Every document of civilisation, wrote Walter Benjamin, is also a document of barbarism. He could have had the corporate-sponsored London art scene in mind – and in particular the Zabludowicz Collection, now a strong presence in London, as it is in New York and Helsinki. With the growing influence of Zabludowicz, art and the occupation of Palestine are becoming more closely linked – a linkage which artists are now challenging.
The Zabludowicz Collection is described by its funders as
“a philanthropic organisation dedicated to bringing emerging art to new audiences and actively supporting arts organisations and artists. The Collection holds over 3000 works by over 600 artists, spanning 40 years of art production. Its focus is on emerging art from the late 20th century to the present day.”
The collection is principally funded by the Zabludowicz Arts Trust, itself funded by another entity, the Zabludowicz Trust. It is here that a number of problems start to become clear.
The corporate arm of the Trust is Tamares, a private investment group focusing on real estate, technology, leisure and media, with large interests in Israel. Among its real estate investments in the past has been a shopping mall, constructed in the Occupied Territories at Ma’ale Adumim. Tamares, through a network of holding companies and subsidiaries, is currently linked to Knafaim, a major contractor to the Israeli Airforce.
The main player in Tamares is Poju Zabludowicz. Poju’s interests stretch beyond business. He is funder of the pro-Israel lobbying organisation BICOM*, and of Conservative Friends of Israel.
The arts institutions and the artists supported by the Zabludowicz Arts Trust are thus caught up in a nexus of property, military and PR dealings which serve to support the continued oppression of Palestinians.
Over the past 12 months a group of London artists, the Boycott Zabludowicz Group, has been assembling the case against Zabludowicz, with the full support of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI). The group has now made the following call, which APUK endorses:
‘In solidarity with the Palestinians who have called for a boycott of Israeli cultural institutions that promote acceptance, in the global cultural sphere, of Israel’s ongoing colonisation, occupation and its apartheid policies, and in light of the current escalation of violence against Palestinians in Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza, we the undersigned make a public commitment not to show at, collaborate with or participate in any events taking place at, nor to visit or to sell our work to the Zabludowicz Collection, and not to work with Zabludowicz Art Projects/Zabludowicz Art Trust/Daata Editions. We additionally commit, wherever possible, to withdrawing the conceptual content of previous participation in and/or sales made to the Zabludowicz Collection. We shall uphold this pledge until such time as the directors of the Collection publicly recognise the rights of Palestinians, and desist from all activities and investments supporting the Israeli state in maintaining an oppressive and colonial system of apartheid. In the spirit of the guidelines produced by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic & Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI), we call on other cultural workers of all nationalities to observe this ‘picket line’. Our solidarity expressed through collective refusal is our strength.’
For more information or to add your name, see https://boycottzabludowicz.wordpress.com
* For BICOM, see the excellent report by Spinwatch, ‘The British Israel Communications and Research Centre: Giving Peace a Chance?’ (2013).