Biennial Controversies News Australia

Five artists withdraw from Sydney biennial

Group says their participation in event linked to asylum seeker detention centres would have been “undeniable and indefensible”

Five artists have withdrawn from the Biennale of Sydney after event organisers refused to drop a key corporate sponsor that is involved in a controversial mandatory detention centre for asylum seekers. Libia Castro, Ólafur Ólafsson, Charlie Sofo, Gabrielle de Vietri and Ahmet Öğüt, who were among the 35 artists to sign an open letter to the biennale’s board asking it to end its relationship with Transfield Services, have announced that they are pulling their works from the exhibition. Transfield is contracted by the Australian government to provide security and support services on Manus and Nauru islands in Papua New Guinea, where those seeking asylum in Australia are detained. In a statement, the artists say, “we have revoked our works, cancelled our public events and relinquished our artists’ fees”, adding that they saw their participation in the Biennale as “an active link in a chain of associations that leads to the abuse of human rights. For us, this is undeniable and indefensible”. Two of the artists, Castro and Ólafsson, had proposed a work for the Biennale that would be produced in collaboration with a group of asylum seekers and The Refugee Art Project. All five artists plan to organise their own exhibitions instead of showing in the Biennale. “We act in solidarity with all those who are working towards a better future for asylum seekers. We hope that others will join us,” the artists write.

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1 Mar 14
16:30 CET


As an Australian citizen I am appalled by the Inhumane treating received by those seeking asylum in our country. I applaud the action of these five artists and hope others follow their example.

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