Plans to mount Kazakhstan’s first-ever national pavilion as part of this year’s Venice Biennale have been delayed due to the ongoing war in Ukraine.
The exhibition was to mark the first time that the Central Asian country and the former Soviet Republic would independently participate in the Biennale. When first announced in February, the news was seen as a potential step for the country to invest more in its cultural program despite political unrest. The nation is still reeling from mass protests over rising fuel prices that have led to escalating police and violence in cities across Kazakhstan.
Today, the ongoing conflict in Ukraine has caused various logistical hurdles that have interrupted the exhibition, with the artwork and materials needed to install the pavilion currently stuck in transit after being rerouted midway through the exhibition. Russian invasion of Ukraine, according to a report by the art diary.
Therefore, some works scheduled to be presented at the Kazakhstan pavilion, located at Spazio Arco in Dorsoduro, will be absent from the physical space of Venice. The pavilion will however remain open to visitors to the Biennale during the openings this week. It is now expected to be fully assembled by May 17.
Plans for the national pavilion have been scaled back before. In 2019, organizers representing the country attempted to bring a government-backed exhibition to the world stage during the Biennale, but it was abruptly cancelled. The show’s curators were fired just two months before the opening due to a lack of funding, amid allegations of government corruption.
Meruyert Kaliyeva, curator of this year’s pavilion and founder of a gallery based in Almaty, the country’s cultural hub, led this year’s edition without government support. It was a strategic move, Kaliyeva said previously, to avoid any backlash caused by the government’s involvement in the expo’s plans. The pavilion is instead supported by several private charities, including the Saby Charitable Foundation, the Nurlan Smagulov Foundation, and the Marusya Assaubayeva Foundation.
The pavilion will feature works by ORTA, an artist collective established in 2015 whose members include Kazakh artists Alexandra Morozova, Rustem Begenov, Darya Jumelya, Alexandr Bakanov and Sabina Kuangaliyeva. Titled “LAI-PI-CHU-PLEE-LAPA Center for the New Genius,” the showcase is dedicated to the legacy of Sergey Kalmykov, an obscure Russian painter active in the first half of the 20th century.
In a joint statement with ORTA, Kuangaliyeva said that while they were “incredibly disappointed” with the delays that cut short the show’s initial opening, they are “minor” compared to the escalation of violence in Ukraine that has killed dozens of civilians and decimated numerous public forums.