Seminar: Take Liberty – visual arts and freedom of expression in Europe

22 May 2017

The National Gallery

The National Museum and the Oslo Freedom Forum invite you to join us for a seminar discussing the challenges of the state of the visuals arts in Europe today. The seminar aims to reflect self-critically on whether we in Europe have been taking the freedom of expression so much for granted in our own societies that we are almost unaware when we are confronted with situations of subtle or more overt limitations to this freedom.

The invited lecturers, Barnabás Bencsik (HU), Vasif Kortun (TR), and Anda Rottenberg (PL), will talk about the development of art institutions in Hungary, Turkey, and Poland, respectively, as well as the situation and recent initiatives in the art scenes of the respective countries. They will also address the responsibilities that institutions, curators, and artists have to promote the flourishing integrity of art in society.

The invited speakers have long-standing experience both as directors of museums or art institutions as well as with freelance exhibitions or teaching projects. They all have a comprehensive insight into the diverse players in the field of visual art and cultural policy both nationally and internationally and will thus set their experience of the role of the arts in the context of a wider transnational perspective.


  • 14.00 Opening by the President of the Storting, Olemic Thommessen
  • 14:10 Welcome by the National Museum, Sabrina van der Ley
  • 14:20 Lecture by Barnabás Bencsik
  • 15:00 Lecture by Vasif Kortun
  • 15:40 Lecture by Anda Rottenberg
  • 16:20 Coffee break
  • 16:30 Panel discussion moderated by Liza Donnelly, with Barnabás Bencsik, Vasif Kortun, Anda Rottenberg, and Sabrina van der Ley
  • 17:20 Summary and final questions from the audience
  • 17:30 Informal mingling and drinks
  • 18:00 End

About Oslo Freedom Forum 2017

The Oslo Freedom Forum is a transformative annual conference where the world’s most engaging human rights advocates, artists, tech entrepreneurs, and world leaders meet to share their stories and brainstorm ways to expand freedom and unleash human potential across the globe. The 2017 conference takes place 22–24 May 2017. More information on the 2017 program can be found at the Oslo Freedom Forum website.



Seminar Participants

Barnabás Bencsik (b. 1964) is a curator who lives and works in Budapest. He started becoming involved in the art scene in the early 1990s during the transitional period of Hungarian post-communism. From 1990 to 1999 he ran the Studio Gallery in Budapest, the exhibition venue of the Studio of Young Artists Association. Between 1993 and 1995 he was the program coordinator at SCCA–Budapest, when the office’s Central and Eastern European network was established. He worked as chief curator in Műcsarnok|Kunsthalle, where he contributed to the project at the Hungarian Pavilion at the 49th Venice Biennale. He initiated ACAX (the Agency for Contemporary Art Exchange) and has served as its director since 2006, developing co-operations between the local and international art scenes. He was the director of the Ludwig Museum in Budapest between 2008 and 2013. Due to the radical shift in Hungarian cultural policy, his tenure was not extended. Today he is a freelance curator and lecturer and runs the program of ACAX as an independent agency supported by EU programs and international sources.

Vasif Kortun (b. 1958) is a member of the board of directors of SALT. From 2011 to 2017 he has been the director of research and programs at SALT in Istanbul and Ankara, which also holds an extensive archive on Turkish modern and contemporary art and architecture. Kortun was the founding director of the Platform Garanti Contemporary Art Center (2001) and the founding director of the Project Istanbul Museum of Contemporary Art (2001–3), the director of the 3rd International Istanbul Biennial (1992), and co-director, with Charles Esche, of the 9th International Istanbul Biennial (2005). Between 1994 and 1997, Kortun worked as the founding director of the Museum of the Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College. He curated the Turkish pavilions for the 1994 and 1998 São Paulo Biennials and for the 2007 Venice Biennial, with the artist Hüseyin Alptekin and his installation Don’t Complain. Kortun has written extensively on contemporary art and the cultural situation in Turkey for international publications and periodicals and facilitated the introduction both of many foreign artists to Turkey and of Turkish artists to the international community.

Anda Rottenberg (b. 1944) is an exhibition curator and art historian. From 1993 to 2001 she was the director of the Zachęta National Art Gallery in Warsaw. She was the curator and commissioner of the Polish Pavilion at the Venice Biennale 1993–2001 and the São Paulo Biennale 1997–2007. Since 1980 she has curated many international exhibitions, including the Gwangju Biennale, Aspects-Positions 1949–1999: 50 Years of Art in Central Europe (Vienna-Budapest-Barcelona-Birmingham, 2000), Warsaw-Moscow (Zachęta, Warsaw/Tretiakowskaya, Moscow, 2004), Side by Side: Poland-Germany. 1000 Years of Art and History (Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin, 2011), and Progress and Hygiene (Zachęta Gallery, 2014). She has published numerous books, such as Art in Poland 1945–2005, Draught: Texts on Polish Art of the 80s (2009), and Miroslaw Balka (2017). She has served as academic teacher of curatorial studies, for example at Bard College in New York state and the Academy of Fine Art in Warsaw, and is board member of the Manifesta 1 Foundation, the Museum Sztuki in Łódź, the National Museum in Warsaw, and the State Museum Auschwitz-Birkenau and was a fellow at the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin in 2015–16.

Liza Donnelly (b. 1955) is a writer and an award-winning cartoonist with the New Yorker magazine, where she has been drawing cartoons about culture and politics for more than 30 years. Donnelly is also resident cartoonist at CBS News. She has contributed to the New York Times and is a columnist and cartoonist for, specializing in politics and women’s rights. Donnelly also creates political cartoons for Medium and Politico and is a cultural envoy for the US State Department. Donnelly was a finalist for the 2014 Thurber Prize, an award for written humor in the United States, and is a 2015 Silver Reuben Award recipient.

Sabrina van der Ley (b. 1967) is the director of contemporary art at the Nasjonalmuseet in Oslo, where she has curated a number of exhibitions, amongst others Unfinished Journeys (2011) and Carlos Garaicoa: The Politics and Poetics of Space (2015). She also curated the collateral event A Remote Whisper at the 55th Venice Biennale 2013 with Pedro Cabrita Reis. Before coming to Norway, she worked in several institutions like the Association for Contemporary Art at the Museum Ludwig in Cologne and the Hoffmann Collection in Berlin. From December 2008 until April 2011, Sabrina van der Ley was the chief curator of contemporary art at Hamburger Kunsthalle. Together with Markus Richter, she curated the major exhibitions Ideal City – Invisible Cities in Zamość, Poland, and Potsdam, Germany (2006) and Megastructure Reloaded in Berlin (2008). While in Berlin, van der Ley was actively engaged in the cultural-political field as a member of the Capital Culture Fund and of the Council for the Arts Berlin. In 2005 she received the Gold Cross of Merit from the Republic of Poland for her engagement for German-Polish relations in the field of contemporary art.

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