Banu Cennetoglu and Pilvi Takala, two artists who are well-known on the international biennial circuit, said last week that they had pulled exhibitions planned for the Neue Berliner Kunstverein, a contemporary art museum in the German capital.

In a joint statement, Cennetoglu and Takala said that their decision to cancel their shows, both planned for this year, came after the museum resisted their attempts to include in their exhibitions mention of their support of Gaza, where more than 28,000 people have been killed since October 7, according to the local health ministry.

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“At the beginning of 2024, we attempted to engage in a dialogue with n.b.k. to address our concerns and demands regarding the ongoing genocide in Palestine, as well as the silencing of Palestinian voices and their allies within the cultural scene in Germany,” the artists wrote. “Despite our hopes for collaboration, our conversations revealed that n.b.k. is unwilling to modify their current internal policies to demonstrate any disagreement with the repressive policies of the German state. Furthermore, they declined to accommodate an artistic gesture we proposed, which aimed to align with the collective solidarity with Palestine.”

Cennetoglu and Takala, who hail from Turkey and Finland, respectively, said they would now participate in Strike Germany, a movement that seeks a cultural boycott of institutions in the country that “suppress freedom of expression, specifically expressions of solidarity with Palestine.” (Takala is based in Berlin and Helsinki; Cennetoglu is based in Istanbul.)

In a statement to ARTnews on Tuesday, the Neue Berliner Kunstverein confirmed that Cennetoglu and Takala had asked the museum to make a statement about Palestine and that it had chosen not to do so. But the museum contested the details of the artists’ dialogue with the institution, as well as the reasons for why the exhibitions fell through.

“Without mentioning the Hamas terror attack on Israeli civilians on October 7, 2023, the trigger of the Gaza war, they presented n.b.k. with a series of demands, urging us to take a specific and one-sided stance on the Gaza conflict and the BDS resolution passed by the Bundestag in 2019, which n.b.k. was unable and unwilling to address,” the museum said in its statement. “We want to remain an autonomous institution independent of outside influence, one that fosters open dialogue and where all participants and artists can feel safe.”

According to the Neue Berliner Kunstverein, Cennetoglu and Takala agreed to proposing new projects after scrapping their shows on January 26. “Their proposal a few days later was to leave both exhibitions empty and donate part of the exhibition budget to unspecified local Palestinian organizations,” the museum said. “We had to decline this proposal, not least due to legal funding constraints. We regret the artists’ subsequent decision to end our collaboration.”

Furthermore, the museum said, “We are concerned about how conflicts are increasingly used to promote individual interests, and believe it is crucial to avoid taking predetermined political stances.”

The withdrawal of their shows was among the most high-profile instances of an artist striking against a German museum since the October 7 Hamas attack. But it is hardly the only one: Maryam Tafakory removed a work from Portikus in January, leading the Frankfurt museum to close briefly, and American Artist and Morehshin Allahyari dropped out of an exhibition at the KW Institute for Contemporary Art that is opening this month. Meanwhile, a number of artists have pulled work from the Transmediale and Berlinale festivals.

Many of those withdrawals were done in response to a since-repealed funding clause in Berlin that relied on a definition of antisemitism which many claimed could be wielded against pro-Palestine artists. Yet the works that were removed have generally remained that way, even after the clause was undone.

A tense mood has continued to pervade Berlin. Just this past weekend, protestors demonstrating in support of Palestine interrupted a 100-hour reading of a Hannah Arendt text by artist Tania Bruguera at the Hamburger Bahnhof. After the protestors bitterly confronted Bruguera, the museum ended the performance early, alleging that the activists had “attacked” the institution, using “violent hate speech” against one of its directors.