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PRECARIOUS IN CAPITALIST CULTURE. Should we continue living like this? (Skopje, North Macedonia)

November 21, 2019



Curated by Ivana Vaseva

Speakers: Antonia AlampiKristina AmpevaCorina L. ApostolDjordje BalmazovićKarla CrnčevićIliana FokianakiVladan JeremićFilip JovanovskiVioleta KachakovaBiljana Tanurovska – KjulavkovskiKrunoslav StojakovićTara RukeciBojana PiškurTjaša PureberKire Vasilev

Read the schedule here.

When it comes to labor rights, cultural workers are in a particularly desperate condition, because their work often is not regarded as labor and is not valorized as such. The exploitation and marginalization of cultural work, as well as the overall lack of understanding of the emancipatory potential of arts and culture, is rarely addressed as an issue in need of systemic change. For decades now, neoliberal austerity measures push artists and cultural workers into short-term contracts or freelance relations. Often unpaid, they do not even earn a living wage, and most of them live in a cycle of debt and poverty.

Unequal and precarious labor conditions are also evident in other sectors in North Macedonia and the region. In the transition to post-socialism, Yugoslavia’s big factories were dispersed into hundreds of private companies that took advantage of cheap labor in the race for profit in a strong rivalry with their competitors. The unchallenged neoliberal discourse penetrated society and labor relations changed, union activities have been oppressed and labor legislation has been neutralized. All this led to the neglect of labor rights and living wages. The state institutions lack systematic procedures and political resolutions that would foster emancipatory culture and improve the labor rights of precarious cultural workers and all workers in general.

How can precarious cultural workers organize to struggle for better working conditions in this context? What kind of artistic and cultural production can support the struggle for labor rights and make emancipatory social movements stronger in the future?

This symposium brings together actors from the region and across Europe with institutional, non-governmental and non-institutional backgrounds from the field of culture and  art, as well as people who are part of social movements and activists for labor rights, to exchange experiences, discuss existing models and share strategies for labor organization in culture and art.

Starting from the analysis of precarity and freelance working relationships in culture and elsewhere, the symposium will discuss possible new relations of cultural production beyond neoliberal, conservative and ethno-nationalist paradigms. Here, the artistic and cultural context needs strong input from the side of emancipatory forces in society. For this, examples of emancipatory practices in culture in the context of labor struggle will be presented, the function and capacities of public institutions and resources will be discussed, and possibilities of transnational organisation will be addressed.

Organized by Faculty of things that can’t be learned (FR~U), North Macedonia in partnership with Lokomotiva- Centre for New Initiatives in Arts and Culture and Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung Southeast Europe.

Revoke the director appointment at Ujazdowski Castle Centre for Contemporary Art in Warsaw

November 3, 2019

As citizens and members of the international artistic community as well as the audience of contemporary art we firmly object to the decision made by the Minister of Culture and National Heritage of the Republic of Poland to appoint Piotr Bernatowicz to the position of the director of the Ujazdowski Castle Centre for Contemporary Art without an open competition recruitment procedure. We reject both the manner in which the appointment was carried out and the candidate chosen by the Minister.

The Ujazdowski Castle Centre for Contemporary Art is a transdisciplinary institution of international importance and a showcase for Polish contemporary art. An appointment that bypasses the competition procedure despite the existence of the necessary legal framework sets an exceptionally alarming precedent. It seems even more disturbing in the context of earlier personnel decisions that had a strong negative impact on important cultural institutions, such as the National Museum in Warsaw, Helena Modrzejewska National Stary Theatre in Kraków, and Polin Museum of the History of Polish Jews. This blatant disregard for procedures suggests that the decision was politically motivated rather than based on objective criteria such as merit. Such stance impedes any kind of dialogue about the program and development of the institution in the coming years.

Leading a large-scale institution such as the Ujazdowski Castle Centre for Contemporary Art requires not only specialized knowledge but also managerial expertise. One of the key skills in administration and supervision is a sense for diplomacy, as well as the ability to represent Poland in international contexts. Piotr Bernatowicz has no relevant experience. He has never worked closely with foreign curators nor planned an exhibition abroad. Nor is he able to demonstrate any qualifications in managing international projects, creating strategic partnerships with institutions abroad, and obtaining grants or other types of funding. Such experience should have been deemed essential in a candidate for a position this prestigious and of this importance.

The newly appointed candidate is not a successful negotiator. During his tenure as the director of the Arsenal Municipal Gallery in Poznań his actions caused a serious conflict with the curatorial section of his team and profund alienation of the local artistic community that resulted in an open letter of 76 young artists who were opposed to the renewal of his contract. A series of his disastrous decisions caused serious damage to the reputation of the gallery he was responsible for.

As a journalist and director of a public institution, Piotr Bernatowicz has on numerous occasions condoned and supported statements that can be considered hate speech. There is no room in the public sector for the artworks which target singled out social groups, misogynistic artwork (the exhibitions Strategies of Rebellion, Arsenal Municipal Gallery, 2015), or songs filled with anti-Semitic stereotyping (“Arsenał Kultury” (Arsenal of Culture) – a radio broadcast in Radio Poznań, 2017). Any artistic institution that promotes such messages risks losing its national and international audience, and perhaps a boycott.

We call upon the Minister of Culture and National Heritage Piotr Gliński not to appoint Piotr Bernatowicz to the position of the director of the Ujazdowski Castle Centre for Contemporary Art, and to carry out an open competition procedure in accordance with the appropriate standards of transparency and probity. Only an open competition will enable the candidates to demonstrate their qualifications and ability and present their programs for the Ujazdowski Castle Centre for Contemporary Art that would do justice to this renowned institution and allow it to maintain its international status.



Ashkal Alwan / On the Indefinite Postponement of Home Works 8 (Beirut, Lebanon)

October 23, 2019




We do not regret to inform you that Ashkal Alwan is indefinitely postponing all programmes and events scheduled to take place from October 17-27, 2019 as part of the 8th edition of Home Works: A Forum on Cultural Practices.

The launch of this edition of Home Works has once again been overwhelmed by the very forces that had initially led to its inception in 2001. Lebanon is witnessing spontaneous popular uprisings, bent on targeting our current regime and its security apparatuses, as well as toppling sectarian discourses and their hold on public life.

Artistic and cultural institutions and initiatives are in no way isolated from broader civic, political, economic, and ideological contexts, but rather shaped as a result of and in response to historical events and their repercussions. This edition of Home Works initially called on participants to partake in acts of collective world-building, suggesting pathways to re-imagine social relations as they currently stand. Then, it seemed pertinent to echo the region’s manyfold attempts at dismantling inherited structures of the past and designing alternative blueprints for the future, from Sudan to Syria, and from Algeria to Iraq. Today, it is our turn.

In the past week, we have actively participated in mass protests and general strikes, closely monitored the situation as it was unfolding, and consulted with friends and colleagues from the legal, academic, journalistic, and artistic-cultural sectors to decide on the best way forward. Our conclusion: there shouldn’t be any reason to regret or apologize for the indefinite postponement of our programmes and events. Our artistic, intellectual, and organizational energy will be redirected towards the achievement of our hopes and aspirations, the possibility of which is being granted to us by a momentum that should be seized at any cost.

See you in the streets.

Ashkal Alwan

Gulf Labor Coalition: A Boycott does not an Anti-semite Make or Unmake

October 15, 2019

We want to begin this statement by asserting that Gulf Labor Coalition (GLC) categorically refuses and resists all forms of racism and discrimination, including anti-Semitism and condemns the recent attacks on synagogues in New Zealand, the US and in Germany.

We feel compelled to write this statement in response to recent attempts to criminalize and label as anti-Semitic, the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement and in light of the recent attempt by the German city of Aachen, to pressure the Ludwig Museum into withdrawing the Art Prize Aachen to Lebanese artist Walid Raad.

Raad, who is one of the members of GLC steering committee, is not an isolated case. The German parliament’s adoption of a non-binding resolution to condemn the BDS movement in May 2019, along with similar steps taken in France and the UK, has grave and far reaching consequences. It sends a clear statement that the rights of Palestinians in the face of well documented systemic and daily abuse by Israeli governments is of no moral concern for Germany, and that anyone who expresses support for Palestinian rights is considered an anti-Semite. The director of Berlin’s Jewish Museum Peter Schäfer, was forced to resign for sharing an article about a letter signed by 240 Israeli and Jewish scholars, condemning the Bundestag proposition on the grounds that it undermines the fight against real anti-Semitism.

More recently the city of Dortmund withdrew its award of the Nelly Sachs Prize for British-Pakistani author Kamila Shamsie over her support for BDS, even though the award citation recognized that her writing  “builds bridges between societies.” Other artists recently punished and banned for their support of BDS include Talib Kweli, Young Fathers, and Khaled Barakat. The interior minister of Berlin, Andreas Geisel, has publicly stated that he would take action to hunt supporters of the BDS, to raise “alarm bells” before the fire spreads. In parallel, the US Federal Government is “investigating” all Middle East Studies departments at American Universities. Efforts to criminalize BDS in all of the EU are underway in Brussels, and separate efforts are ongoing in France.

As members of Gulf Labor Coalition, we have been involved in a protracted struggle for the rights of migrant workers in the construction of the Guggenheim Museum and other cultural entities on Saadiyat island, Abu Dhabi, in the United Arab Emirates. When we confronted intransigence on the part of the museum and UAE authorities, we called for  a Cultural Boycott as a peaceful means of calling attention to an urgent concern and resistance. As much as we are familiar with the tactic of cultural boycott, we are also familiar with tactics to discredit it.

Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) is a Palestinian-led movement for freedom, justice and equality. BDS upholds the simple principle that Palestinians are entitled to the same rights as the rest of humanity. Inspired by the South African anti-apartheid movement, the BDS call urges action to end international support for Israel’s oppression of Palestinians and pressure Israel to comply with international law. The BDS commitment to nonviolence is reflected in Israel’s leading newspaper Haaretz, which published Hanan Ashrawi’s op-ed “Boycott Is Our Palestinian Non-violent Resistance.”

No one participating in the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against the systematic injustices perpetrated by the South African government in the time of apartheid could be accused of being anti-white; only those who sought to deligitimize that struggle would take such a position. Similarly, any entity who determines that the treatment of Palestinians under the authority of the state of Israel to be unjust, cannot be labeled anti-Semitic. Actions under the BDS movement are not directed toward the Jewish faith or the Jewish people. They are explicitly aimed against a government and its military that carries out systematic human rights violations against the Palestinian people. Those who attempt to stigmatize this ethical position by brandishing the false label of ‘anti-Semitism’ deliberately obfuscate and misrepresent the intentions of those who take part in the boycott, diverting focus from the demands of those boycotting and from actual incidents of anti-Semitism, such as mass shooting by white neo-nazi gunmen at synagogues in America– Pittsburgh (2018), Los Angeles (2018), and Poway (2019) and just this week in Germany in Halle (2019).

Boycott is a strategy which consists in withdrawing one’s engagement with, support of and participation in an entity or enterprise one has a grievance towards. It is usually conducted on a collective basis and is called on by an individual, a group or association, when all other paths to address a problem, or hold an entity accountable for ongoing injustice have failed to yield change.

Historically some of the most effective and peaceful means of resistance have been withdrawal, non-engagement, non-participation. In the realm of labor or corporate relations, this is referred to as a strike. When a strike is socialized to a level of a people, we know it as a general strike. Similar to the ontological matrix of a strike, the boycott assembles a collection of individuals who were previously isolated from power. A counter power is created to the dominant one..

Gulf Labor Coalition offers an example of boycott in the cultural realm. The coalition came together to address the conditions and welfare of workers who would be building the Guggenheim Museum in Abu Dhabi. Members of GLC felt that they could as artists collect signatures from other artists who shared this concern, approach the museum’s administrators, express its wishes for securing the welfare of the museum’s workers and find a solution together. GLC concluded that the conversations with the museum were not having the desired effect and therefore called for a Boycott of sales and participation with the museum until they would meet the demands. GLC has never stopped seeking new avenues for negotiation and finding resolution, but the boycott was one means for GLC to withdraw support or consent until the demands are met.

Certainly, some attempted to tarnish GLC by claiming that it has some agenda against the Guggenheim, when in fact from GLC’s perspective what was asked of the museum could only be in their best long-term interests. After all, who could respect a museum built on the backs of exploited and ill-treated workers? We were highly sensitive that our boycott not embolden those with anti-Arab or anti-Muslim agendas or perpetuate racist stereotypes. One could imagine in a similar vein that the boycott could be labelled by those who resist the changes we have advocated for as anti-Arab or having an  anti-UAE agenda when if the GLC remedies would be heeded, they could only put the UAE on the very path of nourishment and respect for the culture it has been espousing and invested heavily in.

Just as groups and individuals debated the merits of various political tactics throughout history, we can and should openly debate approaches to effecting change today. We know that boycotts, like strikes, can be difficult processes: they draw a line and clearly identify sides to be taken. As with individual  experiences, sometimes, you may find a friend taking the opposite side. Paradoxically, you may also find people on your side whose views you do not agree with, or find reprehensible. Regardless of how meticulously you clarify your views, there are no guarantees that your ethical position will not be appropriated by other agendas. We can only do the work to repeatedly call out such appropriations and stay vigilant against it. Thus, while there is no way to fully prevent someone with an anti-Semitic agenda from supporting BDS, the boycott itself does not an anti-Semite make or unmake. Nor does unconditional support for Israel exempt one from having anti-Semitic and racist attitudes. This is true both historically as well as within our contemporary politics, when some of the most xenophobic and racist politicians also claim to be defenders of the Israeli state.

Those who boycott exercise a critical democratic form of political resistance. Possessing no power or authority over a situation, they collectivize their capacity to withdraw their cooperation, participation, and engagement. They take this action in solidarity with those yet more precarious – people who have been invisiblized or whose voices often remain unheard.

There is today a very dangerous trend to enact laws which silence dissent and critique of state conduct. We write this letter to urge all cultural workers to strongly refuse such concerted attempts to stifle critique, or collective action, against any abusive state or unjust entity.


Gulf Labor Coalition

Method Fund calls for financial and public support of court hearings concerning the legal definition of censorship in Ukraine

October 8, 2019

We invite everyone to support the campaign by:

  • donating any amount comfortable for you;
  • providing media support.

The gathered sum will cover expenses on legal support provided by Trust Me Law Firm (Kyiv, Ukraine).

Payment details:

Method FundIBAN:  UA283510050000026003567248000 

BENEFICIARY BANK: JSC “UKRSIBBANK”Andriivska. str. 2/12, Kyiv, Ukraine


PURPOSE: Charitable contribution according to the program “About establishing the fact of censorship” 

kuznetsov copy 

Detailed information about the case:

In 2013, on a day before the exhibition “Grand and Great” in Mystetsky Arsenal museum complex in Kyiv, Ukraine, was opened, a mural by Volodymyr Kuznetsov called “Koliivschyna: the Judgment Day,” created specially for this exhibition, was painted over with black paint on the order of the director of the museum complex Nataliya Zabolotna. The exhibition commemorated the 1025-th anniversary of Rus’ baptism and was accompanied by official events.

In 2015, Volodymyr Kuznetsov initiated a long series of court hearings to protect his right for freedom of expression. His last lawsuit against Mystetsky Arsenal and Nataliya Zabolotna has been concerned with establishing the facts of censorship and copyright infringement, demanding moral compensation for these violations. In February 2018, the court ordered to close the lawsuit concerning the fact of censorship.

The ban and destruction of Kuznetsov’s “Koliivschyna” is an act of censorship. This case became the foundation for numerous discussions in Ukraine’s cultural field. The right to freedom of thought and speech, to free expression of one’s opinions and beliefs, is guaranteed by Constitution of Ukraine; however, the attempt to solve the conflict in the legal field showed that the current law of Ukraine has no clear notion of censorship and no definite punishment for acts of censorship.

A lack of legal definition of censorship and refusal to acknowledge that this case was a case of censorship presents us with a risk of emergence of a prohibitive mechanism, allowing any official or a director of any cultural institution to ban or even destroy any “ambiguous” piece of art that he or she cannot understand.


ESTABLISHING THE FACT OF CENSORSHIP is a crowdfunding campaign initiated by Method Fund as a program of solidarity action to support the court hearings on establishing the fact of censorship, to determine the notion of censorship, and to organize an educational program enhancing creative workers’ knowledge of the law.

The Method Fund is an independent, nonprofit organization aimed at supporting and developing contemporary art and culture in Ukraine by initiating scientific, educational and exhibition projects.

If you have any questions, please contact the campaign’s coordinator Olga Kubli,


Statement Condemning the Alarming Silencing of Sexual Harassment Survivors (New Delhi, India)

October 4, 2019

Indian artist Subodh Gupta filed a civil defamation suit on 18 September 2019 against the Instagram handle @herdsceneand for allegedly “publishing false, malicious and defamatory content”. Mr. Gupta is seeking ‘token’ damages of Rs. 5 crore (Rs. 50 million). The Delhi High Court on 30 September 2019 directed that the posts referring to Mr. Gupta on @herdsceneand be taken down. Additionally, the Court directed Google to take down from its search results a list of URLs that report on the sexual harassment allegations against Subodh Gupta, and directed Instagram to provide details of the “person/entity” running the Instagram handle to the Court in a sealed cover.

Given the complex personal and professional terrains that have to be navigated in the arts and cultural sector, those who speak out against sexual harassment choose to remain anonymous due to public stigma, intimidation, fear of losing work and other forms of structural violence.

@herdsceneand is an important platform that gives voice to survivors whose accounts of sexual harassment and abuse of power have been systematically silenced in the past. The platform creates an environment of collectivity and solidarity in an otherwise hostile context. The urgent attention the platform has brought to the prevalence and normalisation of sexual harassment and abuse of power has put pressure on art institutions to revisit and strengthen their policies and mechanisms to work towards safer spaces and more equitable work environments. These are beginnings for a lot of hard work that needs to be done


This defamation suit against @herdsceneand is an outright move to silence the survivors and gag the platform that gave them a voice while protecting their identities. This is exactly what survivors have feared when choosing anonymity. This is an attempt to dissuade others from sharing further experiences of harassment and violence, and to perpetuate a culture of fear.

The survivors who have shared their painful accounts with great courage MUST be protected. Intimidation and attempts to discredit and silence their voices MUST be strongly condemned.

We ask you to condemn this defamation suit and show solidarity towards the survivors by:

– sharing news and other coverage of this case widely on social media to register protest against this attempt to silence
– archiving / documenting the posts that have been ordered to be removed by Instagram as a way to keep a record of the survivors statements

– writing to us with any information, advice, ideas for support relating to this case and/or other cases of sexual harassment. Please write to

In solidarity,

1. Aarthi Parthasarthy/ Kadak Collective
2. Akansha Rastogi, New Delhi
3. Akhila Krishnan and Mira Malhotra, Kadak Collective, London/ Mumbai
4. Annu Palakunnathu Matthew, Providence/ Bangalore
5. Anushka Rajendran, New Delhi
6. Diwas Raja Kc, Kathmandu
7. Fiza Khatri, Karachi
8. Gopika Bashi, Bangalore
9. Jaishri Abichandani, New York
10. Laxmi Murthy, Bangalore
11. Maraa – A Media and Arts Collective, Bangalore
12. Mila Samdub, New Delhi
13. Munem Wasif, Dhaka
14. Naeem Mohaiemen, Dhaka
15. Natasha Malik, Islamabad
16. NayanTara Gurung Kakshapati, Kathmandu
17. Neha Dixit, New Delhi
18. Nishant Shah, Arnhem
19. Padmini Ray Murray, Bangalore
20. Pallavi Paul, New Delhi
21. Phalguni Desai, Mumbai
22. Priyadarshini Ohol, Mumbai
23. Rachita Taneja, Bangalore
24. Radha Mahendu, New Delhi
25. Raksha Kumar, Bangalore
26. Rattanamol Johal, New York
27. Rituparna Chatterjee, New Delhi
28. Sahej Rahal, Mumbai
29. Sandhya Menon, Bangalore
30. Sharareh Bajracharya, Kathmandu
31. Sitara Chowfla, New Delhi
32. Skye Arundhati Thomas, Mumbai
33. Sohrab Hura, New Delhi
34. Sumona Chakravarty, Kolkata
35. Tanvi Mishra, New Delhi
36. Vidisha-Fadescha, New Delhi
37. Vidyun Sabhaney, New Delhi/ Goa
38. Zarina Muhammad & Gabrielle de la Puente, White Pube, London/Liverpool


We are reaching out to you today as an institution that represents the Indian contemporary artist Mr. Subodh Gupta, deals in his artwork, collects his artwork, or otherwise has a stake in his practice, for your support and solidarity in this fight against sexual harassment.

In December 2018, the Instagram account @herdsceneand published seven anonymous accounts alleging sexual harassment and misconduct by Mr. Subodh Gupta. On 18 September 2019, Mr. Gupta filed a defamation suit against @herdsceneand in the Delhi High Court, demanding 5 crore rupees (~$700,000) in “token” damages. The Delhi High Court on 30 September 2019 directed that the posts referring to Mr. Gupta on @herdsceneand be taken down and directed Instagram to provide details of the “person/entity” running the Instagram handle to the court in a sealed envelope.

The allegations against Mr. Gupta have not, as yet, been tested in a court of law. As we know, sexual harassment is one of the most difficult charges to prove in court. The burden of proof is always placed on the survivor. Often survivors choose not to seek legal redress, and choose anonymity, fearing public stigma, career loss, financial burden and other forms of intimidation and retaliation such as this defamation case in itself, especially when the accused are in positions of power, like Mr. Gupta is.

The need therefore, for alternative redressal mechanisms, is urgent. And the need for institutions such as yours, and the larger arts community to show solidarity towards addressing sexual harassment, to shift our understanding of this as a collective problem and not just a problem between the perpetrator and survivor, is critical.

We appeal to you today to make the interventions that are in your power to be made. Although Mr. Gupta has the legal right to defend himself, the survivors who have shared their experiences also have a right to be heard.

We therefore ask that you initiate a fair and independent inquiry of these allegations against Mr. Gupta. We ask that you center the painful experiences of survivors in this process, taking into full consideration the challenges they face, and making every effort possible to establish a safe environment for survivors to come forward. We ask that your investigation honor the need to safeguard their identities against public stigma and other forms of retaliation. We ask that you seek every possible alternative to establish proof, without assigning that burden solely on the survivors themselves, but also seeking ways to corroborate accounts through witness and bystander testimonies, among other means. We ask that you honor the need for healing, and look into transformative and restorative actions for the survivors, as well as the perpetrator.

Without any attempt to investigate and establish the truth, this defamation suit against @herdsceneand which Mr. Gupta has filed, is an outright move to silence survivors and the platform that gave them a voice. This is a direct attempt to dissuade survivors from sharing their experiences of harassment and violence. This has already set a dangerous precedence, legal and otherwise, and will continue to perpetuate a culture of fear and impunity.

We write to you today to note our protest of these actions by Mr. Gupta, and to inquire re. the following;

  1. Are you aware of the allegations made against Mr. Subodh Gupta, an artist whom you represent, on 13th December 2018 and then again on 20th January 2019 on @herdsceneand?
  2. Do you have policies and preventive or redressal mechanisms that address sexual harassment within your institution? Do they apply to the artists you represent and work with, regardless of whether or not it is legally required? Are they included in artist and other contracts? If so, is this information accessible to the public? Would you be willing to share them with the public, and other institutions as a model and resource
  3. Have you had internal discussions pertaining to these allegations of sexual harassment against Mr. Subodh Gupta?
  4. Have you pursued an enquiry on the basis of the allegations of sexual harassment against Mr. Subodh Gupta? If you have, what have been the results of these enquiries been? We request that you kindly make your proceedings and findings public. If no enquiry has been made, why not?
  5. Are you aware that Mr. Gupta is misusing his position of power to intimidate, discredit and silence the survivors who have spoken up against him, and the platform that gave them a voice? What is your institutional position on this?

We attach to this communication, three independent statements that have been issued by different arts and media communities, endorsed by hundreds of signatories who represent the Indian and associated art world, who are all gravely concerned by this case. This is a public call for accountability that is growing in strength and which we hope will lead towards positive action.

We are at your disposal for any further discussions and pledge our collective support towards any institutional proceedings you may wish to initiate.


In Solidarity with Survivors – an independent group of allies



Reference links:

A Letter from Artists in the Whitney Biennial (New York, US)

July 19, 2019

Dear Ru and Jane,

We respectfully ask you to withdraw our work from the Whitney Biennial for the remainder of the show. This request is intended as condemnation of Warren Kanders’ continued presence as Vice Chair of the Board. We would appreciate if you presented this letter to the Board to let them know the seriousness of the situation.

We care deeply about the Whitney. Over the years, many shows at the Museum have inspired and informed our art. We were angry when we learned of Kanders’ role as CEO of Safariland, a company that manufactures tear gas and other weapons of repression. At the time, we had already accepted your invitation to participate in the Whitney Biennial and some of us were well into fabrication of major pieces for this show. We found ourselves in a difficult position: withdraw in protest or stay and abide a conflicted conscience. We decided to participate.

But the Museum’s continued failure to respond in any meaningful way to growing pressure from artists and activists has made our participation untenable. The Museum’s inertia has turned the screw, and we refuse further complicity with Kanders and his technologies of violence.

We have enormous respect for you as curators and it has been a pleasure working with you.

Yours sincerely,

Korakrit Arunanondchai

Meriem Bennani

Nicole Eisenman

Nicholas Galanin

The open letter was addressed to Rujeko Hockley and Jane Panetta, curators of the 2019 Whitney Biennial. Read more here.


On Saturday morning, three additional artists said they were withdrawing work in solidarity. Eddie Arroyo and Agustina Woodgate announced through their gallery, Spinello Projects, of Miami, Fla., that “the request is intended as a condemnation of Warren Kanders’ continued presence as Vice-Chair of the Board and the Museum’s continued failure to respond in any meaningful way to growing pressure from artists and activists.”

A seventh artist, Christine Sun Kim, said in an email to The New York Times on Saturday that she, too, had asked for her work to be withdrawn from the Biennial.

“As a mother to a 2-year-old daughter, it terrifies me that my work is currently part of a platform that is now strongly associated with Kanders’ teargas-producing company Safariland,” she wrote to curators. “I do not want her to grow up in a world where free and peaceful expression is countered with means that have left people injured and dead.”

The eighth to ask that work be withdrawn was Forensic Architecture, a London-based research group, which produced a 10-minute video that directly addressed the controversy over Mr. Kanders, called “Triple-Chaser.”

Eyal Weizman, the founder and director of Forensic Architecture, said in an interview that the group had written to the curators on Saturday to remove “Triple-Chaser” and accompanying films. He added that Forensic Architecture asked that those films be replaced by a statement from the group about its new investigation suggesting that bullets made by a company, Sierra Bullets — which it alleges has ties to Mr. Kanders — were used by the Israeli forces against civilian protesters in Gaza in 2018.

In a written statement on Friday, Adam D. Weinberg, the Whitney’s director, acknowledged the four artists’ letter to the curators.

“The Whitney respects the opinions of all the artists it exhibits and stands by their right to express themselves freely. While the Whitney is saddened by this decision, we will of course comply with the artists’ request.”

Warren Kanders’s Whitney Resignation Letter

On July 25th, Warren Kanders, a vice-chairman of the Whitney Museum of American Art, sent this letter to the rest of the Whitney board announcing he was stepping down following protests over his company’s sale of tear gas.


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