A group of a few dozen art activists, calling themselves “Nope to Arms,” arrived at the London Design Museum today to protest and to collect the works of artists who have requested their work removed from the exhibition Hope to Nope: Graphics and Politics 2008–18. The artists and protesters gathered at 11am local time to object the museum’s relationship with the worlds 9th-largest arms dealing company, Leonardo.
The Design Museum advertises the exhibition as probing, “how graphic design and technology have played a pivotal role in dictating and reacting to the major political moments of our times.” After discoveries that the museum had hosted the Farnborough airshow under allegedly dubious circumstances, over one-third of participating artists requested their work be removed, citing incongruous ethics. Many of the artists involved center their creative practice around their sociopolitical ideologies — something they say the museum disrespected and patronized by hosting the event.
— This Aint RocknRoll (@thisaintrock) August 2, 2018
Initially, 30 artists and Design Museum contributors requested their work be removed in a statement released on July 25, which has since grown to include over 40 artists.
The accompanying protest comes after the artists were angered by a statement made by Design Museum directors Deyan Sudjic and Alice Black, saying:
The museum is now being targeted by a group of activists, not all of whom are being accurate in their presentation of the situation. We are in the midst of an argument not of our making. We will not be seen as an easy target and a surrogate for the real targets of these campaigners. We do not want our programmes to be co-opted by the agenda of others and we stand by our curatorial independence.
Andrew Smith, a representative of the UK organization Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT), told Hyperallergic in an email that the group of protesters in today’s action reached nearly 40, around 15 of whom were artists featured in Hope to Nope.
Earlier today designers and artists removed their contributions from the Design Museum #hopetonope exhibition after the museum refused to reconsider their policy of hosting arms companies events. Here is the #Occupy table before and after the direct action. #nopetoarms pic.twitter.com/KstAuRHPtm
— Propagate (@propa_gate) August 2, 2018
Jess Worth, of performance and anti-oil activist group BP or not BP?, told Hyperallergic about the “Nope to Arms” protest via email, saying, “It went really well, the sun was shining and we had such a wonderful colourful vibrant array of art to display when we came out of the museum.”
Originally requesting a statement written by the artists to hang in place of their missing work, the new labels are not exactly what the artists had hoped for. Worth adds, “It was a strange experience going [a]round the exhibition afterward. They’ve made it free as a third of the work has been removed, but they’ve kept the labels up so you can still learn about what’s missing, and now there are labels also explaining the gaps.”
There is now a huge red space in the @DesignMuseum where our and others’ art used to be. A bit strange that the original labels are still there. Here’s the explanation we had hoped the museum would put up instead #nopetoarms #HopeToNope pic.twitter.com/9ouK8VpOBq
— BP or not BP? (@ReclaimOurBard) August 2, 2018
Worth says representatives from regions affected by the arms trade and Leonardo were present, including Syria, Hong Kong, and Bahrain.
Thrilled to see artists taking back their work from @DesignMuseum
Because they don’t want to see arms dealers using the Museum to benefit from #armsDeals.https://t.co/jPY4OSVNsY
Leonardo Company must be ashamed for their deals with repressive #Bahrain regime pic.twitter.com/crkfDREyyi
— Sayed Ahmed AlWadaei (@SAlwadaei) August 2, 2018
The artist adds, “ … there was definitely a feeling among the artists that we’d done something powerful and important today. I suspect its ripples will be felt for some time, and we are already planning our next collaboration!”
Andrew Smith adds that one of the protesting artists, Charlie Waterhouse of This Ain’t Rock’n’Roll, is interested in hosting an exhibition of the removed work.
I removed my poster from the Design Museum today along with other art activists as we don’t approve of the Museum being hired by arms dealers. I simply moved mine.Accused us of being pressed in to this by ‘professional activists’ and ‘depriving the public’…err WRONG #nopetoarms pic.twitter.com/AG1QPLf3RO
— dr.d A.K.A. Subvertiser (@subvertiser) August 2, 2018
— LuaLuaTV (@LuaLuaEnglish) August 2, 2018
As arts communities around the world experience a time of challenge and change, accessible, independent reporting on these developments is more important than ever.
Please consider supporting our journalism, and help keep our independent reporting free and accessible to all.