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Yuri Albert: “I am not going to Shanghai because of censorship”

September 5, 2012

via ArtChronika and Yuri Albert’s facebook page


Artist Yuri Albert recently made public his refusal to participate in the 2012 Shanghai Biennale. He explained that the reason was that Chinese officials wanted to censor one of his works. The artist released a statement about this on his Facebook page on Monday, September 3rd.

The works of four Russian artists, including Albert, Anatoly Osmolovsky, Dmitry Gutov and Andrei Filippov, were to be exhibited in the Moscow Pavilion, curated by the Stella Art Foundation.  According to Yuri Albert, he was supposed to participate in the exhibition with two projects – “Self-portrait with eyes closed” (a description of a Van Gogh painting in Braille scipt) and ” Moscow Poll “(a voting booth with audience participation, for which he was awarded the Kandinsky Prize last year).

“A couple of weeks ago, the Chinese officials gave me an ultimatum to remove the first two questions from the installation [“Moscow Poll”‘]. I did not agree to their demands and refused to participate in the Biennale. These two questions were:

1) Would the fact that no Russian artists protested against the war with Georgia, cause you to change your attitude towards contemporary Russian art?

2) Does the strengthening of censorship and self-censorship affect the quality of contemporary Russian art? ” – declared  the artist.

In an interview with “ArtChronika” the artist added that the curators of the Biennale are well  aware of his decision.”As far as I know, they tried to change the decision of the Chinese officials, but did not manage to. I have no complaints about them, ” Albert said.

“The censorship did not come from the curators of the Biennale, but from the government officials, whose names are not known” – declared Nikolay Molok, the director of development  for the  Stella Art Foundation.  “We tried to convince the Chinese officials to change their minds,  explaining that Albert’s  work has been exhibited in Moscow and even received the Kandinsky Prize, but they were unwavering. Moreover, I learned that Yuri Albert is not the only victim, but that there were other artists who were censored in the Biennale. ”

Molok confirmed that Yuri Albert will not participate in the Shanghai Biennale this year. “He remained firm in his position not to take part in this event. We are very sorry that Yuri will not participate. “

He added: “We discussed the situation with the other participants in the exhibition – Anatoly Osmolovsky, Dmitry Gutov and Andrei Filippov – as well as with the management of the Stella Art Fundation and with Boris Groys, one of the curators of the Biennale. All felt that they needed to continue the project. ”

Nikolay Molok explained that the project will be complemented by other works of the remaining three members of the Moscow Pavilion. He also commented that if such a situation occurred in Europe or in Russia, probably, their position would be different.

The 9th Shanghai Biennale will take place from October 1st, 2012 to March 31st, 2013 at the new Shanghai Museum of Contemporary Art, which is located on the premises of the former  electric-station Nanshi on the Huangpu river.

The  curatorial team of the Biennale  this year includes Qiu Zhijie, professor at the School of Inter-media Art of China Art Academy, art critic, media theorist and philosopher Boris Groys, Jens Hoffmann, director of the Wattis Institute for Contemporary Art (San Francisco) and Johnson Chan guest professor of China Academy of Art in Hangzhou.

This year a system of separate city-pavilions was introduced in the Biennale structure, which was developed in collaboration with art institutions in the following cities Mumbai, Istanbul, Teheran, Hong-Kong, Taipei, London, Barcelona and Berlin.


Yuri Albert, from the project “Moscow Poll” (2009), courtesy of the Kandinsky Prize


Translation from original materials in Russian by Corina L. Apostol. 


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