Dutch Pavilion La Biennale di Venezia officially opened

The Dutch Pavilion at the 60th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia was officially opened today by Director-General Barbera Wolfsenberger. The Dutch entry, The International Celebration of Blasphemy and The Sacred, is a presentation by Congolese artist collective Cercle d’Art des Travailleurs de Plantation Congolaise (CATPC). Created in collaboration with artist Renzo Martens and curator Hicham Khalidi, it highlights CATPC’s endeavour to reclaim the sacred forests of Lusanga, along with their broader mission of spiritual, ethical and economic reckoning.  

Simultaneously with the opening in Venice, the opening of the White Cube in Lusanga, Congo – CATPC’s home base – took place. For both exhibitions, CATPC created new artworks from the earth of the last remaining forests around the plantation, which were then reproduced in palm oil and cocoa.  

In anticipation of the exhibition, CATPC submitted a loan request for the ancestral sculpture Balot to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA) which was approved earlier this year. Last March, Balot was welcomed back to Lusanga by CATPC and their community. The sculpture will be on view in Venice via a livestream with the White Cube in Lusanga where the sculpture is on display during La Biennale di Venezia.  

In addition, 3 new films have been made as part of the exhibition: The Judgement of the White Cube, CATPC and The Return of Balot. The films can be seen in the Dutch pavilion in Venice. 

Ced’art Tamasala on behalf of CATPC: “The goal of the exhibition is to write a scenario in which good contaminates evil and in which problems become solutions. The stories told through these sculptures are intended to generate change as they travel the world. Each sculpture carries the seed that will bring back the Sacred Forest. Ultimately functioning as conduits, these sculptures will allow for a shared equitable future for all humans, making it possible for us to reclaim our stolen lands, to reforest them and to welcome the post-plantation and Sacred Forest.” 

Eelco van der Lingen, director of the Mondriaan Fund about the creation process of the exhibition: “In special dialogue, we arrived at a production where different worlds meet, worlds that sometimes find it difficult to have a good dialogue. The result is a presentation here and in Lusanga of sculptures, each with its own special story, but there is more to discover. New insights and new futures are ready to be shared with anyone who is open to them.” 

Director-General of Culture and Media Barbera Wolfensberger spoke at the opening of the Dutch pavilion about the social impact of the exhibition and that of art in general: “Artists make a valuable contribution to social discussions. They have a personal view of the world and the unique talent to depict it. With this imagination, they make us look at reality in a different way and broaden our horizons.” 

Director-General of Culture and Media Barbera Wolfensberger in conversation with curator Hicham Khalidi and CATPC artists Matthieu Kasiama and Ced'art Tamasala. Photo: Peter Tijhuis.

The exhibition will be on display from 20 April 2024 until 24 November 2024 in Venice and Lusanga (DRC). The commissioner is the Mondriaan Fund, the Dutch public fund for visual arts and cultural heritage. 


The exhibition is also accompanied by a publication. The catalogue The International Celebration of Blasphemy and the Sacred  (in both English and French) includes a main text written by curator Hicham Khalidi and a series of letters written by Ced’art Tamasala on behalf of CATPC. Khalidi wrote his text in close collaboration with writer Amanda Sarroff, CATPC and Renzo Martens and draws on interviews with renowned authors and curators such as Ariella Aïsha Azoulay, Ruba Katrib and Ndubuisi C. Ezeluomba. The publication also includes an introduction by Mondriaan Fund director Eelco van der Lingen and contains extensive visual documentation of both the sculptures and video works in the Dutch pavilion in Venice as well as the sculptures in Lusanga. The catalogue is available for € 29,95 at Jap Sam Books.

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Esther Schussler

Anniek Vrij

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