German President Pulls Funding from Putin-Backed ‘Diversity United’ Show

Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the President of Germany, will reportedly no longer provide funding to the traveling “Diversity United” exhibition, whose current Moscow iteration also received funds from Russian President Vladimir Putin, amid Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. The German press agency dpa reported that the show would also no longer travel to Paris as had been initially planned.

“Diversity United” originally featured around 90 artists from countries throughout the European Union. The survey seeks to show how the “artistic face of Europe is complex, diverse and permanently in flux.”

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Since the exhibition first opened in 2021 at a new exhibition space in Berlin’s now-defunct Tempelhof Airport, “Diversity United” has come under fire from artists included in the show. More than a dozen artists, including Yael Bartana, Mona Hatoum, and Ahmet Öğüt, have pulled out of the show following protests over its curator, Walter Smerling, who also runs a space called the Kunsthalle Berlin at the airport. The Kunsthalle Berlin has also been the subject of suspicion because of its funding, with some artists alleging that the space represents one attempt to use private funding to “hollow out” the city’s art scene.

In an open letter issued earlier this month, artists Hito Steyerl and Clemens von Wedemeyer and writer Jörg Heiser called “Diversity United” a “failed cultural support program for the cultivation of economic relations within an expanded network around Nord Stream 2—the Baltic Sea offshore pipeline project.”

The Russian iteration of “Diversity United” now on view at the State Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow received funding from Putin, Steinmeier, and French President Emmanuel Macron. According to dpa, Smerling made attempts to pull the plug on the Moscow version of “Diversity United” following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but he was unable to close the show early. The show will close in Moscow on March 13.


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