When architecture and politics don’t mix
The commissioner of the Russian pavilion at this year’s Venice Architecture Biennale has been fired for his vocal criticism of President Putin
By Sophia Kishkovsky. Web only
Published online: 09 April 2014
Grigory Revzin, a respected architecture critic, has been fired as the commissioner of the Russian pavilion at the 2014 Venice Architecture Biennale (7 June-23 November). Writing on Facebook on Monday, Revzin speculated that the cause was his vocal criticism of Russia’s annexation of Crimea. In a statement posted on its website, the culture ministry said on Tuesday that he was fired due to his “extremely active” public positions.
Revzin wrote an essay last month for the online newspaper Lenta.ru in which he said the Russian president has dropped any pretence of playing to liberal values. “He pretended he is like Stalin, he said that he is going to rub them out—now he has to do it for real,” Revzin said of the president’s actions in Ukraine. He also criticised the Russian military’s incursion into Crimea in blog posts for the radio station Echo of Moscow.
“The Ministry of Culture has just called to tell me that this morning the minister, [Vladimir] Medinsky, personally made the decision to fire me as commissar,” Revzin posted on Facebook on Monday. He has twice previously commissioned the Russian pavilion, including for the last edition in 2012, when the installation i-city received a special mention from the architecture biennale’s prize jury. Revzin says he thinks he was fired because he has “no business writing about Crimea”.
In the ministry’s statement, the deputy culture minister Yelena Milovzorova said that Revzin was axed because “his extremely active creative and journalistic activity does not allow for his full-fledged participation in the project”.
Revzin has been replaced as commissioner, the ministry added, by Semyon Mikhailovsky, the rector of the I.E. Repin State Academic Institute of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture. Mikhailovsky is one of many museum directors and cultural figures who signed a letter in support of Putin’s policy on Ukraine last month. He also worked with the Russian parliament to organise an exhibition of landscape paintings by the academy’s students in Crimea during the referendum that would lead to the region’s annexation by Russia. “This exhibition is a testament to support the Crimean people in their choice of a common future,” a description on the academy’s website stated.
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