Actress Olivia Coleman and artist Molly Crabapple are among the more than 1,300 visual artists, writers, and actors who have signed an open letter that accuses Western cultural institutions of “silencing and stigmatizing” Palestinian voices and perspectives. The signatories say this includes “targeting and threatening the livelihoods of artists and arts workers who express solidarity with Palestinians, as well as canceling performances, screenings, talks, exhibitions and book launches.”

The letter was published on November 30 by the organization Artists for Palestine UK, which in October published a widely circulated letter demanding a permanent ceasefire in Gaza, where thousands of people have been killed as a result of Israeli airstrikes since the October 7 Hamas attack. That attack killed 1,400 Israelis and involved the taking of more than 200 hostages, more than 100 of which have reportedly been released.

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This new letter addresses Lisson Gallery’s postponement of a London exhibition by Ai Weiwei following a since-deleted tweet by the artist that was critical of US aid to Israel; the Museum Folkwang’s abrupt shuttering of curator Anaïs Duplan’s contribution to planned a group show due to Duplan’s engagement with pro-Palestine content on social media; and the Saarland Museum’s cancelation of a solo exhibition of South African artist Candice Breitz, who had called for a ceasefire while also condemning Hamas.

“In each case the institution attributed the cancellation to comments made by the artist in support of Palestinian rights and unrelated to the content of their professional work,” the letter states, adding that the art organizations mentioned have a “disturbing double standard”: “Expressions of solidarity readily offered to other peoples facing brutal oppression, have not been extended to Palestinians”. 

Also mentioned was the Arnolfini, Bristol’s international center for contemporary arts, which faced backlash for canceling two events that were part of the city’s Palestine Film Festival. In a statement, the institution said it withdrew from hosting the poetry reading and film screening because, as an arts charity, it was not permitted to promote what could be “construed as political activity.”

The letter continues to warn that many artists are refusing to work with institutions that fail to meet [these] basic obligations” to uphold freedom of expression and anti-discrimination when it comes to speech on Palestine. 

In November, more than 2,000 poets pledged to boycott the Poetry Foundation after its journal refused to publish Joshua Gutterman’s review of Sam Sax’s collection PIG because it engaged with anti-Zionists politics, per Lithub. Four poets—Noor Hindi, Summer Farah, Omar Sakr, and George Abraham—published an open letter to the board of the Poetry Foundation and the editors of its sister publication, Poetry, in which they called on their peers to boycott the organization “until such time as they have demonstrated they are on the side of humanity.”

Meanwhile, writers, artists, and curators are also boycotting Artforum after editor David Velasco was fired following the publication of a letter that called for a ceasefire in Gaza and Palestinian liberation. Signed by thousands of well-known artists—as well as Velasco and other Artforum staffers—the letter was criticized by some because it initially failed to note the October 7 Hamas attack. (The magazine’s publishers said the way the letter was run was “not consistent with Artforum’s editorial process” because the article “was shared on Artforum’s website and social platforms without our, or the requisite senior members of the editorial team’s, prior knowledge.”) Shortly after Velasco was fired and two senior editors quit, hundreds of Artforum contributors past and present said they would no longer contribute to the magazine or to ARTnews and Art in America, which are also owned by Penske Media Corporation.