BEIJING, China (A.W.)—The organizers of the Sixth Beijing International Art Biennale have temporarily shut down the Armenian pavilion after three men clad in suits reportedly attempted to destroy Armenian artwork on display.
According to the organizers of the Armenian pavilion, three Azerbaijani men posing as officials came to the pavilion and exhibited “aggressive behavior.” They’ve published published a picture of the alleged attackers on the official Facebook page of the exhibition. “Azerbaijani officials creating problems in the Armenian pavilion at Beijing International Biennale,” reads the Facebook post. The organizers later announced that the Armenian pavilion would remain closed on Sept. 24, “due to aggressive behavior experienced by certain visitors.”
According to the curator of the Armenian pavilion, Anna Gargarian, the men attempted to destroy artwork by Armenian artist Karen Mirzoyan, reported CivilNet. The Armenian Weekly reached out to Gargarian for comments; “For now I can say that our team and artworks are safe,” she said.
Armenia is one of five countries that participated in this year’s Biennale. The exhibition, titled “Dreamscapes” and sponsored by the Ministry of Culture of Armenia, explores the theme of “Memories and Dreams” through the metaphorical and physical landscape. “Through their different styles and media, the exhibiting artists explore their physical and internal landscapes to investigate questions of identity, belonging, and nationhood. The works question dichotomies of reality versus illusion, past versus present, and individual versus collective memory,” reads the description of the exhibition.
Eight artists from Armenia and the Armenian Diaspora are participating in the exhibition, including Mirzoyan (Armenia), Allen Sayegh (United States), Hrair Sarkissian (United Kingdom), and Mikayel Ohanjanyan (Italy).
According to the report by CivilNet, prior to the opening of the Armenian exhibition, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs had put pressure on the biennale organizers “to remove ‘sensitive words’ like ‘massacre, Armenian Genocide, and mass atrocities’ from both the catalogue of the biennale, and the exhibition itself.” The organizers were asked to change wall captions on two artworks in the Armenian pavilion, and to edit curator Anna Gargarian’s preface about the Armenian exhibition in the biennale catalogue.
The Beijing International Art Biennale was initiated in 2003. Since then, a total of 84 countries and more than 3,000 artists have participates, with over a million total visitors. “Through the conception of promoting the global harmony by the contemporary artistic exhibition and respecting the variety of the international culture and advice of equal conversation between the Orient and Occident culture, Beijing Biennale has obtained the approbation and the support from more and more artists across the world,” reads the official website.