‘Nope to Arms’ Artists Condemn Design Museum’s ‘Silence’ Over Ethical Fundraising

In further news: Baltimore Museum of Art announces year of exhibitions devoted to women artists; Apple launches series of AR art walks

‘Hope to Nope’, Design Museum, London, installation view, 2018. Courtesy: Design Museum

‘Hope to Nope’, Design Museum, London, installation view, 2018. Courtesy: Design Museum

In a statement issued today, the ‘Nope to Arms’ collective, which includes artists Shepard Fairey and Peter Kennard, has criticized London’s Design Museum for its alleged ‘silence’ over ethical fundraising policies. The group of more than 40 artists withdrew their work from the Design Museum’s ‘Hope to Nope’ exhibition of protest art last year. The action was in response to the museum hosting a reception for the arms company Leonardo. One year on, the artists are accusing the museum of a lack of action over a promised review of fundraising. In July 2018, the museum said that it would be reviewing their ‘due diligence policy related to […] commercial and fundraising activities.’ But ‘the museum has apparently done nothing. It has not responded to our requests for an update for many months. There is no publicly available information about its due diligence policy on its website,’ the artists claim. 

In a statement sent to frieze, the Design Museum said that it had reviewed its process for private bookings, and reviewed its fundraising framework. It acknowledged the need for public institutions to ‘address the increased scrutiny which they rightly face’. The museum said that it would review funding proposals ‘on a case by case basis’ and that the result of its review of corporate bookings was available as part of its annual review. The Design Museum’s 2017-18 Annual Review, published on the museum’s website on 23 July 2019, states that ‘following an event at the end of July [2018] the museum undertook a review of how and to whom the museum’s spaces could be hired. As a result of this the museum is satisfied that robust procedures for event hire bookings are in place and are consistent with those of our cultural venue peers.’

There has been intensifying scrutiny over museums and ethical sponsorship in recent months. In July, the Whitney Museum’s vice chairman Warren B. Kanders resigned over his ownership of the tear gas producer Safariland, following months of protests. Read Mel Evans on the Design Museum’s controversial reception for Leonardo: ‘It’s an age-old public relations tactic of acquiring a veneer of social acceptability – and one that any ethical public institution would refuse to grant.’

The Baltimore Museum of Art is devoting a year of exhibition programming to women artists. In a bid to address diversity gaps, the BMA’s ‘2020 Vision’ exhibitions seek to focus on women’s role in art history, the Art Newspaper reports. It launches in October with ‘By Their Creative Force: American Women Modernists’, displaying artists such as Georgia O’Keeffe and Maria Martinez – other projects will include a large-scale Mickalene Thomas installation, a Candice Breitz show of video works and a Joan Mitchell retrospective.

Apple has partnered with the New Museum in New York to create a series of augmented reality art walks across London, San Francisco, New York, Paris, Hong Kong and Tokyo. The AR art walks involve artists Nick Cave, Nathalie Djurberg, Hans Berg, Cao Fei, John Giorno, Carsten Höller and Pipilotti Rist. Groups of people will be led around by an Apple guide, and will experience the interactive artworks through an iPhone. ‘Augmented reality is a medium ripe for dynamic and visual storytelling that can extend an artist’s practice beyond the studio or the gallery and into the urban fabric’, New Museum director Lisa Phillips said.

In gallery news: Mitchell Algus has said on Instagram that his New York space is on the verge of closing: ‘[...] with a lease pending, the gallery may be unable to continue’; and artist Jonathan Baldock is now represented by London’s Stephen Friedman Gallery, with a solo exhibition opening on 26 September.

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