Iris de Groot, Eelco van der Lingen, Maria Arusoo and Taaniel Raudsepp. Photo by Joosep Kivimäe.

On November 17, 2021, the Dutch Rietveld pavilion was officially handed over to Estonia for the upcoming edition of the Venice Art Biennale, taking place from 23 April to 27 November 2022. To mark this moment, a maquette of the Rietveld Pavilion was handed over from Eelco van der Lingen, Director of the Mondriaan Fund (commissioner of the Dutch entry) to Maria Arusoo, Director of the Estonian Centre for Contemporary Art (commissioner of the Estonian entry).

Representing the Netherlands for the first time since 1954 not in the Rietveld Pavilion, but in the ‘Chiesetta della Misericordia of Art Events’ in the Cannaregio neighbourhood, the Dutch entry marks a break with a long-held tradition. With the Dutch pavilion empty, the Mondriaan Fund has offered its location in the Giardini to Estonia for the 2022 edition, in order to welcome young nations to the centre of the Biennale. Estonia has been exhibiting at the Venice Biennale since 1997. However, due to the fact that no new pavilions can be built in the Giardini, young nations cannot normally gain access.

The handover ceremony started with a panel discussion titled ‘Who’s representing whom at the Venice Biennale?’, exploring why this exchange between the Netherlands and Estonia is taking place and how it might impact our ideas about the biennale and the pavilion system. The discussion, moderated by Nadia Beard, Editor of The Calvert Journal, included: Hendrik Folkerts, curator of International Contemporary Art at Moderna Museet; Kati Ilves, Artistic Director of the European Capital of Culture Tartu 2024; Eelco van der Lingen, Director of the Mondriaan Fund; and Maria Arusoo, Director of the Estonian Centre for Contemporary Art (CCA).

Eelco van der Lingen, Director of the Mondriaan Fund, said: “The one-time transfer of the pavilion shows our appreciation for Estonia in the field of the visual arts, while at the same time giving the Netherlands the opportunity to step out of our comfort zone and see what freedom it gives us when we step outside the walls of the pavilion. Moreover, it’s also a wonderful opportunity to bring the art worlds of the two countries into closer contact with each other.”

Maria Arusoo, Director of the Estonian Centre for Contemporary Art (CCA), said: “This invitation of cultural exchange made by the Mondriaan Fund feels like a genuine acknowledgement of Estonia’s cultural achievements during the last twelve of national representation at Venice. It is the perfect moment to celebrate the accomplishments of the local talent that we have, to date, been able to share on the biennale’s international stage. One of our central aims as an organisation is to build lasting relationships with our collaborators – we very much intend for this exchange between Estonia and The Netherlands to continue beyond Venice, and for many years to come.”

The handover ceremony was attended by Taaniel Raudsepp, a representative from the Ministry of Culture of Estonia, and the Deputy Ambassador of the Netherlands in Estonia, Iris de Groot. The Minister of Culture of the Republic of Estonia, Tiit Terik, shared some words from afar in support of the initiative: “I thank the Netherlands with all my heart. This honour bestowed upon us, the first of its kind in the history of the Venice Biennale, testifies to the fact that our artists and art organizers have stood out internationally with their originality and professionalism. We have once again proved that with culture we can make a small country bigger in the world.”

Speaking at the event, Iris de Groot, Deputy Ambassador of the Netherlands in Estonia, said: “In recent years, the Estonian entries in Venice have been some of the most interesting and innovative. Innovation is essential for the cultural sector, and certainly for an event like the Biennale. We are confident that Estonia will be very successful in exploiting the potential of the Rietveld Pavilion. This collaboration between Estonia and the Netherlands makes the 59th edition of the Biennale a very special one.”

Part of the handover ceremony was a performance of ‘Flying Estman’ by multidisciplinary artist Jüri Ojaver, who represented Estonia at the 1999 Venice Biennale. The event is part of a wider visitors’ programme in Tallinn inviting a delegation of Dutch art professionals and press to discover the best art and culture on offer in the Estonian capital. A group of Estonian art professionals and press will make a reciprocal trip to the Netherlands to explore contemporary art exhibitions in Amsterdam, Rotterdam and The Hague. The visitors’ programmes were co-organised by the Mondriaan Fund and the Centre for Contemporary Art (CCA) with the aim of strengthening cultural ties between the Netherlands and Estonia and providing a springboard for possible collaboration and exchange in the future.

Further details of the Dutch and Estonian entries for the Venice Art Biennale in 2022 will be announced in December 2021.

About the Estonian pavilion
For the 59th Venice Biennale, Estonia presents a project by Kristina Norman and Bita Razavi titled “Orchidelirium: An Appetite for Abundance“ (curated by Corina L. Apostol), inspired by Emily Rosaly Saal ‘s (1871-1954) watercolours and paintings of tropical plants. In the exhibition, the artists combine historic and new artworks to propose a multifaceted view on colonial history and its problematics.

Estonia has participated in the biennale since 1997 with pavilions at various locations in the city of Venice. For the upcoming biennale, the Mondrian Fund has invited Estonia to exhibit as guests in their historical Rietveld pavilion in the middle of the Giardini. Estonia’s participation in the Venice Biennale is commissioned by the Estonian Centre for Contemporary Art and funded by the Estonian Ministry of Culture.

About the Dutch pavilion
For the 59th Venice Biennale, The Netherlands presents an exhibition by artist Melanie Bonajo, curated by Orlando Maaike Gouwenberg, Geir Haraldseth and Soraya Pol. Bonajo will produce a new film and publication in an immersive setting. Quoting from the plan for the project: ‘In Venice, Melanie Bonajo (they/them) takes charge of the body and hauls it up out of the claws of capitalism… they challenge you to recognize and explore the body anew, as a means of connection, intimacy, touch and safety. You are swept along in adventures that stimulate all the senses: feeling is a form of intelligence, thinking through touch.’

The Dutch pavilion is commissioned and funded by the Mondriaan Fund. For the upcoming edition, the Mondriaan Fund decided to break with tradition and present the Dutch entry at a new location, the Chiesetta della Misericordia of Art Events, a deconsecrated 13th-century church, in the Cannaregio neighbourhood. The Mondriaan Fund has meanwhile invited Estonia to make use of the Rietveld Pavilion for the 2022 Venice Biennale.

About Estonian Centre for Contemporary Arts (CCA)
Estonian Centre for Contemporary Art (CCA) is the oldest centre of expertise for contemporary art in Estonia. Creating opportunities and collaborations for Estonian artists and the Estonian art scene since 1992, CCA is also the commissioning organisation of the Estonian pavilion at the Venice Biennale since 1999. CCA is one of the main facilitators of international collaborations in the Estonian art scene through connecting artists, curators, critics and institutions. CCA also curates and organises exhibitions and other art events and publishes Estonian art news for our international network. CCA is a non-profit non-governmental organisation that is mostly supported by public resources. The main funder of CCA is the Estonian Ministry of Culture.

About the Mondriaan Fund
The Mondriaan Fund is the public fund for visual art and cultural heritage in the Netherlands. It enables plans, projects and programmes of artists, exhibition makers and critics, museums and other art and heritage institutions, and publishers and commissioners. The Mondriaan Fund is responsible for commissioning the Dutch entry to the Venice Biennale. The presentation is financed from the international budget, which the fund receives from the Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and Science.

Notes to editors

For more information about the Mondriaan Funds and the Dutch entry for 2022, please contact Esther Schussler: / +31 (0) 6 21 84 27 49 and / +44 (0) 7914 817 795.

For information about CCA and the Estonian entry for 2022, please contact Kaarin Kivirähk: / +372 5394 7169 and Alexia Menikou: /  +44 (0) 7958 454 111.

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