Days after news emerged that Manchester University’s Whitworth Art Gallery reportedly asked its director to leave after his inclusion of a statement of solidarity with Palestine in an exhibition, 21 artists, including several winners of the prestigious Turner Prize, said they would pull out of a British art survey scheduled to open at the institution in May. Many of the artists announced their decision on social media, where a message posted on multiple accounts said the move was intended as an act of “solidarity with the ongoing liberation struggle of Palestine and Palestinians living under Israeli occupation.”
The Whitworth Art Gallery reportedly made moves to oust its director, Alistair Hudson, in response to a Forensic Architecture show that opened at the museum last year. That exhibition featured a statement of solidarity with Palestine that was written by the collective and posted in the museum’s galleries.
Pro-Israel advocacy groups, including the UK Lawyers for Israel, demanded that the museum take down the statement. After some time, the Whitworth Art Gallery heeded those calls. Then, a few days later, the museum reposted the statement in the exhibition. The Whitworth Art Gallery said in a statement of its own that the Palestine notice “expresses the views of the contributing artists,” whose positions “come from their own experiences.”
The 21 participants who asked for their work to be pulled from a forthcoming iteration of the “British Art Show” in Manchester—the traveling survey also has editions in other cities in England—include internationally renowned artists such as Zach Blas, Helen Cammock, Cooking Sections, Mandy El-Sayegh, Lawrence Lek, Oscar Murillo, Heather Phillipson, Joanna Piotrowska, and Tai Shani. The other artists involved, totaling around half of the participants in the “British Art Show,” are Kathrin Böhm, Maeve Brennan, Jamie Crewe, Mark Essen, Beatrice Gibson, Cecilia Hempton, Ghislaine Leung, Paul Maheke, Uriel Orlow, Florence Peake, Margaret Salmon, and Rehana Zaman.
“We condemn the University’s capitulation to continued UKLFI pressure and demands, which sets a dangerous precedent, particularly in the spaces we often work: cultural institutions, galleries, and higher education,” the artists’ shared post reads. “We stand in full solidarity with the Whitworth staff, who have made the institution an exemplar of a civic public space and a useful museum. We believe there is neither space for such actions nor possible engagement with the University and its platforms, especially when public expression is limited, and evidence for human rights violations is obscured.”
A representative for the Whitworth Art Gallery did not immediately respond to request for comment. A representative for Hayward Gallery Touring, which organized the show, said in a statement, “We’re having an open discussion with British Art Show 9’s artists and curators Irene Aristizábal and Hammad Nasar to decide next steps for Manchester.”