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Vatican cancels debut at 2011 Venice Biennale

Organisational delays postpone participation

01 December, 15:05
Vatican cancels debut at 2011 Venice Biennale (by Romina Spina).

(ANSA) -Vatican, December 1 - The Vatican has had to postpone its much-awaited debut at the 2011 Venice Biennale because of organisational delays, a member of the Pontifical Council for Culture said on Wednesday. Time-consuming application procedures have forced the Holy See to skip next year's edition of the prestigious contemporary art exhibition, Don Pasquale Jacobone told ANSA.

"We realised that bureaucratic procedures took quite some time. We would have risked presenting something that wasn't of a very high standard". In an attempt to re-establish links between art and religion, the head of the Pontifical Council for Culture, Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, last year officially launched the idea of the Vatican's participation to the 2011 Biennale.

Founded in 1895 and held every two years, the Biennale is the oldest and possibly best known international contemporary art event. Next to delays related to administrative procedures, the Vatican needed more time to consider an appropriate venue for its participation depending on the space the Biennale could offer, said Don Jacobone.

Initial proposals of hosting artists in a church have been dismissed as the Vatican intends to signal an opening towards the outside world. The Giardini della Biennale gardens, in the eastern area of Venice, have been the traditional venue for the exhibition.

The site includes permanent national pavilions, some of them designed by star architects, to host works on show. The selection of suitable artists to represent the Holy See at the Biennale was another important issue for the Vatican, explained Don Jacobone.

The Pontifical Council for Culture is keen to involve between five and ten leading contemporary artists from all over the world and has already contacted some of them, including the internationally acclaimed American video artist Bill Viola, a Buddhist. Artists chosen to represent the Vatican will not necessarily have to be believers, stressed Jacobone.

"What counts is that they are not against spirituality in the arts, that they are willing to commit to a project that also has a religious dimension to it", Don Jacobone told ANSA. The selection will also depend on the artists' availability and interest in working on the project.

One likely theme the Vatican will propose to them for the Biennale is a representation of the first 11 chapters of the Book of Genesis, said Don Jacobone. The head of the Vatican's culture department said in a recent interview that selecting representative artists was going to be difficult.

"I already know that we'll come under fire. Some will accuse us of giving credit to 'depraved' art and others will criticise our selection as being too 'religious'", Cardinal Ravasi told Catholic newspaper Avvenire.

The next Biennale will run from June 4 to November 22.

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