On 10 December 2020, the Municipal Council of the Capital City of Warsaw voted on the budget for Warsaw in 2021. A specific subsidy for Biennale Warszawa for the year 2021 was cut by PLN 225,000 (10.6%) in comparison to 2020, which means a reduction of the programming budget by over 50% and makes it impossible for the institution to complete its statutory goals. The cut is not a consequence of the general budget reduction stemming from the bad financial condition of the city resulting from the pandemic. Most cultural institutions received significant increases (often by several hundred thousand zlotys) in specific subsidies or their subsidies were maintained at the previous level.
At the same time, we were informed by the organiser – confirmed by the adopted budget – that in 2021, Warsaw will not be giving any funds for the organisation of the second edition of the Biennale Warszawa festival (2021 edition). The decision to make such a significant reduction was made by the City after an 18-month period of intense work on the Biennale Warszawa 2021 programme with our partners, artists, institutions and non-governmental organisations, informal social movements and activists. It was made despite the fact the City knows about the involvement of Biennale Warszawa in multiple projects and programmes, including international initiatives, which require the institution to fulfil particular programme, legal and financial commitments. The decision invalidates many months of work, necessitates changes in the programme, including the need to limit programmes which constitute the continuation and development of activities initiated during the pandemic as online actions, and conceived as a form of support for the members of the community during lockdown. The reduction of financing comes when, as a result of the pandemic, we had already been forced to suspend a significant portion of our programming once, to reorganise and adapt it for online activity – in an uncertain situation for many employees of the cultural sector.
We will continue to inform about our actions as the situation develops.