Topic: 17.02.07 IFM Press Release: Manifesta versus Nicosia
Press release no 7
From: International Foundation Manifesta, Amsterdam
The International Foundation Manifesta (IFM) had hoped that by 2007 the issues surrounding Manifesta 6 would have been adequately resolved. However, it is now clear that the parameters had shifted again. The IFM has maintained a radio silence during the last half year, in order not to jeopardise the agreement with Nicosia for Art insisted upon by a Dutch court, to which the three curators of Manifesta 6 were also a party.
Spring 2004, In a letter dated of 6 April 2006, Nicosia for Art, the host organisation chaired by Mr. Zampelas, the then Mayor of Nicosia, suddenly reversed his course and issued a letter that his administration does not wish any part of Manifesta 6 (specifically the "Department II") to take place in the Turkish part of the city, although negotiations for this were far advanced and a lease on the proposed venue for this was on the verge of being signed. At that point, NfA insisted on exercising the right to take the final decision on the choice of venues for Manifesta 6. The IFM stepped into this case to defend its integrity and engaged international law firm Greenberg Traurig, to act as their lawyers. In th meantime, many different mediation attempts were executed. Nicosia was selected to host the sixth edition of the nomadic Manifesta 6 biennial under the parameters that Manifesta 6 would take place in the whole of the city. IFM and host organization Nicosia for Art (NfA) - the latter supported not only by the city of Nicosia, but also the Cypriot Ministry of [del]Culture and Science[/del] Education and Culture (get it right) - have agreed contractually that this should be a bi-communal event, in both the Northern and Southern parts of the island. After one year of hard preparations the curatorial team (Anton Vidokle, Mai Abu ElDahab and Florian Waldvogel) came up with a programme for an experimental art school of 100 days, divided into three departments. These included one digital ('virtual') project, a second project in the south of the city and a third department at a discrete physical location in the north. The curators' outline plans for the School were warmly endorsed by all concerned and attracted considerable international acclaim.
In January 2006, a three days' conference hosted by the IFM and Nicosia for Art was held in Nicosia, to launch the concept of Manifesta 6. A publication, ''Notes for an Art School'', was produced, to mark the occasion. More than 300 local and international personalities, including the Deputy Mayor of Nicosia, participated in this conference, held on both sides of the city of Nicosia.
In a letter dated of 6 April 2006, Nicosia for Art, the host organisation chaired by Mr. Zampelas, the then Mayor of Nicosia, suddenly reversed his course and issued a letter that his administration does not wish any part of Manifesta 6 (specifically the "Department II") to take place in the Turkish part of the city, although negotiations for this were far advanced and a lease on the proposed venue for this was on the verge of being signed. At that point, NfA insisted on exercising the right to take the final decision on the choice of venues for Manifesta 6. The IFM stepped into this case to defend its integrity and engaged international law firm Greenberg Traurig, to act as their lawyers.
On 1 June 2006 Nicosia for Art unilaterally cancelled Manifesta 6 and fired the curators, who had been contracted to them under Cypriot law. At the same time, they obtained an injunction to freeze the IFM's bank account, as well as suing for compensation for nugatory expenditure on the preparations for Manifesta 6. On top of this, Nicosia served a court order on all three curators of which one curator Florian Waldvogel was served actually his papers.
The IFM and NfA met each other in the Rotterdam court on 5 July 2006, when the President of the Rotterdam court called on both parties to work for an agreement and to continue the possibilities of still opening the Manifesta 6 school at the end of September 2006. The curators of Manifesta 6 made some serious proposals for developing an alternative project, including a duplication of the third department in the south of the city. NfA rejected those proposals. Although the IFM funds were still frozen the Foundation found the means for paying part of the curators' outstanding fees owing to them by NfA , whilst narrowly escaping bankruptcy.
At the end of summer 2006, Nicosia for Art, IFM and all three curators reached agreement, in principle, on a settlement. This settlement stipulated that parties to the dispute should go their separate ways, under the terms of a so-called friendly divorce, among the conditions which were that should be no restaging of the concept of the former Manifesta 6 by any of the curators in Cyprus and no claims by NfA either on any of the curators or the IFM; also, that all parties to the dispute would abandon any reciprocal financial claims they might have on each other.
In November 2006, the IFM received the unexpected news that NfA now refused to sign up to the in principle settlement that had been advocated by the President of the Rotterdam District Court and negotiated, as a result. The IFM understand that one of the main reasons for this was political, in that local elections were due to be held in November and that these were an overriding concern to a number of those involved - notably the then Mayor of Nicosia and President of NfA, Mr. Zampelas. (One outcome of the elections was that Mr. Zampelas came to be replaced as Mayor of the City by an opponent from another political party). Florian Waldvogel settled his own case in the Nicosia court on 9 November 2006 by signing that he was not involved in the current attempts in to restage the Manifesta 6 programme elsewhere and accepting what was effectively a gagging order.
On 10 February 2007, the IFM was informed by the District Court of Rotterdam that in the absence of a final settlement, the President of Dutch Court has refused to lift the provisional block it had placed on the IFM's bank accounts (consisting of EU funding grants). Currently the case is being dealt with by the Rotterdam district court in proceedings on the merit.
The IFM greatly regrets that none of the creative solutions for breaking the deadlock over Manifesta 6 has come to anything. On the contrary, NfA seems bent on pursing its claims against both the curators and the IFM, to the extent of imperilling their artistic activities and their respective financial situations. IFM still seeks an amicable settlement but is left with the unfortunate impression that NfA is bent on pursuing its claims rather than on elaborating and finalising the in principal agreement on the settlement with IFM in 2006.