Saturday, December 4, 2021

Designer stripped of Venice Biennale slot

Written by CNN Staff

The Italian knitwear brand Teona has been disqualified from next month’s 64th Venice Biennale, with local institution Prada having confirmed its withdrawal of sponsorship.

The judges said in a statement Thursday that the decision was based on two reasons: one of the designers creating Biennale-appropriate clothing was selected to “undermine the integrity of a fair competition.”

“It had been decided that (designer Laura) Valcke should have acquired a high degree of understanding of the spirit of the project, fully aware of the available technological possibilities and its operational strategic and social importance, which would allow her to create the necessary materials and clothing for the project,” the panel said.

Secondly, “she was a limited participant in the selection procedure, which gave the impression that she only joined with Prada as a PR exercise.”

Teona’s fellow nominee, Francesco Risso, insisted that the judges’ decision was purely subjective.

He told the Italian newspaper ANSA: “The rejection came out of the blue without warning. It makes absolutely no sense. This Biennale was launched to promote recognition of European designers, and I hope it (still) will, but with whom?”

This is not the first time in recent years that an Italian-based designer has been dropped from a major international art event — in October 2018, the Portuguese-born architect João Havelange resigned as jury president of The Venice Biennale yearbook after only two days as president, stating the decision had been made before he took the role.

Stefan Sagmeister-Frewer, the UK-based designer who founded Teona, responded to the Biennale’s decision with a longer message on Twitter: “Thank you to all those who have written with their names in the blank in your name at The Art Biennale. Thank you to all those who took part in the art fair in your city. Thank you to all those who sent and read you.

“We are equal to whoever took part in the Biennale in whatever city or state. May the art of the city, the one that unites you, the local and the universal spread across the planet.”

Teona — founded in 2011 by designer Stefan Sagmeister and industrial designer Rupert Ellis — is best known for innovative materials and highly wearable textiles. Its distinctive knitwear was worn by both Lady Gaga and Rihanna.

Before she was disqualified, Teona had submitted a few blue boxers to compete for the final selection of the 2019 Venice Biennale. The designers have up to 28 days to apply for a second position.

The exhibition will run from May 7 to November 2. Its theme is “An Endeavor” — “an extraordinary effort that is therefore a self-imposed end,” according to a release from the Venice Biennale International and Prada.

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