Israel will not participate in 2025 Venice Architecture Biennale


Israel has reportedly decided not to participate in next year’s Venice Architecture Biennale amid growing international criticism of the war in Gaza.

Officials at the culture ministry in Israel have stated that the country will not take part in the 2025 Venice Architecture Biennale “in order to renovate its pavilion”, according to reporting in Israeli newspaper Haaretz.

According to the newspaper, an alternative location will not be used due to “budget constraints imposed by the war” and because the culture ministry “started looking too late”.

The biennale and Israeli culture ministry did not respond to a request for comment before publication.

First major event Israel not participating in

The decision comes amid widespread international condemnation of Israel’s latest assault on Gaza, which it launched after Hamas militants killed 1,200 people and took 250 hostages in an attack on Israel on 7 October 2023. At least 36,000 Palestinians, including 15,000 children, have been killed by Israeli forces in the eight months since.

The United Nations’ (UN) top court, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) is currently hearing a case brought by South Africa that alleges that Israel’s assault amounts to genocide, while a UN human rights expert recently stated that there are “reasonable grounds” to believe that Israel is committing genocide against Palestinians.

This is the first major international event that Israel has chosen not to participate in since it started its assault on Gaza. It follows controversy around Israel’s participation at this year’s Venice Art Biennale, which is currently taking place.

Israel pavilion closed at art biennale

A campaign signed by more than 23,000 creatives called for the deplatforming of Israel’s exhibition, which is housed in the same pavilion where its contribution to the architecture biennale is normally located.

Artist Ruth Patir, who curated the pavilion, then announced on the preview day that the artists and curators would not open the installation until “a cease-fire and hostage release agreement is reached”.

Israel has a permanent pavilion at the Giardini della Biennale in Venice, which was designed by Zeev Rechter and opened in 1952. By choosing not to participate next year, it joins Russia, which also has a permanent pavilion at the Giardini but has not exhibited since it invaded Ukraine in 2022.

As Palestine is not recognised as a nation by Italy it does not have a permanent pavilion at the biennale. In 2002 the artistic director of the 50th Venice Biennale Francesco Bonami proposed creating a permanent Palestinian pavilion at the event.

“I saw Venice as a platform to not only open up a discussion on Palestine, but also to see what could come out of such a proposition,” Bonami told the Economist in 2009. However, this was rejected due to  the event’s state funding.

Of the 192 United Nations member states 144 recognise Palestine as an independent state, with several European countries including Slovenia, Spain, Ireland and Norway recognising Palestine in the past couple of weeks.

The photo is by Francesco Allegretto.

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