tage curtains are closing, art exhibitions are being halted and performers are being replaced. Over the past week, major cultural players worldwide — including some within Russia — have reacted to the invasion of Ukraine by canceling shows and applying pressure to the country’s art institutions. So far, more than 500,000 refugees have fled Ukraine as the Kremlin continues its assault on the country’s most populated cities, including the capital, Kyiv.
While much of the focus has turned to sanctions meant to cripple Russia’s economy, the country’s cultural influence is also being curtailed. Russia will no longer be represented at major international events like the Venice Biennale and the televised music competition, Eurovision. Artists and performers, from Iggy Pop to Franz Ferdinand, are also canceling shows in the country, while those who have expressed support for President Vladmir Putin are being shunned. In Germany, the Russian chief conductor of the Munich Philharmonic, Valery Gergiev, was fired for his refusal to condemn the war or Putin, with whom he has close ties, according to a statement from Munich’s mayor Dieter Reiter.
Cultural institutions are also under growing pressure to cut ties with Russian oligarchs. British parliamentarian Chris Bryant has called on UK gallery group Tate to revoke the honorary member status of Russian billionaire and Putin associate Viktor Vekselberg, as reported by the Guardian, though a spokesperson for the Tate told CNN that he donated seven years earlier and “there is no ongoing connection,” adding that there are “no UK sanctions on any of Tate’s supporters.”
Ukraine’s minister of culture, Oleksandr Tkachenko, has joined a group of Ukrainian artists, gallery owners, actors, musicians and film directors in demanding stronger, sweeping cultural sanctions. They have signed a petition calling on international institutions to cancel cultural partnerships with the Russian Federation, sever relationships with Russian nationals sitting on advisory boards and ban Russian participation in major art events, including Art Basel and the Cannes Film Festival.
“The Russian Federation is a rogue state,” reads the petition. “Russian culture, when used as propaganda, is toxic! Don’t be an accomplice!”
But some are cautioning against culturally isolating all Russians over the war. Raimonds Malašauskas, who was set to curate the Russian pavilion at April’s Venice Biennale, pulled out of the event, but said he doesn’t want the art world to turn its back on Russian artists.
“I explicitly oppose the current assault and subjugation commanded by Russia. I also believe that people from Russia should not be bullied or cast away solely due to their country’s oppressive policies and actions,” he said in a statement on his website. “I want to avoid flat-falling divisions, and instead advocate for multi-leveled forms of solidarity where there are international forums for art and artists from Russia to express the freedom that they can’t express at home.”
Below are some of the ways that artists, cultural organizations and institutions are reacting to the war in Ukraine.