Support Hyperallergic’s independent arts journalism.
Oh no, it’s like Naomi Campbell all over again! Well, not quite. One of the sponsors of the Daphne Guinness blockbuster exhibition at the Museum at FIT, Leviev Extraordinary Diamonds, has recently come under fire for some shady activities involving shall we say “questionable” diamond trades, upsetting several media outlets and human rights organizations. When will the fashion world learn?
Jezebel and other publications have reported that diamond magnate Lev Leviev, a sponsor of the Daphne Guinness show, has been involved in questionable practices both in the diamond trade and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Despite what it may say in paper, Leviev apparently does not meet the obligations or standards of the Kimberley Process (Warning: French), a process enacted to trace rough diamonds through conflict-free production, and according to Jezebel, during the diamond-funded Angolan Civil War:
Leviev reportedly sided with the rebels who were eventually victorious, which alliance allowed him to corner the Angolan rough-diamond market after the war ended in 2001.
Leviev has also come under fire for setting up illegal Israeli settlements in the Palestinian-dominated West Bank, which has incurred the wrath of several human rights organizations, including Codepink, a New York-based women-initiated activist group, who had this to say on the scandal:
We do not know Ms. Guinness personally and can’t presume to guess what she knows or doesn’t know about Lev Leviev’s practices. But we hope that by calling her attention to the matter, she will feel compelled to take a public stand on F.I.T.’s accepting money from a company that so blatantly violates international law in the Occupied West Bank and that is suspected of unethical business practices in the African diamond trade.
To be tied with such a controversial figure does not bode well for either Daphne Guinness or the Museum at FIT, both because of their clout and standing in the fashion world, and especially as public figures and institutions, respectively. The term “blood diamonds” has been avoided in the reportage thus far, but especially Leviev’s ties with the Angolan Civil War, plus his illegal occupations in Palestine are enough to pause and consider what’s really going on.
Previously, supermodel Naomi Campbell came under fire for accepting blood diamonds from Liberian ruler Charles Taylor back in 2010. Though it hasn’t seem to have affected her career, it’s still deplorable for anyone to be tied with such horrific violations of human rights, all for the sake of something shiny. While Daphne Guinness’s complicity is no where near on the same level as Naomi, any connection to the horrible miasma associated with conflict diamonds is reprehensible, and it’s probably a good idea to sever any connections to it immediately.
When reached for a comment, the Museum at FIT said:
The college is taking this matter quite seriously and in doing so, needs a bit of time to reach a decision.
Hopefully we’ll see a positive development, but in the mean time we’ll have to wait and see what action will be taken regarding this pressing matter.
UPDATE: New York-based protest group Adalah-NY has written an open letter to Guinness and the Museum at FIT, which delineates the entire situation and can be read here.
Members have also threatened to protest the museum if an honorable decision is not made soon. Stay tuned! We may be Occupying the Museum at FIT next.