In a written statement sent out on 9 June, Théo-Mario Coppola, curator of this year’s Momentum Biennial in Moss, due to have opened this weekend, demanded that the biennial be stopped. The Italian curator justified his demand by stating that Galleri F15, the institution that organises the biennial, has worked against him and hindered him from realising the exhibition as planned. Coppola writes: “I cannot accept that House of Commons, the project I am the exclusive author and curator of, to [sic] be disrespected and appropriated by the institution that is supposed to host it.” As the conditions have not been met for the exhibition to open as scheduled, Coppola asserted he has no other choice than to “refuse its disclosure.”
The biennial opening will be postponed according to Coppola’s demands, announced Momentum Biennial’s Director Dag Aak Sveinar in a press release sent out on 9 June. Aak Sveinar expressed regret that the cooperation with Coppola has ended, but made clear that Galleri F15 intends to carry out the exhibition nevertheless. He also assured reporters that the biennial team will strive to maintain the integrity of the curatorial concept, and that Coppola will be “fully credited as developer of the concept.”
Silja Leifsdottir, the chair of the board of the Norwegian Association of Curators, believes that the case raises the question of whether curatorial work is protected under copyright laws. If so, it is uncertain whether an institution can legally carry out an exhibition after its collaboration with the curator has come to an end. “We have discussed this issue in the association of curators, and we believe it is important to shed light on the matter. As yet, we do not know of any previous cases in Norway that set a precedent in this area, but there seems to be a legal basis in the Norwegian Copyright Act for considering certain curatorial projects comparable to works of art and similar intellectual property,” Leifsdottir told Kunstkritikk.
Kunstkritikk approached Aak Sveinar, Associate Curator Håkon Lillegraven, and Simen Østad, the biennial’s information officer, all of whom declined to comment on the conflict with Coppola and the question of whether the institution has the right to take over his curatorial concept. Tom Eilertsen, Coppola’s legal representative from the law firm Bull & Co, did not respond to Kunstkritikk’s inquiry.
It is still uncertain when this year’s Momentum, originally scheduled to take place from 12 June to 10 October, will open. Momentum’s website states that House of Commons explores the relationship between aesthetic and social issues and will be presented at various locations on Jeløya island outside Moss. The biennial includes contributions from: Apparatus 22, Pia Arke, Federico Barbon, Augusto de Campos, Nina Canell, Chto Delat, Cian Dayrit, Goutam Ghosh, Camilo Godoy, Renée Green, Núria Güell, Siri Hermansen, Délio Jasse, Kollektivnye Deystviya, Daisuke Kosugi, Maria Nordman, Maria Noujaim, Uriel Orlow, Frida Orupabo, Charlemagne iPalestine, Paul B. Preciado, Karol Radziszewski, Hannah Ryggen, S-AR, Marinella Senatore, Paul Mpagi Sepuya, and Trinh T. Minh-ha.