In an attempt to find a wider audience for Russian art, Udo Kittelman has been appointed to curate the Russian Pavilion at the 55th Venice Biennale.

Commissioner Stella Kesaeva announced in October 2012 that German curator Udo Kittelmann has been appointed to head the Pavilion at the 55th Venice Biennale, the first non-Russian to curate the country’s exhibition at the international art event.

Udo Kittelmann, curator of the Russian Pavilion of the 55th Venice Biennale. Photo by David von Becker.

Udo Kittelmann, curator of the Russian Pavilion of the 55th Venice Biennale. Photo by David von Becker.

Discussing the appointment, Kesaeva said in the press release,

Udo Kittelmann is one of the most renowned curators in the art world and his appointment is an important and conscious step, reflecting our principal objective, which is to bring Russian art out of isolation and secure for it the attention that it deserves at the highest international level. I am very happy that Udo Kittelmann shares our view and has accepted the project.

Cross-cultural collaboration

Kittelmann was invited at the suggestion of Russia’s representative to the 55th Venice Biennale, Vadim Zakharov. He has collaborated with the artist since the 1990s. Talking about the artist’s participation in the 2013 biennale, Kittlemann said,

I greatly admire the contribution, which Vadim Zakharov has made to contemporary art. His work has a continuity of development and is marked by a unique outlook and independence of artistic thought. His constant role as thinker and protagonist of the Moscow Conceptualist movement from the end of the 1970s remains a hallmark of his work right up to the present.

A prolific career

Since 2008, Udo Kittelmann has been the Director of the Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin (the Berlin State Museums). In this role, he is responsible for Germany’s Old National Gallery, the New National Gallery and the Museum for Contemporary Art in Berlin, as well as several other museums.

Previously, Kittelmann was a freelance curator from 1987 to 1993, during which time he organised over a hundred exhibitions of contemporary art. In 2001, he was the commissioner of the German Pavilion of the Venice Biennale, and the exhibition went on to win the Golden Lion, the festival’s highest award.

Biennale innovation

The appointment marks another milestone in the increasingly experimental world of international biennales. In September 2012, Venice Biennale German Pavilion Curator Susanne Gaensheimer announced that Chinese artist Ai Weiwei will contribute to their pavilion. At the 2012 Shanghai Biennale, chief curator Qiu Zhijie decided to organise the festival according to city, breaking from the national participation model.


Related Topics: Russian artists, curatorial practice, biennales, art in Venice, globalisation of art

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By Brittney

Brittney is a writer, curator and contemporary art gallerist. Born in Singapore and based in New York City, Brittney maintains a deep interest in the contemporary art landscape of Southeast Asia. This is combined with an equally strong interest in contemporary art from the Asian diasporas, alongside the issues of identity, transmigration and global relations.

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