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  • Jan 12, 2022

Taiwan Pavilion Terminates Project with Artist Facing Sexual Assault Claims

Portrait of SAKULIU PAVAVALJUNG. Courtesy Taipei Fine Arts Museum. 

On January 12, the Taipei Fine Arts Museum (TFAM), which organizes the Taiwan Pavilion collateral exhibition at the Venice Biennale, canceled Sakuliu Pavavaljung’s presentation at the upcoming 59th edition as the artist faces several accusations of sexual assault and rape.

In an official statement, TFAM cited reasons of “protecting Taiwan’s diplomatic image and reputation as the incident has drawn attention internationally,” and “avoiding distraction from the artistic performance of the Taiwan Pavilion itself.” The decision was made by an advisory committee set up to address the case, which comprises members who nominated the representing artist, experts in gender equality, lawyers, and representatives of the museum. TFAM emphasized that it opposes “any act that violates human rights.” Taiwan’s participation in the Venice Biennale this year, however, now remains uncertain. The Biennale is scheduled to open on April 23, but TFAM’s statement mentions neither the replacement of the artist nor the outright cancellation of the Taiwan Pavilion.

Pavavaljung first faced accusations in mid-December in a Facebook post titled “Town Story” published by the artist Kuo Yu Ping. The post revealed that an unnamed 19-year-old girl was raped by an Indigenous artist, under the pseudonym “Gulu Sa.” The post sparked a series of online revelations with victims claiming that they were once sexually harassed or assaulted by Pavavaljung. Pavavaljung’s studio issued a statement on December 23 denying all allegations. At a press meeting on December 24, Taipei councillor Huang Yu-fen and the lawyer of the unnamed victim released audio recordings of phone conversations between the victim and Pavavaljung’s live-in partner. According to the recordings, the couple attempted to silence the victim using TFAM’s name and international reputation. The press meeting forced TFAM’s director Wang Jun-Jieh to clarify that the museum was not involved in pressuring the victim and had urged the artist to speak up for himself.

Concurrently, Taiwan’s National Culture and Arts Foundation, which is providing financial support for Pavavaljung’s participation in documenta fifteen, scheduled for June 2022, has also officially announced that the Foundation will stop its funding for his project. Documenta fifteen previously suspended their collaboration with Pavavaljung on December 21 until further information becomes available. Investigations by police and prosecutors into the allegations are continuing.