São Paulo Biennial Participants Demand Organizers Return Israel Funding (Updated)

31st São Paulo Biennial sponsor board on the ground floor of the main exhibition hall, Tuesday August 19 (photo by Willis Besara)

Artists participating in the 31st São Paulo Biennial have signed an open letter calling on the organizers to return sponsorship funds accepted from the Israeli state, Hyperallergic has learned. The patronage, credited to the Israeli consulate in São Paulo, appears on the sponsor board in the main exhibition space, in official publications, and online, alarming some participating artists who arrived in São Paulo ahead of the September 1 preview. The sponsorship deal was allegedly negotiated after the initial slate of backers was announced; as pictured above, the consular logo appears on a paper taped to the pre-printed board bearing the other sponsors.

In the letter, the artists state that with the Israeli sponsorship, their exhibited work is “undermined and implicitly used for whitewashing Israel’s ongoing aggressions and violation of international law and human rights.” The missive follows an August 20 meeting between objecting artists and the Biennial president, Luis Terepins, who said that the organization would consider the matter, a source close to the discussions told Hyperallergic. When no resolution seemed forthcoming, the open letter was organized. The letter, reproduced below, has 55 signatories as of this writing; the biennial lists 68 participating artists and collectives.

The São Paulo Biennial, opening to the public on September 6, was founded in 1951, making it the second oldest in the world after Venice. The curators for this year’s edition are Charles Esche, Galit Eilat, Nuria Enguita Mayo, Pablo Lafuente, and Oren Sagiv.

The biennial curators and administration were not immediately available for comment.

Update, 8/29 8:30pm ET: The curators of the Sao Paulo Biennial have released a statement in full support of the open letter. We have published this update as a separate post.

Here’s the full text of the letter, along with signatories as of press time:

Open letter to the Fundacão Bienal Sao Paulo,

We, the undersigned artists participating in the 31st Bienal have been suddenly confronted, just as the show is about to open, with the fact that the Fundação Bienal de São Paulo has accepted money from the Israeli state and that the Israeli Consulate logo appears in the Bienal pavilion and on its publications and website.

At a time in which the people of Gaza return to the rubble of their homes, destroyed by the Israeli military we do not feel it is acceptable to receive Israeli cultural sponsorship. In accepting this funding our artistic work displayed in the exhibition is undermined and implicitly used for whitewashing Israel’s on going aggressions and violation of international law and human rights. We reject Israel’s attempt to normalise itself within the context of a major international cultural event in Brazil.

With this statement, we appeal to the Fundação Bienal to refuse this funding and to take action on this matter before the opening of the exhibition.

1. Agnieszka Piksa
2. Alejandra Riera
3. Ana Lira
4. Andreas Maria Fohr
5. Asier Mendizabal
6. Chto Delat collective: Dmitry Vilensky, Tsaplya Olga Egrova, Nikolay Oleynikov
7. Danica Dakic
8. Débora Maria da Silva and Movimento Mães de Maio
9. Erick Beltran
10. Etcetera… / Federico Zukerfeld/Loreto Garin Guzman
11. Farid Rakun
12. Francisco Casas y Pedro Lemebel (Yeguas del Apocalipsis)
13. Gabriel Mascaro
14. Graziela Kusch
15. Grupo Contrafilé
16. Gulsun Karamustafa
17. Halil Altindere
18. Heidi Abderhalden
19. Imogen Stidworthy
20. Ines Doujak
21. Jakob Jakobsen
22. John Barker
23. Jonas Staal
24. Lia Perjovschi and Dan Perjovschi
25. Liesbeth Bik and Jos van der Pol
26. Lilian L’Abbate Kelian
27. Loreto Garin
28. Luis Ernesto Díaz
29. Mapa Teatro-Laboratorio de Artistas
30. María Berríos
31. Maria Galindo & Esther Argollo, Mujeres Creando
32. Mark lewis
33. Marta Neves
34. Michael Kessus Gedalyovich
35. Miguel A. López
36. Nilbar Güres
37. Otobong Nkanga
38. Pedro G. Romero Archivo F.X.
39. Prabhakar Pachpute
40. Rolf Abderhalden
41. Romy Pocztaruk
42. Ruanne Abou-Rahme Basel Abbas
43. Sandi Hilal and Alessandro Petti
44. Santiago Sepúlveda
45. Sergio Zevallos
46. Sheela Gowda
47. Tamar Guimarães e Kasper Akhøj
48. Thiago Martins de Melo
49. Tiago Borges
50. Tony Chakar
51. Voluspa Jarpa
52. Walid Raad
53. Ximena Vargas
54. Yael Bartana
55. Yonamine

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