São Paulo Biennial Removes General Israeli Sponsorship

Security guards cover the logo of the Israeli consulate in Sao Paulo on the evening of August 31 (image via Tony Chakar/Facebook)

After registering objections from 61 participating artists that were supported by the entire curatorial delegation of its 31st São Paulo Biennial, the Fundaçao Bienal São Paulo has agreed to “clearly disassociate” Israeli funding from the general sponsorship of the exhibition. The agreement, announced this morning in a release from the Biennial’s objecting participants, has the Israeli consulate’s logo appended only to the presentations of the Israeli artists who received its direct financial support.

The deal was struck in negotiations with Biennial administrators last night, a source close the discussions tells Hyperallergic. The number of participant signatories to the original letter was also up to 61, from the original 55, according to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency wire service. The curators’ statement of support, released one day after the August 28 artists’ letter, was unanimous, though Israeli curator Oren Sagiv “stressed” to Ha’aretz “that he did not support the letter but rather the artists’ right to protest.”

The three Israeli artists with whom the sponsorship is associated are Yohai Avrahami, Leigh Orpaz, and Nurit Sharett. A fourth Israeli artist, Yael Bartana, was a signatory to the letter of protest; the other three were not. Agence France Presse reports that Israeli funding comprised approximately $40,000 of the Biennial’s $10.5 million budget.

Here’s the full text of the artists’ statement announcing the agreement with the Fundaçao Bienal São Paulo:

We, the majority of artists and participants of the 31st São Paulo Bienal who have opposed any association of our work with Israeli State funding, today had our appeal heard by the Fundação Bienal São Paulo.

Just one week ago we were confronted by the fact that the Israeli state is contributing to the funding of the exhibition as a whole, which for a majority of us is unacceptable. Following collective negotiations the Fundação Bienal de São Paulo has committed to clearly disassociate Israeli funding from the general funding of the exhibition. The logo of the Israeli Consulate, which was presented as a general sponsor of the event, will now only be related to those Israeli artists who received that specific financial support.

We the artists and participants of the 31st São Paulo Bienal refuse to support the normalization of Israel’s ongoing occupation of the Palestinian people. We believe Israeli state cultural funding directly contributes to maintaining, defending and whitewashing their violation of international law and human rights.

A great majority of artists in this event have shown that they have agency in demanding transparency concerning the sponsorship of cultural events and they have raised the fundamental issue of how funding can compromise and undermine their work.

Furthermore, the struggle for self-determination of the Palestinian people is reflected in the work of many artists and participants in this Bienal that are involved with human rights and people’s struggles worldwide including Brazil. The oppression of one concerns that of all.

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