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The case of the Ljubljana Graphic Arts Biennale (Slovenia)

October 16, 2014

This case was brought to our attention by curator Ruth Noack, who was invited to curate the Ljubljana Graphic Arts Biennale in the fall of 2013, by its director Nevenka Sivavec (also director of The International Centre of Graphic Arts in Ljubljana).

In the fall of 2013, I and my then partner Roger M.Buergel were invited to curate the Ljubljana Graphic Arts Biennale 2015 by Nevenka Sivavec. As he was not interested, I took up negotiations on my own and came to an agreement in March 2014. As time was so short, Nevenka and I agreed that we should start working on the Biennale and do the formal contract when the institution’s lawyer would be available. Upon this, I started to work seriously on the Biennale for two months, visiting Ljubljana twice, doing research, contacting experts, inviting and working with artists, talking to potential institutional partners. I also successfully raised funds from external sources.

Two months into this working process, the meeting with the lawyer was scheduled. We went through what I believed to be the normal first steps: Nevenka informed me that the budget had been cut substantially and I informed them that I wanted to pay my tax in my home country. A point of contention was that I refused to sign a contract which would state the number of artists to be invited, which the institution wanted me to do.

We parted without any indication that anything was seriously amiss; but few days later, I received an email that plainly stated that Nevenka had decided not to continue our working relationship.

Up to this day, I have not been given a reason for this decision, not been reimbursed for my work and not had my personal effects returned to me.

Ruth Noack (curator documenta 12, 2007)

In an email dated May 26th, 2014, Sivavec informed Noack that she simply decided “not to work with you,” without giving any explanation. In another email dated May 28th, the director promissed Noack that she would be reimbursed for costs, in the very modest amount of 500EUR for her “engagement,” a fee which Noack claims that she never received, nor did she receive her personal effects back. Meanwhile, Noack had turned down several projects because of the biennale appointment. Sivavec did not answer ArtLeaks request to comment on this case. 

According to a recent announcement, Nicola Lees has now been appointed to curate the biennale, which is set to open in August 2015. 

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