Seven recent MFA graduates at the California Institute of Arts have dropped out of an exhibition at Los Angeles’s UTA Artist Space, accusing the venue of having kept them from addressing Gaza and Palestine in their artist statements.

According to Hyperallergic, which first reported the news on Tuesday, some former CalArts students in the exhibition wanted to edit their artist statements ahead of the show’s opening on January 20 to account for the conflict in Gaza, where, according to the local health ministry, more than 25,000 people have been killed in Israeli airstrikes and a ground invasion since the October 7 Hamas attack.

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But, when they tried to do so, the graduates said, CalArts and UTA Artist Space told them they couldn’t change their statements. Moreover, according to some graduates, UTA partner and creative director Arthur Lewis said the show would be canceled altogether if a protest were to be held at the opening. Some artists in the show had planned to read a statement about Palestine at that event, according to Hyperallergic.

A spokesperson for UTA denied this in a statement to Hyperallergic, saying that Lewis “had not requested censoring any specific words or particular position,” while also adding that he “had only expressed that he did not want the exhibit they’d agreed to host to turn into a protest.”

In response, seven artists—Laura Ohio, Zoe Josephina Moon, malavika rao, GIAHN, Jungsub Eom, lauren mcavoy, and Ásgerður “Ása” Arnardóttir—pulled their work from the show not long before it was to go on view.

“We respect those students’ decision to withdraw from the exhibit,” a UTA spokesperson told ARTnews.

A CalArts spokesperson told ARTnews in an email that the school “did not request or require the artists to amend their statements, nor would we ever do so.”

“It is a central tenet of CalArts to foster an environment where challenging discourse can thrive, and differences can be expressed with thoughtfulness, empathy, and rigor,” the spokesperson wrote. “The Institute has a very clear and long-standing practice of noncensorship regarding any work of art, design, performance, or publication on the campus, which extends to anyone representing CalArts in any official sense.”

UTA Artist Space is the exhibition space run by United Talent Agency, which represents a range of celebrities and artists, including Ai Weiwei, Arthur Jafa, Derrick Adams, and Petra Cortright. The show there in which these former students’ work was set to appear, “Infrastructures,” runs through February 3. It features a range of 2023 graduates from CalArts’s Art, Art & Technology, and Photography & Media programs. Thirty-two artists are currently included in the exhibition.

As is typical for MFA shows held at commercial galleries and other art spaces, the art included is paired with statements by its makers. In the case of “Infrastructures,” at least one participant, Zoe Josephina Moon, had already discussed Palestine in her statement submitted for the show months before its opening, but per Hyperallergic, she was asked to edit hers.