Norway’s Momentum Biennial Fires Curator, Artists Withdraw in Protest

July 3rd, 2021

The eleventh edition of Moss, Norway’s Momentum biennial opened last weekend without its curator, and without the support of a number of the artists originally scheduled to participate, The Art Newspaperreports. Organizers last month fired the event’s Paris-based curator, Théo-Mario Coppola, citing poor professional conduct on Coppola’s part that caused “irreparable damage” to the relationship between curator and team. Rather than hire a new curator, the organizers, under the leadership of director Dag Aak Sveinar, went ahead and presented the biennial Coppola had curated, titled “House of Commons” and comprising a reader, a website, and a series of events as well as a number of new commissions.

The decision to move ahead with the event sparked accusations of “predation and appropriation” from Coppola, who contended that they were subjected to unfair working conditions and insufficient instruction regarding technical and installation preparation, and thus encountered difficulty in coordinating international projects. At least seven participating artists withdrew or have demanded the withdrawal of their works, among them Italian multidisciplinary artist Marinella Senatore and Polish painter Karol Radziszweski, both of whom were commissioned to present new works there.

Senatore said that Momentum’s organizers ignored her emails and produced her installation without her approval. “Even when I requested my withdrawal, they persisted to show my work, even though I never signed a contract,” she said. “This is unacceptable.” Radziszweski also was surprised to learn that the organizers planned to display his work without his approval. “I’ve never experienced anything like this in my life,” he said. “A biennale removing a curator and proceeding to go ahead despite numerous requests to have my work removed.”

Besides Senatore and Radziszweski, Apparatus 22, Nina Canell, Camilo Godoy, Délio Jasse, and Maria Noujaim have asked to withdraw or put their work on hold until Coppola is reinstated. Momentum, however, appears to have gained momentum and is continuing apace. “We have an ethical and contractual obligation to the artist-practitioners and to our community to do so,” said the organizers in a statement. “We also have similar obligations towards our employees and collaborators.”