The First Roma Pavilion Opens at the Venice Biennale

20 November 2007

The First Roma Pavilion at the Venice Contemporary Art Biennale opened on 7 June 2007 with the premiere of the exhibition Paradise Lost, featuring 16 Romani artists from 8 European countries. Amongst the guests at the opening were Ms Viktoria Mohacsi, MEP; Ms Dzamila Stehlikova, Minister of Human Rights and National Minorities in the Czech Republic; Dr Marta Schneider, Hungarian State Secretary in Charge of Culture; and George Soros, Chairman of the Open Society Institute.

With over 3,000 visitors in the first three weeks alone, the Pavilion enables contemporary Romani artists to present their work on a world stage. Its aim is to foster a positive sense of identity, stimulate self-confidence, and challenge negative stereotypes of Roma by broadening their image to include sophisticated contemporary art.

"Without a dedicated Roma Pavilion, it would be impossible to introduce Roma artists to the international scene, because they do not have access to the necessary infrastructure," said Timea Junghaus, the exhibition's curator, when responding comments if a separate space for Romani artists helps or hinders social inclusion. "To date no artist of Roma origin has been presented in the 110-year long history of the Venice Biennale," added Junghaus.

International policy makers welcomed the Pavilion: "The European Commission attaches great importance to protection and respect of minority rights, in particular of the Roma, who constitute the largest ethnic minority across the European Union [...] I wish you every success in this exciting project," said José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission.

Commissioned by the Open Society Institute, the Pavilion is cofunded by The Allianz Kulturstiftung and the European Cultural Foundation. Open until November 21, it hosted concerts, round tables and film projections.

Website: www.romapavilion.org

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