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Israel artist says Venice Biennale pavilion won’t open until Gaza ceasefire

In News, World
April 16, 2024

An artist representing Israel at the international art fair calls for an immediate ceasefire in Israel’s war on Gaza.

The artist representing Israel at the Venice Biennale has announced her exhibit will not open until an agreement is reached for a ceasefire and the release of captives held in the Gaza Strip.

Ruth Patir’s video installation called (M)otherland was due to open on Saturday at Israel’s national pavilion at the international art show, but she said it would remain closed for now.

“The artist and curators of the Israeli pavilion will open the exhibition when a ceasefire and hostage release agreement is reached,” a sign placed on Tuesday in the window of Israel’s pavilion said.

Patir said on her website: “The decision by the artist and curators is not to cancel themselves nor the exhibition; rather, they choose to take a stance in solidarity with the families of the hostages and the large community in Israel who is calling for change.”

The biennale, scheduled from Saturday to November 24 in the northern Italian city of Venice, is regarded as one of the world’s most important presentations of contemporary art. Before its opening, representatives of the media were given a preview of the countries’ pavilions on Tuesday.

“If I am given such a remarkable stage, I want to make it count,” Patir said on Instagram. “I feel that the time for art is lost and I need to believe it will return.”

“I am an artist and educator, I firmly object to cultural boycott,” she continued. “But since I feel there are no right answer[s], and I can only do what I can with the space I have, I prefer to raise my voice with those I stand with in their scream, ceasefire now, bring the people back from captivity.”

Israel estimates that 129 captives seized during the Hamas-led attacks on Israel on October 7, including 34 people presumed dead, remain in Gaza.

After the attacks, Israel launched a war on Gaza that has killed at least 33,843 people and wounded 76,575, according to Palestinian authorities.

The Israeli assault has displaced more than 80 percent of Gaza’s 2.3 million people and reduced much of the territory to rubble. Aid agencies have warned of a looming famine in parts of the territory as Israel continues to impose severe restrictions on supplies of humanitarian aid.

Thousands of artists, curators and critics had signed an open letter opposing Israel’s participation at the event to protest against the war on Gaza. Those opposed to Israel’s presence also said they plan to protest at the biennale.

The Art Not Genocide Alliance, an international group of artists and cultural workers who are calling for the exclusion of Israel at the Venice Biennale, said it was “unacceptable” to present art from a state as it carries out atrocities against the Palestinians in Gaza.

Italy’s culture minister backed the participation of Israel, one of 88 nations to take part in the 60th edition of the art fair. It opened to the media amid unusually heightened security as Italian soldiers stood guard in front of Israel’s pavilion.

International politics is no stranger to the biennale. Russian artists withdrew their participation in 2022 to protest the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine, and the biennale said Russia did not request to participate in this year’s edition.

The festival also discouraged and then banned South Africa’s participation during apartheid.

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