would like to address some of the inquiries on our behalf and clarify the situation.

The following does not represent the position and intentions of the Ministry of Culture and Information Policy of Ukraine, but a personal stand of the team behind the pavilion.

Ukraine has been invaded. The Russian Federation attacked a peaceful independent nation of Ukraine. Our lives, the lives of our beloved ones as well as everything we stand for—peace, freedom, democracy, culture—have been endangered.

Our team is scattered all around Ukraine: Kharkiv, Kyiv and Lviv. We also have a team member outside of Ukraine.

At the moment this statement has been published, we are not in immediate danger, but the situation is critical and changes every minute. Presently, we are not able to continue working on the project of the pavilion due to the danger to our lives.

All the international flights from and to Ukraine are canceled. Traveling around the country is risky.

We are determined to represent Ukraine at the 59th Art Exhibition, La Biennale di Venezia, but not everything depends on us. If the situation changes, and it is safe to continue our work and travel, we will be in Venice. We can not confirm yet that our project will be completed, but we can promise that we will do everything possible to save unique artwork produced by Pavlo Makov and our big team specially for the upcoming biennial during the past 5 months, and to represent Ukraine in the international contemporary art scene the way it deserves to be represented.

We call for the international artistic community to use all our impact in order to stop the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Guns may hurt our bodies, but culture changes our minds. This war is a clash of civilizations—a free and civilized world is attacked by the barbarian and aggressive one. If we continue being passive observers of the situation, we will lose everything we work for and all the heritage of our predecessors—art, love, freedom of expression and the ability to create.

Stand with Ukraine in this challenging time.

With hope,
Pavlo Makov
Lizaveta German
Maira Lanko
Borys Filonenko

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The Organizers of Ukraine’s Venice Biennale Pavilion Say They May Not Be Able to Stage the Event ‘Due to the Danger to Our Lives’

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