Statement 1: July 2014

[Headnote: the following text was written in July 2014 at the time of the Israeli assault on Gaza. It was first published on Tumblr, and then re-published the following October at www.metamute.org. It is published here, with minor changes.]

Boycott the Zabludowicz Collection! No more selfies with the patrons of war!

  1. Art and Art Patronage

Who are the Zabludowiczs and why do they need to be boycotted immediately? Answer #1: Guns + Real Estate → Israeli State = London Art World. Answer #2: The Zabludowicz Collection 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 the washing of some very dirty money through the labour pool of young London-based artists. As the effective public-relations front end for what was historically a large supplier of arms to the Israeli state, as well as for the UK-based Pro-Israeli Lobby group BICOM, the Zabludowicz Collection 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.

  1. 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 (including, until recently, in the occupied territories) 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 past chairmanship, investment and interest in the pro-Israel lobby group, BICOM, Zabludowicz has played a sophisticated and possibly pivotal role in shaping opinion about Israel in both the UK media and parliamentary spheres. This has helped him to influence UK-Israeli relations. Apart from his activity with BICOM, Zabludowicz has also been involved in making large donations to the Conservative Party.

  1. 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 institutions with which they collaborate.

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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

Let’s be clear. The Zabludowiczs’ historical involvement in the arms trade is absolutely relevant to their present role in BICOM and their white-washing through the art market. It doesn’t matter that they’ve ‘divested’; selling up and then switching the values that they ‘earned’ through mass slaughter into ‘culture’ doesn’t mean that it’s somehow unacceptable to accuse them of complicity in mass death.

Likewise: 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!

Footnote:
[1]Pacbi Guidelines for the International Boycott of Israel
Further Links:
http://www.theguardian.com/world/2009/jan/04/bisco…
http://www.thefreedomtheatre.org/news/36377/?utm_c…
https://www.academia.edu/5061190/The_Britain_Israe…
http://www.artiscontemporary.org/features_detail.p…
http://www.theguardian.com/stage/2014/aug/05/tricy…
http://www.trayner.org/boycott_web.pdf
http://www.pacbi.org/index.php
http://www.bdsmovement.net/

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