The director of Manchester University’s Whitworth Art Gallery has been asked to leave after exhibiting a statement of solidarity with Palestine issued by the artist collective Forensic Architecture, the Guardian reports.
The museum was embroiled in controversy this past summer after it mounted “Cloud Studies,” a Forensic Architecture exhibition focused on “environmental racism” in the form of toxic air breathed by majority-Black communities along the Mississippi River in Louisiana. As part of the show, the group exhibited a statement of solidarity with Palestine. “We believe that this liberation struggle is inseparable from other global struggles against racism, white supremacy, antisemitism, and settler global violence and we acknowledge its particularly close entanglement with the Black liberation struggle around the world,” the statement read.
After a group called UK Lawyers for Israel (UKLFI) accused the museum of using “inflammatory language” to describe Israel, the museum removed the statement. Forensic Architecture demanded that the museum pull the show in response, and pro-Palestine groups led protests at the Whitworth. Days later, the statement returned, and the show was kept on view.
Once it was put back, the Whitworth said the statement “expresses the views of the contributing artists, who have perspectives that come from their own experiences and the experiences of the communities and organizations who commission them.”
On Tuesday, the Guardian reported that Alistair Hudson, who has led the Whitworth since 2018, was asked to leave specifically because of the way he had dealt with the Forensic Architecture show. A spokesperson for the museum did not immediately respond to ARTnews’s request for comment.
Forensic Architecture’s work has often taken the form of investigations into human rights violations and has periodically provoked controversy at the museums where it has been exhibited. In 2019, the Turner Prize–nominated group showed a video that was explicitly critical of Warren Kanders, the Whitney Museum’s since-ousted vice chair, at that year’s Whitney Biennial. Also in 2019, Miami Dade College’s Museum of Art and Design was accused of censoring a survey devoted to the group.
Eyal Weizman, the founder of Forensic Architecture, told the Guardian that the move to ask Hudson to leave was the “last in series of bullying actions” by Manchester University.