Munch to the Venice Biennale 2013

Despite insufficient funding for a Norwegian section at the 55th Venice Biennale, yesterday Office for Contemporary Art Norway (OCA) announced that Edvard Munch will represent Norway next year.

Edvard Munch, The Murderer, Oil on canvas, 1910.
© Munch-museet/Munch-Ellingsen gruppen/ BONO, Oslo 2012

Office for Contemporary Art Norway (OCA) is a foundation that was created by the Norwegian Ministry of Culture and the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs for, among other things, being responsible for the Norwegian participation at the Venice Biennale. However the foundation have been struggling to find the necessary means within their budgets and has been seeking additional funding from the Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, so far without any luck.

Despite lack of funding for next year’s biennale, yesterday OCA announced that they will host an exhibition in Venice called ‘BEWARE OF THE HOLY WHORE: EDVARD MUNCH AND THE DILEMMA OF EMANCIPATION’. The exhibition will be presented in Fondazione Bevilacqua La Masa’s gallery by Piazza di San Marco. 2013 will be the 150 years anniversary for Munch’s birth.

Last year the partnership between Sweden, Finland and Norway, the three nations sharing the Nordic Pavilion in Venice, launched a new concept for the next three biennials. From a model where each country should be represented within the Nordic Pavilion, it is now one of the three countries at the time that selects and presents artists in the pavilion, which are located within Giardini and designed by Sverre Fehn. Last year Sweden exhibited in the Nordic pavilion, next year Finland will.

As a consequence of this division of the Nordic Pavilion, OCA decided for the 54th Venice Biennale to organise a program of lectures under the title ‘The State of Things’, a program with international intellectuals that ran consecutively throughout the span of the biennale, at different venues.

In addition OCA invited artist Bjarne Melgaard to teach at the Università Iuav di Venezia. Melgaard’s teaching programme was called ‘Beyond Death: Viral Discontents and Contemporary Notions about AIDS’ and preceded the opening of the biennale. OCA did not organize an exhibition for Melgaard, however Melgaard decided to exhibit together with his class in the exhibition Baton Sinister, financing it himself by selling some of his paintings.

After having notably set Norway on the art map with the collaboration between the Danish pavilion and the Nordic pavilion in 2009, when the artist duo Elmgreen & Dragset curated a double exhibition called The Collectors, the programme in 2011 received a lot of critique for not including an exhibition. One of the reasons why OCA decided to not organise an exhibition at the 54th Venice Biennale was the lack of finances, partly due to the fact that OCA had to find a venue to rent in Venice. Still, OCA had a severe budget overrun in 2009 and are still struggling to recover.

OCA had hoped for additional funding when the government budget for next year was revealed 8 October. But despite an increase in funding for visual arts, OCA received no increase in their budgets. For the 55th Venice Biennale, OCA has entered into collaboration with Fondazione Bevilacqua La Masa and they will show Edvard Munch in their gallery for free. However, OCA still lacks an estimated 2,5 to 3 Million Norwegian Kroner (335,500 to 402,500 Euros).

On KUNSTforum’s inquiry OCA’s Information and Web Manager could inform us that the funding for this project was not secure, and that the Ministry of Culture still hasn’t provided the additional funds they need to go through with the exhibition. Unfortunately the director of OCA, Martha Kuzma refused to answer KUNSTforum’s questions regarding the funding of the exhibition or the concept behind it.

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