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Russia's Commissioner for Venice Biennale Fired for Political Column

Published: April 10, 2014 (Issue # 1805)



  • Former commissioner Grigory Revzin designed the award-winning 2012 pavilion on the theme of Skolkovo.
    Photo: Nico Saieh / Flickr

Grigory Revzin, an architectural critic who had been selected to curate Russia's pavilion at the 2014 Venice Biennale of Architecture, announced Monday night that he had been fired by direct order from Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky.

"I just got a call from the Culture Ministry and was told that this morning Minister Medinsky personally decided to fire me," Revzin wrote on his Facebook page, adding that he believed the firing was due to a column he wrote for Lenta.ru on March 2 that criticized Russia's policy on Ukraine.

On Tuesday, the Culture Ministry announced that Semyon Mikhailovsky, head of the St. Petersburg State Academic Institute of Art had been appointed to replace Revzin. Mikhailovsky does have prior experience organizing exhibitions, though he has not yet worked on a project on the same magnitude as the Venice Biennale, a world-renowned forum for architecture that receives considerable media attention.

"Semyon Mikhailovsky will replace Grigory Revzin, whose very active creative and journalistic work has recently prevented him from fully participating in the project, preparations for which are proceeding at full speed," Deputy Culture Minister Yelena Milovzorova said, Interfax reported.

Revzin, a historian and architectural critic, was first appointed commissioner of the Russian pavilion in 2010, and in 2012 he presented the Skolkovo project, for which he was awarded the Venice Prize, the second-place award for the biennale.

Revzin's column on Lenta.ru expressed surprise at Putin's decision to intervene in Ukrainian internal affairs, saying that "sending the military into Ukraine is a risk, a card game: the adventurous Saakashvili might play this way, but Putin — what happened to him?"

The column further expressed a belief that any possible conflict in Ukraine would unite educated Russians against Putin. "War — this is a transformation of all Western-leaning citizens — that is, the absolute majority of successful, educated, self-sufficient city dwellers — into a fifth column," Revzin wrote.

However, Revzin's column is not wholly critical of Putin's actions, and in fact expresses a certain amount of sympathy with the president's position, describing attempts to portray Putin's government as a reincarnation of Stalin's Russia as "fake," noting the wide divide between "millions of repressed individuals [under Stalin] and the seven sentenced in the Bolotnoye Case."

Lenta.ru itself has been pressured by the government in recent weeks, with long-time head Galina Timchenko forced out and replaced by Alexei Goreslavsky, the reputedly pro-Kremlin former head of Vzglyad.ru, after receiving an official warning about possible "extremism" charges. Following the change in leadership, at least 39 of Lenta.ru's staff members, including 32 journalists and all of its photo editing staff, quit in support of Timchenko.

With only three months remaining until the opening of the biennale, the change in leadership comes at an inopportune time. With Revzin's strong track record in the two biennales he previously managed, Mikhailovsky will have big boots to fill as he gets up to speed on plans for the coming season.





 


ALL ABOUT TOWN

Friday, Oct. 31


Put your grammar and logical thinking to the test in a fun and friendly environment during the British Book Center’s Board Game Evening starting at 5 p.m. today. The event is free and all are welcome to attend.



Saturday, Nov. 1


The men and women who dedicate their lives to fitness get their chance to compete for the title of best body in Russia at today’s Grand Prix Fitness House PRO, the nation’s premier bodybuilding competition. Not only will men and women be competing for thousands of dollars in prizes and a trip to represent their nation at Mr. Olympia but sporting goods and nutritional supplements will also be available for sale. Learn more about the culture of the Indian subcontinent during Diwali, the annual festival of lights that will be celebrated in St. Petersburg this weekend at the Culture Palace on Tambovskaya Ul. For 100 rubles ($2.40), festival-goers listen to Indian music, try on traditional Indian outfits and sample dishes highlighting the culinary diversity of the billion-plus people in the South Asian superpower.



Sunday, Nov. 2


Check out the latest video and interactive games at the Gaming Festival at the Mayakovsky Library ending today. Meet with the developers of the popular and learn more about their work, or learn how to play one of their creations with the opportunity to ask the creators themselves about the exact rules.



Monday, Nov. 3


Non-athletes can get feed their need for competition without breaking a sweat at the Rock-Paper-Scissors tournament this evening at the Cube Bar at Lomonosova 1. Referees will judge the validity of each matchup award points to winners while the city’s elite fight for the chance to be called the best of the best. Those hoping to play must arrange a team beforehand and pay 200 rubles ($4.80) to enter.



Tuesday, Nov. 4


Attend the premiere of Canadian director Xavier Dolan’s latest film “Mommy” at the Avrora theater this evening. The fifth picture from the 25-year-old, it is the story of an unruly teenager but the most alluring (or unappealing) aspect is the way the film was shot: in a 1:1 format that is more reminiscent of Instagram videos than cinematic art. Tickets cost 400 rubles ($9.60) and snacks and drinks will be available.



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