Sakuliu Pavavaljung, a Paiwan artist born in southern Taiwan, was poised to have a breakout year in 2022, with appearances lined up for Documenta and the Venice Biennale, the world’s two preeminent art festivals. But allegations of sexual assault have ensured that the artist will no longer be the commissioned artist for the Taiwanese Pavilion at the Venice Biennale and have cast his participation in Documenta 15 into doubt.
On Wednesday, the Taipei Fine Arts Museum, which commissions the Taiwanese Pavilion, said that Sakuliu would no longer represent the country at the Venice Biennale. It wasn’t immediately clear who would replace him as Taiwan’s representative, though the museum told Focus Taiwan that it still planned to stage a pavilion this year at the Biennale, which is slated to open in April.
“The TFAM has always taken pride in facilitating the development of arts with the highest professional standard and is adamant in opposing any behavior that violates any personal rights,” the museum said in a statement. “As the international art community is now looking squarely at the development of this incident, this decision has been made in order to avoid losing focus on the artistic presentation of the Taiwan Pavilion.”
The allegations against Sakuliu emerged in December when a female engineer named Yu Yu-lien accused the artist of trying to rape her when she visited one of his shows in 2006. She said that she managed to escape being assaulted by him. Another woman, artist Kuo Yu-ping, accused an unnamed Paiwan artist of raping a female teenager in a Facebook post; prosecutors believed the unnamed artist to be Sakuliu and initiated an investigation. Focus Taiwan previously reported that no legal action had been taken against by Sakuliu by his accusers.
Shortly after the allegations emerged, Sakuliu vehemently denied that the allegations were true. “I did not do what the online story alleges,” he told Focus Taiwan. “I will clear things up when I talk to the judicial authorities about the matter.”
Currently, Documenta has Sakuliu on the artist list on its website for this year’s edition, which is expected to open in June and which is being organized by the Indonesian art collective ruangrupa. In December, the German quinquennial said in a statement that it had “initially” suspended Sakuliu from the 2022 exhibition “while the facts are clarified.”
His prospects of being added back to that artist list seem unlikely, however. On Wednesday, the National Culture and Arts Foundation, a Taiwanese organization that offers grants to artists, said it would no longer sponsor Sakuliu’s participation in Documenta. In a statement, the foundation wrote, “Since the German exhibitor has not made any further decision so far, in order to avoid affecting the rights and interests of other participating artists, the association will stop its sponsorship regardless of whether the German exhibitor will continue to invite Sakuliu to participate in the exhibition program.”
ARTnews has reached out to Documenta for comment on whether Sakuliu will still be included in the 2022 edition.