Image via Mute
Mute has published a statement by the group Boycott Zabludowicz to, well, boycott the Zabludowicz Collection due to their ties to Israel and arms dealing. Here is their argument:
- Art and Art Patronage
Who are the Zabludowiczs and why do they need to be boycotted immediately? The answer: Guns + Real Estate → Israeli State = London Art World. The answer: The Zabludowicz Foundation has played a central role in supporting emerging artists in London over the past few years, but their cultural ‘patronage’ isn’t as selfless as it seems. It involves laundering some very dirty money through the labour pool of young , London-based artists. As the public-relations front end for historically one of the largest suppliers of arms to the Israeli state and Chairman of the UK based Pro-Israeli Lobby group Bicom, the Zabludowicz Foundation represents a direct link between the opportunities for careers in art for young people here in London and the current bombing and ongoing genocidal oppression of Palestinians in the Occupied Territories.
- How did Zabludowicz get so rich?
Short answer: through arms dealing and, subsequently, property development. Zabludowicz’s fortune derives from the Tamares Group, which has large real estate interests and casinos. Earlier his activities were coordinated through Soltam, the Israeli arms manufacturer set up by his father Shlomo Zabludowicz, who sold arms to the Israeli Defense Forces.
Via his chairmanship of the Pro-Israel lobby group, Bicom, Zabludowicz has a pivotal role in shaping opinion formation in both the UK media and parliamentary spheres. This gives him a say in the determination of UK-Israeli relations. Via his real estate interests, he helps to assert Israeli control and sovereignty over Jerusalem. Apart from his activity with Bicom, Zabludowicz also makes large donations to the Conservative Party.
- What can you do? Boycott!
We call upon artists to uphold the BDS / PACBI guidelines and to boycott the Zabludowicz Collection. We ask artists, cultural workers and producers not to sell or show their work with the Zabludowicz Collection in the future and/or to withdraw the ‘conceptual content’ of their work from the Collection. We ask artists to respond to BDS/ PACBI and refuse to sell their labour to the Zabludowiczs or to those operating in their network of interests.
We cite the PACBI guidelines and reiterate that these campaigns have called for a ‘picket line’ to be formed around Israeli-affiliated cultural institutions internationally. We support this demand in recognition of the fact that these institutions are ‘complicit in the Israeli system of oppression that has denied Palestinians their basic rights guaranteed by international law, or has hampered their exercise of these rights, including freedom of movement and freedom of expression’. ‘Cultural institutions’, the guideline states, ‘are part and parcel of the ideological and institutional scaffolding of Israel’s regime of occupation, settler-colonialism and apartheid against the Palestinian people’. 1
We call on artists not to scab and to act in solidarity.
This is direct solidarity with the communities under assault in Gaza, victims of state terror on both sides, and with resistance movements in both Israel and Palestine.
- Rise of private funding in London
The decline of public funding, along with the ongoing capture of public funding by the neoliberal dogma of ‘philanthropy’, has the same toxic effect today that it has always had: glorifying the rich, whether directly or ‘autonomously’, becomes the task of art, while government cutbacks structurally and ideologically legitimate the social inequality and exploitation which makes people rich enough to ‘donate’ money to the arts. While neither private capital nor the state can offer autonomy to artists or anyone else, it is still possible to distinguish between sources of support.
For anyone involved in the field of contemporary art, boycotting Zabludowicz is not a piece of moralizing theatre. It is a withdrawal of labour. The Zabludowiczs’ have enough friends in high places; you don’t need to do their PR for them. And that’s all participating in Zabludowicz-funded projects is – PR and the desperate bleaching of some very nasty money.
- Patronage vs Autonomy
Some people may want to shrug their shoulders and say that, in the end, it doesn’t matter where the money comes from, so long as something good can come of it: art. But what kind of art? Artists need to recognise that the places where their work is exhibited, the money that makes it possible, and the interests it can be made to serve all make up a part of its aesthetic content. Even the most ‘autonomous’ or ‘critical’ artwork exhibited in the Zabludowicz gallery instantly transforms itself into the merest piece of tinsel trailing off the back of the freight ships that even now are transporting the weapons that will be used to murder more Palestinian civilians.
Aesthetics and organisation are not comfortably separable. Should private patrons seek to fund the arts, then we welcome them to close their institutions and unconditionally to deliver over all their money, property and resources to artists and everyone else, who can perfectly well distribute, self-administrate and self-organise themselves: We want the money!
What are your thoughts on this? It seems like artists in London are reticent to speak out about this because Anita Zabludowicz buys so much emerging art, and everyone probably has a friend who has shown there. What is at stake in boycotting–or not boycotting–the Zabludowicz Collection?
Continuing the discussion from What are the best texts on the politics of refusing “dirty money” in the arts?: