Russia Warns Venice Architecture Biennale About Anti-Russian “Provocations”

Sophia Kishkovsky of the Art Newspaper writes that Vladimir Aristarkhov, Russia’s deputy culture minister, recently issued a warning about anti-Russian “provocations” that could erupt at the Venice Architecture Biennale. Relations between the West and Russia have been steadily deteriorating for quite some time. “As the Venice Biennale is one of the biggest and most important venues in the sphere of international cultural exchange, we must be vigilant,” said Aristarkhov. “The Skripal case proves that [other countries] will stop at nothing—any provocation, so long as it is anti-Russian.” The case Aristarkhov referred to involved the poisoning of Sergei Skirpal, a former Russian spy, and his daughter, Yulia, in the UK last March. Russia blames the UK for the incident, while the UK believes the Russians were responsible.

This year’s Russian pavilion, called “Station Russia,” will focus on the history of the country’s railways. It will even include a recreation of a nineteenth-century train station and its gardens, based on a station in Pavlovsk, a municipal town close to Saint Petersburg.

Semyon Mikhailovsky, the commissioner of the Russian pavilion, says that the country’s entry to the biennial is not under Russia’s control. “We don’t have censorship. We don’t even present the project to the ministry of culture,” he said. Mikhailovsky was hired in 2016 to oversee the pavilion until 2021. He went on to state that the only “common enemy” of all of the biennial’s participants is the city’s contractors, as Venice is “very expensive” and “everything is done chaotically.”

The majority of funding provided for Russia’s entry to this year’s biennial is coming from Russian Railways, a state corporation. Russia has provided almost no financial support to the pavilion for years.