Uni gallery director is asked to leave over ‘lies’ in Israel-Palestine exhibition

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Uni gallery director is asked to leave over ‘lies’ in Israel-Palestine exhibition

Alistair Hudson, who was director of the Whitworth Art Gallery, was asked to leave his role after a major row erupted

Jenni Frazer is a freelance journalist

Manchester University’s Whitworth Gallery
Manchester University’s Whitworth Gallery

The University of Manchester has asked the director of the Whitworth Art Gallery to leave his post after a major row erupted over the contents of an exhibition relating to Israel and Palestine.

Alistair Hudson was director of the Whitworth, which is part of the university, during the staging of the Cloud Studies exhibition last August. The event was put together by Forensic Architecture, which made a series of controversial claims about Israel and Palestine, including a statement of solidarity with Palestine at the entrance to the display.

UK Lawyers for Israel (UKLFI) asked for the removal of the statement, and complained about the effect of the show on good relations with the local Jewish community, but Forensic Architecture said it wanted immediate closure of the entire exhibit if the statement was taken down. The show closed temporarily but reopened, with Hudson saying the Whitworth would “display prominently” alternative responses to “contextualise the issues raised”.

UKLFI chief executive Jonathan Turner said it had told the university Hudson “had falsely assured the vice-chancellor that [the Whitworth] had established the accuracy and legalities of the work presented in the Forensic Architecture exhibition”.

This was not true, Turner said, as the university admitted, after a Freedom of Information request from UKLFI, that it had not received any information as to the accuracy of allegations made in the exhibition. Eyal Weizman, the founder of Forensic Architecture, has repeatedly said there were no inaccuracies in the show.

As a result of what it believed was Hudson “lying to the vice-chancellor as to whether checks were made”, UKLFI suggested he was not a fit and proper person to be the Whitworth’s director and that there should be disciplinary proceedings.

A University of Manchester spokesperson said: “We absolutely uphold academic freedom. Staffing matters are strictly internal to the university and we never comment on questions of this nature.” But it is understood some sort of disciplinary proceedings are likely to have been held – as a result of which it was concluded that Hudson had to leave his post. He is currently abroad and unavailable for comment.

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