Artists try to ban Israel from Venice Biennale art fair

Petition says Israel’s presence would amount to having a ‘genocide pavilion’


VENICE, ITALY - MAY 20: The tent of Majlis pavilion built for the 2021 Venice International Architecture Biennale (Photo by Simone Padovani/Awakening/Getty Images for Bolton&Quinn)

Thousands of artists have signed a letter demanding that Israel be excluded from the Venice Biennale art fair.

Over 17,000 signatories, including artists, curators and museum directors, have signed the petition calling for the Jewish state to be barred from the art festival, accusing Israel of “genocide” in Gaza.

Sometimes dubbed the “Olympics of the art world”, the Venice Biennale will open its 60th annual international art exhibition on 20 April.

Along with 28 other countries, Israel will have a national pavilion in the park where the art festival is held. The letter suggested that Israel’s presence would be a "Genocide Pavilion".

A group of anti-Israel activists who call themselves the Art Not Genocide Alliance (ANGA) published their letter on Monday which said: “Platforming art representing a state engaged in ongoing atrocities against Palestinians in Gaza is unacceptable.”

The petition alleged a “double standard,” as the fair previously excluded South Africa over its apartheid policy and banned Russia in the wake of the Kremlin's invasion of Ukraine.

“Any official representation of Israel on the international cultural stage is an endorsement of its policies and of the genocide in Gaza,” the petition states. “The Biennale is platforming a genocidal apartheid state.”

Israel will be represented by Ruth Patir at the fair, who will be curated by Mira Lapidot and Tamar Margalit.

After October 7, Patir and the curators told industry publication ARTnews: “There has to be a pocket for art, for free expression and creation, amidst everything that’s happening. This is the very thing that gives us hope these days. It’s also the very humanist values that we are fighting for; otherwise, we might as well contend that the extremists have won.”

But the ANGA signatories called the statement “simplistic.” They said: “Art does not happen in a vacuum.”

“While the Israeli pavilion presses ahead, the genocidal death toll in Gaza and the West Bank increases daily,” the petition read.

“While Israel’s curatorial team plans their ‘Fertility Pavilion’ reflecting on contemporary motherhood, Israel has murdered more than 12,000 children and destroyed access to reproductive care and medical facilities.”

Israel refutes claims of “genocide”.

The Venice Biennale art fair has been approached for comment.

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