Gallery removes ‘dangerously one-sided’ anti-Israel statement from exhibit

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Gallery removes ‘dangerously one-sided’ anti-Israel statement from exhibit

The Whitworth Gallery, part of the University of Manchester, forced to remove 'biased' introduction to exhibit after intervention.

The Whitworth Gallery is licensed under CC BY 2.0
The Whitworth Gallery is licensed under CC BY 2.0

A top arts gallery has removed a controversial statement about Israel from one of its exhibits after intervention from Jewish groups.

The Whitworth Art Gallery, part of Manchester University, had come under fire for a statement which preceded its ‘Cloud Studies’ exhibition, which purports to show the environmental impact of Israel’s actions in Gaza and the West Bank.

Visitors were shown an opening statement stating “Forensic Architecture stands with Palestine”, alongside language of “struggle against apartheid” and “settler colonial violence.”

Now the statement has been removed, and a review into the “governance arrangements” for new art at the gallery will be carried out.

A group of organisations, including UKLFI, and the Jewish Representative Council of Manchester said it was pleased the statement had been removed following their representations to the university.

“During our recent meeting with gallery representatives and the University of Manchester, it was pointed out that this was a factually incorrect and dangerously one-sided account on an extremely complex foreign policy issue,” they said. 

“For a publicly funded body to support such a problematic and biased narrative was disappointing.”

UK Lawyers for Israel had earlier written to the gallery, warning of it of potential breaches to the public sector equalities duty – saying it could ramp up anti-Jewish hatred in Manchester.

However, the director of the company who created the exhibit, Israeli-born Eyal Weizman, had defended the statement, saying the company condemned and deplored antisemitism.

The incident was the second time the gallery had been hit by controversy over the Israel/Palestine conflict.

In June, a statement on the gallery’s website proclaiming solidarity with Palestine was removed, with the university admitting “it is not appropriate to offer comment on the situation.”

A spokesperson for the gallery said the exhibit would still go ahead.

But they added: “We recognise the concerns expressed about the inclusion of that statement within the exhibition space and take these seriously, including regarding how it might be received by visitors to the gallery and around its potential impact on some communities in the city, community cohesion and fostering good relations.

“As such, entry to the exhibition was paused on Sunday, the Whitworth, as usual, is closed on Monday and Tuesday, in order to facilitate a positive outcome to this particular matter.”

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