Experimenta has decided to cancel the fifth edition of “ExperimentaDesign – Bienal de Lisboa” which was to take place from September 12 to November 4, 2007. The cancellation is exclusively due to Lisbon City Hall’s nonfulfillment of the commitment made on June 22, 2006, concerning this event.
Unexpectedly, Experimenta received a letter on December 12 2006 communicating the Lisbon City Hall’s decision not to commit with the amount agreed on June 22 of that very year, nor “any other financial contribution to the biennial for reasons of convenience and opportunity – and within a context of budget restraint.”
This new decision of the actual Lisbon Mayor, António Pedro Carmona Rodrigues, was made unilaterally without consulting the other Biennial’s strategic partner, the Portuguese Government, namely the Ministry of Culture, with whom Experimenta had signed on November 3, 2006, a protocol concerning the Bienal de Lisboa’s next edition — a fact that was immediately communicated to the Mayor of Lisbon —, and the Ministry of Economy, with whom Experimenta was also negotiating a strategic partnership in the know of the Lisbon City Hall.
The financial set-up of ExperimentaDesign – Bienal de Lisboa is achieved through a strategic partnership between civil society, the Lisbon City Hall and the Portuguese Government.
The biennial’s fifth edition was conceded on June 14, 2006, the High Patronage of the President of the Republic, Aníbal Cavaco Silva.
We should again remind that ExperimentaDesign – Bienal de Lisboa is:
• An unique and innovative project in the design and project culture field both nationally and internationally;
• A case study of success that has been presented on many cities around the world and a subject of international “think tanks”, placing ExperimentaDesign in the centre of many design activities worldwide;
• The only event in the Iberian Peninsula with these traits, possessing an extraordinary potential for developing the relations with Latin America, China and India in the European context;
• A biennial acclaimed by the critic and other agents as one of the best, more well organized and most important international design events;
• A biennial that has proved its ability to attract a high-level international participants and audience, that contributes decisively for the improvement of Lisbon’s tourist and cultural offers, representing a financial investment of only 250,000 euros/year for the Lisbon City Hall;
• A biennial that works as an incitement, a promotion and a display for Portuguese and international creativeness and production in design, architecture and creativity and as an unique international platform for discussion and debate in the design field;
• A case study of success presented as such in the evaluation and future perspectives of the national Operational Programme for Culture, invited by this programme’s management unit that also supported the biennial on two occasions;
• An economic booster for Portugal and Lisbon, investing in portuguese creators, namely in the areas of design, architecture and creativity, connecting its work with the industry and business companies;
• A biennial that has proved through the years its capacity for attracting foreign investment to the country by means of a co-production network with the most prestigious international partners and with a number of state institutions from the world’s most important countries;
• A biennial that is more than 80% free of charge, offering the Portuguese capital and the country a month and a half of ongoing and high-quality cultural programming with an educational service that covers the whole programme;
• An event with the surplus value of a strong and international strategic communication included in its budget and with the profitability of some of the presented projects at the end of each edition;
• A project that has always been, up to now, approved unanimously by the Municipal Assembly of the Lisbon City Hall and that has gathered the support of the Portuguese Government, the High Patronage of the President of the Republic, and of a highly regarded group of national and international patrons.
It is therefore extraordinary that, in the year Portugal holds the Presidency of the Council of the European Union, the City Hall of the city after which one of the most important strategic documents of the European union was named — the Lisbon Agenda, underlining the role of creativity and culture as vectors of social cohesion and development —, unilaterally decides to eliminate such an important and meaningful project created by a non-profitable association and to which the City Hall contributes only in 20% — an amount divided in two years — of its total budget, 2,600,000 euros.
In the moment that Design was for the first time highlighted at the 2006 Davos’s “World Economic Forum”, under the theme of “Innovation, Creativity and Strategic Design”, and that we are witnessing a growing number of cities trying to host events dedicated to Design as a proof of their energy and competitiveness, recognizing the importance of this discipline in the sustained development of a society, it is hard to believe that the Executive of the Portuguese capital decides to terminate ExperimentaDesign – Bienal de Lisboa without any further talks and breaking the agreed commitment.
Cancelling a project in which more than 8 million euros were already invested during its 4 editions, from 1998 to 2006, a project that has positioned the Portuguese capital and the country itself in the international scene of major cultural events, a project conceived and produced by Portuguese people in strong and dynamic collaboration with an impressive international network of curators, creators and institutions, will have devastating consequences.
By the moment it received the letter from the Lisbon City Hall, on December 12, 2006, 9 months before the event, Experimenta had already finished the Bienal de Lisboa programme, institutional and international partnerships were already established and a group of Biennial’s patrons and associated brands was already defined. International communication had long begun and was already reflecting itself in the international calendar of events concerning design and culture, and national communication had its first moment planned for February 28.
Since the Lisbon City Hall had made a commitment with Experimenta in relation to the 5th edition of ExperimentaDesign – Bienal de Lisboa, which enabled the development of the whole programme for 2007, Experimenta will make the Lisbon City Hall accountable for all the damage caused by this cancellation by all means available in the Portuguese Law.
Lisbon, January 29, 2007