The name Refusés International of course echoes the 1863 Salon des Refusés. This symbol of the freedom to exhibit was a direct response by painters who were refused entry in the French Academy of Fine Arts' salon. At the time, such exclusion was a condemnation of invisibility.
Two centuries later, where do we stand in today's freedom of exhibiting works of art? The observation is unfortunately clear: despite its worldwide success, contemporary art is nonetheless still subject to censorship. Worse, this censorship, with the rise of populist and dictatorial regimes or the excesses of cancel culture, is anything but losing ground, while a new wave of hatred seems to be affecting the entire planet. Arnaud Cohen, Franco-Portuguese visual artist and performer whose work has been presented at numerous biennials for the past ten years (Venice, Bienalsur, Dak'art, Something Else, Contextile, FITE...) but whose works are nonetheless regularly censored, has decided to surround himself with friends, eminent curators and art critics, to draw up a map of censorship in the 4 corners of the globe each year. However, from one region to another, this censorship is exercised in significantly different ways. Here it emanates from the State, there from pressure from identity or religious lobbies. Elsewhere, institutions find themselves constrained in their programming by powerful entrepreneurial patrons whose preoccupations are in protecting their brands from any controversy. They sometimes consider artists as cultural facilitators. Choosing not to be exhaustive, the members of Refusés International have therefore decided to present 8 works each year, from 8 different regions of the world, representative of the different forms of current censorship.
The operating rules of the prize, as well as its calendar and the division in these geographical, political and cultural regions, are determined and readjusted each year according to the proposals produced by the steering committee of the prize, which committee is chaired by Damien Brachet on the nomination of Arnaud Cohen. These rules and their application schedule have the following essential purposes:
- to bring out at least one censored work per zone.
- to ensure that the members of the jury, who are eminent members of the world of contemporary art, are not solicited for more than 90 minutes in the various stages of the construction of this annual selection.
One of these 8 works, following a vote by the participants scheduled for the end of the year, will be designated as the 2023 Refusés International Grand Prize for contemporary art censorship worldwide. This work and the chosen 7 others, will be presented online on the dedicated website www.refusesinternational.org, but also in the exhibition spaces of Babel Mallorca (www.babelmallorca.org), as well as at the School XXX in Paris, as well as at XXX in London.
These 8 works presented this year were censored between September 2020 and September 2022, exceptionally, over a two year period instead of one, due to the pandemic context and the numerous exhibition cancellations that accompanied it.
Note that there is no financial reward. This prize is aimed at bringing censored works what they lack the most: visibility.