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Tel Aviv’s 1:1 Center for Art and Politics is intentionally exhibiting work by contemporary Arab artists without permission or attribution

Wael Shawky, The Song of Roland: The Arabic Version, 2018, performance documentation, Sharjah Art Foundation’s March Meeting 2018. Courtesy: Sharjah Art Foundation

Wael Shawky, The Song of Roland: The Arabic Version, 2018, performance documentation, Sharjah Art Foundation’s March Meeting 2018. Courtesy: Sharjah Art Foundation

Tel Aviv’s new gallery 1:1 Center for Art and Politics has caused anger after consciously showing pieces by major contemporary Arab artists without consent or attribution in their inaugural show ‘Stolen Arab Art’. The gallery said they had not provided any credit to the artists ‘on the assumption that they would not want for their work to be shown in Israel’.

A press statement from the gallery stated: ‘We are showing the works in the exhibition in Israel without the artists’s knowledge or consent, acutely aware of this act of expropriation […] By delineating these political and geographic boundaries we wish to call attention to Israel’s exclusion from the Middle East family.’

The exhibition features four video pieces by artists including Wael Shawky and Walid Raad, which are all presented without their permission, and do not feature any credits. Shawky told frieze that the inclusion of his artworks in the show was ‘absolutely unacceptable.’ He clarified that he was against showing his work in Israel, and said of the gallery: ‘They stole my work and they behave as activists, pathetic.’

Gallery director Omer Krieger told frieze that the show ‘is meant to provoke Israelis out of their indifference, despair and denial […] The present boycott of Israel prevents artists, intellectuals and opposition supporters to act together against their repressive regimes. I think Israel deserves a boycott, but when you lose your curiosity, you lose your humanity.’ Krieger added: ‘I actually do think this will make a change, towards a peaceful, democratic and secular Middle East.’

Shawky told media outlet Middle East Eye that he was considering legal action against the gallery, and had alerted his galleries – London’s Lisson Gallery and Beirut’s Sfeir-Semler Gallery. Lisson Gallery told frieze that they had no comment to make at the time of reporting.

The Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement is a global campaign that demands a boycott of the Israeli state in solidarity with Palestinian civil society – taking its lead from South Africa’s Anti-Apartheid Movement. Critics of the movement have called it antisemitic for its treatment of Israel. The relationship between BDS and the cultural world has become increasingly strained of late; last month Germany’s Ruhrtriennale arts festival disinvited Scottish hip-hop trio Young Fathers for their support for BDS, triggering international outrage.