Curators pull out of Tel Aviv art biennial over Gaza war protest

By Liora Kaplan

Two international curators who were to participate in the planning of ArtTLV, an art biennial taking place in Israel in September, have pulled out of the project after their Israeli counterparts refused to publish articles condemning Israel’s Operation Cast Lead in Gaza and to arrange a symposium on art and war.

The two curators, Viktor Misiano from Russia, and Zdenka Badovinac from Slovenia, had visited Israel prior to the three-week-long operation in Gaza, which began in December 2008.

After the pair pulled out, the curatorial responsibilities were transferred to veteran Israeli curator Edna Moshenson and her colleague Maayan Sheleff.

One of the event organizers, Irit Sommer of Sommer Contemporary Art gallery in Tel Aviv, said the idea for an international collaboration came up in the initial planning stages. But she said this week that she understands Misiano and Badovinac’s decision.

“We decided to invite international curators to participate in the project, but when they arrived war broke between us and they decided they weren’t able to curate an exhibition under the conditions we set. Despite it we’re still on good terms. We have even expressed some interest in an alternative project they’ve suggested with Israeli artists aimed to serve as a platform for public appeal with anti-war references. The idea is great but we currently lack the finances to back it. We’ve invited them to attend the September opening at our expense and I hope they will.”

The project manager, Medi Shavid, said that an international biennial doesn’t require international curators, as it’s enough to display art from around the world.

“It was our decision to terminate the collaboration due to their conditions,” said Shavid. “We chose not to go through with it, and also realized that their budget demands were beyond our means. So we rolled up our sleeves and created an excellent international exhibition by ourselves.”

“It’s a tremendous opportunity to be able to team up with international curators and I hope next year our budget will enable us to expand the project,” said Edna Moshenson, the Art TLV curator. “This year the exhibition is collaboration between foreign and Israeli artists.”

Viktor Misiano and Zdenka Badovinac are unavailable to respond.

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