Open letter from the Artists of the 2017 Moscow Biennale

Moscow Biennale

As the controversies and outstanding bills from the 7th Moscow Biennale of Contemporary Art remain unresolved, we are publishing the open letter signed by a groups of participating artists.

Dear Partner of the 2019 Moscow Biennale,

We are artists who participated in the 2017 Moscow Biennale. We believe you can benefit from knowing about our experiences with the Biennale and its director, Ms. Julia Muzikantskaya.

The preparation for the exhibition was a disaster. Several of the works were severely compromised (in one case, an artist pulled their work from the opening), staff and technicians were subject to bullying and abuse, and artists struggled to deal with the extreme lack of organization. Installation often lasted through the night, without adequate equipment, staff, food or beverages.

We had signed contracts requiring us to deliver the work, which we did. These contracts also clearly stated the amount of payment for production costs and labor due to us. In September 2018, a year later, these amounts had not been paid.

In October 2018 we wrote a collective letter to Ms. Muizanazkaya. This was after a protracted period of failed individual negotiations. We had long fulfilled our obligations and all deadlines had lapsed. It had also come to our attention that many of the workers of the Biennale had not been paid.

Throughout, Julia maintained that she felt the Biennale had been held “hostage” due to an extreme budget shortfall created by a change of venue (in July 2017, which included a request to the artists to prolong the duration of the exhibition). We participants were not made aware of the extreme change in budget and capacity of the Biennale. We were however, implicated financially and personally without our consent. We know, in no uncertain terms, that the Biennale’s situation did not justify this or how we were treated.

Any exchange with Julia continues to be very distressing. Numerous excuses, threats (on at least one occasion to sue), and confrontational statements were made by Julia, including to the curator Yuko Hasegawa when she attempted to intervene. At present time, there are artists who have still not received payment. The few who have been paid (since the letter sent October 2018) write you in solidarity and as a testament to the duress caused. Beyond the incredibly grievous financial issues, Julia’s behaviour and abuse towards us and her staff are deeply inappropriate and can not be tolerated.

We strongly urge you to withdraw from participating in the Biennale. We would not wish our experience on any artist you may be considering to invite. We do not believe you would want to lend your support to a project, as long as Ms. Muzikantskaya as director, that has been and still is exploiting artists so shamelessly.

We remain at your disposal should you require further information or evidence.

With our sincerest thanks for reading,

Artists of the 2017 Moscow Biennale
(in alphabetical order)

Aurora Sander (Ellinor Aurora Aasgaard & Bror Sander Berg Størseth)
Cécile B. Evans
Bahar Behbahani
Revital Cohen & Tuur Van Balen
Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg
Joey Holder
Nile Koetting
Marie-Luce Nadal
Jammie Nicholas (technician)
Uriel Orlow
Laure Prouvost
Susan Schuppli
Sissel Tolaas
Ryan Trecartin

Valentin Fetisov (requested to be added as a signatory after the letter has been published)

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