Art World Open Letter Calling for ‘Empathy’ After Hamas Attack Attracts High-Profile Signatories - The World News

Art World Open Letter Calling for ‘Empathy’ After Hamas Attack Attracts High-Profile Signatories

A group of high-profile dealers and well-known artists have signed a new letter addressing the October 7 Hamas attack on Israel.

The newly circulated letter, published as a Google document on Tuesday, is titled “A Unified Call from the Art World: Advocating for Humanity.” It advocates for “fostering empathy and unity for all of the innocent civilians—both Israeli and Palestinian—tragically affected by the heinous actions of Hamas.” 

“The global arts community is woven from millions of diverse threads, each representing a unique voice and perspective,” reads the start of the letter, which we’ll refer to as the “Unity” letter for clarity. It then notes that, on October 7, the militant group Hamas killed 1,400 Israelis and took more than 200 hostages, and calls this the “deadliest day for Jews since the Holocaust.” Although the “Unity” letter refers to “the innocent civilians—both Israeli and Palestinian—tragically affected by the heinous actions of Hamas,” it does not specifically mention that, since the October 7 attack, the Israel Defense Forces have fired airstrikes on Gaza, killing more than 6,500 there, according to the local health ministry.

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The new “Unity” letter is framed as a response to “an uninformed letter signed by artists who do not represent the artistic community at large.” This appears to refer to a letter published on the website of Artforum magazine, as well as on e-flux, last Thursday. Although that letter, which called for a ceasefire in Gaza, noted that the signatories “reject violence against all civilians, regardless of their identity,” it did not specifically mention the attack by Hamas.

At press time, the new letter had 4,575 signatories. Among them are gallerist Paula Cooper and Steve Henry, a partner of her New York enterprise; Pace Gallery CEO Marc Glimcher; dealers Dominique Lévy, Brett Gorvy, and Amalia Dayan, who wrote their own statement about the Artforum letter published by that same publication; Venus Over Manhattan founder Adam Lindemann, who is married to Dayan; Ana Maria Celis, head of postwar and contemporary art at Christie’s; Joe Nahmad, of the gallery Nahmad Contemporary; and collector Glenn Fuhrman.

Artists Alex Israel, Hilary Pecis, and Jonas Wood, along with dealer David Kordansky, also appear to have signed the letter.

Since its publication, the letter published on Artforum ‘s website has undergone several changes. Some names have been removed, a line about the initially unmentioned Hamas attack has been appended, and the list of signatories has been rearranged. Meanwhile, an Instagram post advertising the article was deleted from Artforum‘s account.

“The arts community is diverse and crosses borders, nationalities, systems of faith and belief,” the letter published on Artforum begins. “We as artists, writers, curators, filmmakers, publishers, and workers who create the core around which institutions and organizations revolve need to be assured that these are not just safe but humane spaces.”

The letter published on Artforum  goes on to speak in support of “Palestinian liberation and call for an end to the killing and harming of all civilians, an immediate ceasefire, the passage of humanitarian aid into Gaza, and the end of the complicity of our governing bodies in grave human rights violations and war crimes.”

“Together,” the letter says, “our collective voice can hopefully champion the causes of peace, understanding, and human dignity.”

The day before the “Unity” letter was published, Artforum made an addition to its letter that does not appear in other iterations published by e-flux and Hyperallergic: “While we cannot recirculate the petition to all 8,000 signatories, we, the group that authored the petition—as well as a number of the signatories who have reached out in recent days—would like to repeat that we reject ‘violence against all civilians, regardless of their identity,’ and share revulsion at the horrific massacres of 1400 people in Israel conducted by Hamas on October 7th. We mourn all civilian casualties. We hope for the expeditious release of all hostages and continue to call for an immediate ceasefire.”

Since its initial publication on October 19, several names have been removed from the Artforum version of the letter. These names include the artists Rirkrit Tiravanija, Joan Jonas, Oscar Murillo, Tomás Saraceno, Peter Doig, and Seth Price, and MoMA PS1 curator Ruba Katrib. ARTnews has reached out to these artists and Katrib for comment.

In interviews with Artnet News, photographer Nan Goldin said that the Artforum letter “should have mentioned loss on both sides,” and artist Katharina Grosse called signing the letter a “mistake.”

A representative for Penske Media Corporation, the owner of both ARTnews and Artforum, did not respond to a request for comment.

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