The government of Azerbaijan has decided to remove a pair of statues it has deemed controversial from its pavilion in the Venice Biennale, a spokesperson for the artist announced today.
The two works, by the Moscow-based Aidan Salakhova, had been covered by cloth, with officials saying they’d been damaged in transport while they decided their ultimate fate. The statues in question are “Waiting Bride” (2010-2011), which features a woman with clasped hands wearing a full-length veil — lending an irony to the initial censorship — and “Black Stone” (2011), a vulva-like construction similar to a relic in Mecca by the same name.
“In my 25 years of curating profession, I have never experienced this kind of conflict,” said Azerbaijan pavilion advisory curator Beral Madra in a press release. “However, lately I am observing — probably most of my colleagues also do — the growing intrusion of the political and official power on contemporary art production and on the artists and curators in many countries, including the developed democracies.” At a recent opening at Lever House, The Observer recently overheard David LaChapelle complaining that his work had been banned from the Art HK art fair for obscenity, though that’s admittedly a little different.
According to the release, government officials had initially considered placing a plaque next to the works explaining that they did not support them, but ultimately seemed to have realized that this would amount to roughly the same thing. Contemporary art has recently become a pathway to the West for Azerbaijan, so this would seem to be a case of two steps backward.