A group of 25 artists and cultural workers have announced they are disaffiliating themselves from their past work with the Zabludowicz Collection as an act of protest. The individuals, who had either collaborated with or exhibited at the institution, cite the private foundation’s ongoing ties to the Israeli state as the motive.
BDZ, which stands for Boycott/Divest Zabludowicz, released a statement announcing the official act of “deauthoring” yesterday, July 26, after 25 artists and culture workers individually sent copies of BDZ’s template letter to the collection in London. The letter was addressed to the Zabludowicz Collection and its affiliates Daata Editions, Daata Fair, and Times Square Space, asserting that the signatories withdraw “all conceptual content” from the work they had made for the collection.
In the letter, “work” is defined broadly and includes an artwork, commission, curatorial programming, exhibition, or event. (The gesture echoes a 2017 protest by artist Richard Prince, who symbolically declared a commissioned work in the collection of Ivanka Trump to be “fake,” returning the $36,000 he had been paid for it.)
According to BDZ, the 25 artists and cultural workers are Sam Cottington, Benedict Drew, Olivia Erlanger, Cécile B. Evans, Jacob Farrell, Gery Georgieva, Michelle Williams Gamaker, Anton Haugen, Stewart Home, Item Idem, Jasmine Johnson, Kelly Large, Scott Mason, Harold Offeh, Uriel Orlow, Hardeep Pandhal, Amalia Pica, Rachel Pimm, Aura Satz, Jack Strange, Abri de Swardt, Ellen Mara de Wachter, Richard Whitby, Laura Yuile, and Gary Zhexi Zhang.
The letter states that the act of symbolic collective withdrawal protests the Zabludowicz’s support of the Israeli military and its pro-Israel lobbying, as well as the collection’s “function to artwash the Israeli state policy of racism and apartheid.”
The Zabludowicz Collection’s founders, Poju and Anita Zabludowicz, have maintained they want a peaceful two-state solution in the region. The contemporary art foundation, which is based in London, New York, and Sarvisalo, Finland, has a holding of more than 3,000 works of contemporary art and runs an active public program of exhibition and events.
The BDZ first became active in 2014, when it called on the two founding collectors to divest from their financial dealings with the Israeli military. Poju Zabludowicz is a major funder of the British Israel Communication and Research Centre (BICOM), a group that lobbies politicians and media to support Israel. Poju Zabludowicz is also C.E.O. of the Tamares Group, which invests in Knafaim Holdings Ltd., a company that provides “military aircraft maintenance services” to the Israeli Air Force.
The Zabludowicz Trust came under heightened criticism this spring during the recent surge of violence between Hamas and Israel, which saw 12 Israeli civilians killed in the main conflict, and 256 killed in Gaza, including at least 65 children.
In a response to a request from Artnet News, a spokesperson from the Zabludowicz Collection referred back to a May 21 statement shared online by Anita and Poju Zabludowicz. “The war between Israel and Hamas has broken our hearts once again. We passionately support a Two-State Solution that guarantees the rights of Palestinians and Israelis to live and work side-by-side in peace,” the two stated. “We welcome the ceasefire as it is only through respectful and diplomatic dialogue that a permanent peace can be achieved. We know that violence and aggression are not the answer and mourn the lives lost on both sides.”
The BDZ states that it is in solidarity with the group Artists for Palestine, which advocated for a cultural boycott of Israeli companies and institutions who work with the Israeli state. “This act of withdrawal holds until the Zabludowicz Art Trust permanently divests from and fully severs its ongoing complicit relations with the Israeli state’s policies of apartheid and military occupation,” the letter says.