A controversy is brewing in Switzerland, where French luxury label Lacoste has attempted to strong arm a museum in Lausanne, Switzerland, to exclude Palestinian artist Larissa Sansour from the Lacoste Elysée Prize.

The artist says Lacoste refused to support her work because it was “too pro-Palestinian.”

The Swiss museum, Musée de l’Elysée, has come out in support of Sansour and it has released a statement that explains why it will suspend the 2011 Lacoste Elysée Prize:

The Musée de l’Elysée has based its decision on the private partner’s wish to exclude Larissa Sansour, one of the prize nominees. We reaffirm our support to Larissa Sansour for the artistic quality of her work and her dedication.

The Lacoste Elysée Prize is normally awarded by the Swiss Musée de l’Elysée with sponsorship from Lacoste and it comes with a €25,000 purse. Sansour was among the eight artists shortlisted for the 2011 prize. As part of their participation, each artist was asked to produce three photographs on the theme la joie de vivre with the help of a grant of €4,000. Artists were given free reign to interpret the theme.

The artist also claims that the luxury brand attempted to mask Sansour’s dismissal by asking her to approve a statement that she had withdrawn her nomination “to pursue other opportunities.” The artist refused.

Sansour released the following statement about the incident:

“I am very sad and shocked by this development. This year Palestine was officially admitted to UNESCO, yet we are still being silenced. As a politically involved artist I am no stranger to opposition, but never before have I been censored by the very same people who nominated me in the first place. Lacoste’s prejudice and censorship puts a major dent in the idea of corporate involvement in the arts. It is deeply worrying.”

Lacoste has not yet released a statement about the incident. This story is evolving.

The following images are from Sansour’s Nation Estate series which was submitted for the 2011 Lacoste Elysée Prize. The artist explains that the series is conceived in the wake of the Palestinian bid for United Nations membership, and it depicts a science fiction-style Palestinian state in the form of a single skyscraper housing the entire Palestinian population.

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Hrag Vartanian

Hrag Vartanian is editor-in-chief and co-founder of Hyperallergic. You can follow him at @hragv.

5 replies on “Does Lacoste Hate Palestinians?”

  1. Too many art prizes these days. It’s the work that matters and the few collectors that buy enough to keep you from filing for unemployment. There’s your prize. Be happy to have it.

  2. jeffrey, she was censored plain and simple. this is not a ‘get what you get’ moment, she EARNED and was AWARDED the money, and then it was TAKEN AWAY. by your response, it’s pretty obvious that you are jealous for never earning your own art prize.
    keep working, sour grapes and maybe you’ll be lucky too.
    ‘too many art prizes today’ i have never heard any artists say that. what a joke.

  3. This is a shame.  Just goes to show that any time corporations get involved, creativity is given a short leash.

  4. Dear Lacoste, it’s OK that you and your “private partner” don’t understand the first thing about art nor the Middle East. Next time, just stick to advertising if you want to do something creative. 

    If you want to be progressive, try cleaning up the rivers you are polluting alongside your competitors in China > http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/jul/13/greenpeace-links-western-firms-to-chinese-polluters

    —— You are dismissed

  5. Can you even imagine what would have happened if anyone dared to call an artist too “pro-Israeli”?  You’d have to imagine it because it would never happen.  It is impossible in society to be considered too pro-Israeli… no matter how many civilians the Israeli military kills, how many houses they bulldoze, or how many new settlements they build.

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