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Desert X Funder Pulls Out in Protest of Saudi Collaboration

Qasr al-Farid at the UNESCO World Heritage Site Hegra in Saudi Arabia (all images courtesy of the Royal Commission for AlUla)

Earlier this month, three Desert X board members — Ed Ruscha, Yael Lipschutz, and Tristan Milanovich — resigned from their positions after the biennial announced a collaboration with the Saudi Royal Commission for AlUla, called Desert X AlUla. They say the Saudi government’s violations of human rights and the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi prompted their resignations.

Yesterday, October 16, the Los Angeles Times reported that the MaddocksBrown Foundation, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit that was one of Desert X’s early donors, announced that it will withdraw funding from the organization.

The foundation told the Times it had donated about $13,000 to Desert X since 2017. Board Chairwoman Linda Brown said in a statement provided to the newspaper that she was “disappointed that Desert X has chosen this path.”

“As an organization, Desert X feels strongly that art and culture are enlightening and unifying forces. We are surprised to hear about Maddocks Brown Foundation’s decision to discontinue their support of Desert X in the Coachella Valley, as they have not been in touch with us about this, and we are sorry to lose their support,” Desert X founder and board president Susan Davis wrote Hyperallergic in an email. “Our decision to collaborate on the presentation of Desert X AlUla is rooted in our belief that it is better to engage than to isolate, and that we have an opportunity to connect with the people of Saudi Arabia through the arts and, in turn, connect them with the rest of the world.”

The MaddocksBrown Foundation has not yet responded to Hyperallergic’s request for comment.

Read the full story here.

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