Venice Biennale: Israeli artist shuts down pavilion and calls for Gaza ceasefire

Ruth Patir refuses to open country's entry to fair until agreement is made and hostages released

A sign from the artists and curators at the Venice Biennale announces they won't open the Israeli pavilion. AP
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An Israeli artist and curators are refusing to take part in the Venice Biennale until a ceasefire is achieved in Gaza and an agreement is in place to release the remaining hostages.

The group of creatives representing the country announced the strike with a sign attached to the official Israel pavilion, which was due to open to the public on Saturday.

“The artist and curators of the Israeli pavilion will open the exhibition when a ceasefire and hostage release agreement is reached,” the sign reads.

Venice Biennale, which will begin this week and is set to run until November 24, is yet to release a statement.

"I hate it, but I think it’s important," Israeli artist Ruth Patir, who was due to showcase her work as part of the pavilion, told the New York Times. "[This is] so much bigger than me."

The move comes on the back of calls to exclude the Israeli national pavilion from the fair, including an online letter signed by more than 20,000 artists and cultural personalities, some of whom have previously participated at the Venice Biennale or are winners of the Turner Prize.

An exhibition featuring Palestinian artists, titled Foreigners Everywhere, will take place at the biennale curated by Adriano Pedrosa, artistic director of Brazil's Sao Paulo Museum of Art.

Through various national pavilions and events, the fair will explore identity, nationality, race and gender. Out of 331 artists invited to the biennial, more than 40 are Arab, hailing from countries such as UAE, Egypt, Lebanon, Iraq, Palestine and Sudan.

Their works will be shown across two sections of the biennial – the Nucleo Contemporaneo, featuring artists who are currently active, and the Nucleo Storico, featuring important artists from history. Of the six Arab pavilions present, five are solo exhibitions and one is a group show. Regional artists taking part include the UAE's Abdualla Al Saadi, Egypt's Wael Shawky and Lebanon's Mounira Al Solh.

Updated: April 16, 2024, 11:00 AM