Magazine article Art Monthly

Biennale Boycott

Magazine article Art Monthly

Biennale Boycott

Article excerpt

The chair of the Sydney Biennale, Luca Belgiorno-Nettis, has resigned from the post he has held for 14 years following protests and boycotts by artists selected for this year's exhibition. The imbroglio has bubbled up over the fact that the Biennale's major sponsor is Transfield Holdings, a construction conglomerate that is also a major shareholder in the controversial spin-off service company Transfield Services, which has just won a billion-dollar government contract to run the notorious Manus Island offshore detention centre in Papua New Guinea. This centre, in which 23-year-old Iranian asylum-seeker Reza Berati died during a riot in mid February, is a key infrastructure component of Australia's polarising policy of mandatory detention for all those people - men, women and children -who enter the country without a valid visa.

Soon after Berati's death, five artists wrote a statement in which they declared their withdrawal from the exhibition. A week later, four more artists joined the protest, and this pressure eventually compelled the Biennale's chair to resign. But why should his departure calm the situation? As well as his role at the Biennale, Bclgiorno-Nettis is also the director of Transfield Holdings (his father, Franco Belgiorno-Nettis, founded Transfield in 1956 and was also instrumental in setting up the Sydney Biennale in 1973). As a result of the resignation, the Biennale has been able to drop the controversial sponsorship from Transfield. …

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