In early March of 2019, Kazakhstan was shaken by the news that the country’s announced participation in the Venice Biennale would not take place. The reason was simple. The Ministry of Culture had not allocated the budget for the event. As a result, Venice saw the virtual pavilion of Kazakhstan – an initiative by Ariapp and ARTMEKEN GALLERY
Art historian and curator of “Bad Jokes” Valeria Ibraevacommented on her participation in the “Wanted Pavilion: Bad Jokes”:
Both exhibitions (“Bad Jokes” in Almaty and Astana) were extensively covered by the press and there were almost no incidents, except for the threat from an unknown visitor to tear down the exhibition because of some artworks dedicated to the LGBT rights. Anyway, the Kazakhstani artistic community but also the world art circles were shocked by the brazen refusal of the Ministry of Culture to fulfill its obligations to finance the first pavilion of Kazakhstan. Curator Nadim Julien Samman was invited by the Ministry of Culture of Kazakhstan and had worked on the pavilion for half a year. The artistic community, which, for the first time in 25 years of independence, fostered hopes for the first national pavilion in Venice in 2019, was figuratively slapped in the face: all the agreements, negotiations, and assiduous preparation by four selected young artists, the Ministry suddenly announced its decision to cancel in mid-March, right before the press conference of the Venetian project in London. This bad joke of the state angered not only the local art community but also the general public and had wide international outreach. Therefore, now, at this Biennale in Venice, we are presenting the project “Wanted Pavilion: Bad Jokes” as a continuation of the artistic research by Kazakhstani artists looking into the situation with human rights of the artist and the curator in our blessed country. Artists are making jokes too. For now.
Gaukhar Satpayeva, co-founder of ARTMEKEN GALLERY spoke on Gallery’s motivation and the project’s technical realization:
It was very important for our young gallery to support the project financially and morally. At the Biennale in Venice, we plan to talk about Kazakhstani art, about our artists and, of course, about why we felt it necessary to promote the project “Wanted Pavilion: Bad Jokes”. As for the media, there will be T-shirts, postcards, and bags with QR-codes to download the app and learn the story. The word “Wanted” will be on all of them. Yes, we will be looking for the Kazakhstan pavilion, which was announced and badly needed, but never made it to this largest and most popular world forum for contemporary art.
You can explore the pavilion and listen to the curatorial audio commentary in the app. Or simply swipe through the images in the gallery below – each of them has the respective audio in English