Glenn Lowry, Anne Pasternak Among 60 Opposing UAE Bans

3 - March Meeting 2015

An array of art-world leaders have called upon institutions in the United Arab Emirates to work with government authorities to lift the recent travel bans placed on artists and academics who have been barred for unspecified “security” concerns.

The letter, signed by 60 curators, critics, and museum directors, comes in response to the recent barring of artists Ashok Sukumaran and Walid Raad, and New York University professor Andrew Ross, from the country. The three are among the more outspoken members of labor activist coalition Gulf Labor, who are working to improve the harsh labor conditions on Saadiyat Island in Abu Dhabi, the future site of the Guggenheim and Louvre outposts.

The signatories, including Glenn Lowry, Anne Pasternak, and Kate Fowle, declare: “These conditions of the creation of a cultural world should be of concern to us all, and the proposals of artists in this regard should be seen as a matter of debate, not of ‘security.’”

They argue that the artists and academics have a right to free passage to the UAE to enrich the cultural dialogue there — especially as those banned have a long history of working in the region. Sukumaran has contributed to a three Sharjah Biennials (2009, 2011, 2013) and Art Dubai; Raad has also exhibited in the Sharjah Biennial, and his own work is held in the permanent collection of the Guggenheim Museum in New York.

The bans mark a “chilling precedent,” the signatories say.

This letter follows a flurry of other calls opposing the bans, including from the International Committee for Museums and Collections of Modern Art (CIMAM) and artists participating in the Sharjah Biennial. But of all the appeals to solidarity in the past month, this is perhaps the strongest direct call to Western and UAE institutions.

As the news broke, however, both the Sharjah Art Foundation and the Guggenheim assigned blame to the United Arab Emirates. The Guggenheim told ARTINFO: “[A]uthority over immigration and visa policy rests fully with the UAE government.”

Read the full text of the letter, below.

 — Noelle Bodick (@nbodick)

Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority, Abu Dhabi, UAE
Tourism Development & Investment Company, Abu Dhabi, UAE
The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and Foundation, New York, NY, USA
New York University, New York, USA
New York University Abu Dhabi, Abu Dhabi, UAE
Agence France-Muséums, Paris, France
Musée du Louvre, Paris, France
Sharjah Art Foundation, Sharjah, UAE
Art Dubai, Dubai, UAE
Recently, artists Ashok Sukumaran and Walid Raad were denied entry to the UAE on grounds of “security”. This comes after NYU professor Andrew Ross was similarly barred from flying to Abu Dhabi in March. Sukumaran and Raad have a long history of vital and sustained engagement with the UAE, often on the invitation of your institutions. Ross is a professor of standing in New York’s academic community. It appears that the reason these three members of our global arts and academic community were denied entry to the UAE is their involvement with the Gulf Labour Coalition.

As you know, Gulf Labour is an artist-initiated group that has been active since 2010, asking museums and institutions being built on Saadiyat Island to create better conditions for their workers. These conditions of the creation of a cultural world should be of concern to us all, and the proposals of artists in this regard should be seen as a matter of debate, not of “security”. We assert that artists and academics should be allowed free passage to conduct research and work that is done in a peaceful and productive manner.

We the undersigned oppose the barring of Ashok Sukumaran, Walid Raad and Andrew Ross from the UAE.  We state that denying artists visas, stopping and deporting them after years of their work in the region, creates a chilling precedent and makes it difficult for arts and academic institutions in the UAE, and those working with the UAE to claim regional dialogue and artistic freedom. We urge your institutions to work with the concerned authorities to lift these bars on their travel.
Achim Borchardt-Hume, Director of Exhibitions, Tate Modern, London
Andrea Lissoni, Senior Curator International Art (Film), Tate Modern, London
Andrea Thal, Artistic Director, Contemporary Image Collective, Cairo
Anne Pasternak, President and Artistic Director, Creative Time, New York
Anselm Franke, Head of Visual Art and Film, Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin
Anton Vidokle, Founder, e-flux, New York
Bartomeu Marí, Director MACBA, Barcelona
Carin Kuoni, Director, Vera List Center for Art and Politics, The New School, New York
Charles Esche, Director, Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven
Charles Guarino, Publisher, Artforum Magazine, New York
Christine Van Assche, Chief Curator-at-Large, Centre Pompidou, Paris
Claire Hsu, Founder-Director, Asia Art Archive, Hong Kong
Defne Ayas, Director, Witte de With – Center for Contemporary Art, Rotterdam
Dennis Lim, Director of Programming, Film Society of Lincoln Center, New York
Doryun Chong, Chief Curator, M+ Hong Kong
Emilie Villez, Director, Kadist Art Foundation, Paris
Eva Respini, Barbara Lee Chief Curator, Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston
Fawwaz Traboulsi, Writer and Historian, American University of Beirut, Beirut
Franck Gautherot, Co-director Le Consortium, Dijon
Geeta Kapur, Critic and Curator, New Delhi
Glenn Lowry, Director, Museum of Modern Art, New York
Hammad Nasar, Head of Research & Programmes, Asia Art Archive, Hong Kong
Hila Peleg, Curator, Documenta 14, Kassel and Athens
Iftikhar Dadi, Professor, Department of History of Art, Cornell University, New York
Jeebesh Bagchi, Monica Narula and Shuddhabrata Sengupta, Raqs Media Collective, New Delhi
Jenelle Porter, Mannion Family Senior Curator, Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston
Jill Medvedow, Ellen Matilda Poss Director, Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston
Jitish Kallat, Artist and Curator, 2nd Kochi-Muziris Biennial
Kate Fowle, Director-at-Large, Independent Curators International, New York
Kathy Halbreich, Deputy Director, Museum of Modern Art, New York
Koyo Kouoh, Artistic Director, RAW Material Company, Dakar
Lars Nittve, Executive Director, M+ Hong Kong
Laura Raicovich, Director, Queens Museum, New York
Maha Maamoun, Board member, Contemporary Image Collective, Cairo
Mai Abu El Dahab, Director, Young Arab Theatre Fund, Brussels
Mami Kataoka , Chief Curator, Mori Art Museum, Tokyo
Maria Lind, Director, Tensta Konsthall, Stockholm
Marie Muracciole, Curator, Director of Beirut Art Center, Beirut, Lebanon
Marta Kuzma, Rector, Royal Institute of Art, Stockholm
Nancy Adajania, Cultural theorist and independent curator, Mumbai
Natasa Petresin-Bachelez, Independent curator, editor of L’Internationale Online, Paris
Nato Thompson, Chief Curator, Creative Time, New York
Negar Azimi, Senior Editor, Bidoun, New York
Nicholas Serota, Director, Tate, London
Patricia Falguieres, Professeur à l’École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Paris
Pooja Sood, Director, Khoj International Artists Association, New Delhi
Rana El Nemr, Board member, Contemporary Image Collective, Cairo
Ranjit Hoskote, Cultural theorist and independent curator, Mumbai
Sabine Breitwieser, Director, Museum der Moderne Salzburg
Sebastien Delot, former Modern and Contemporary Art Curator of the Louvre Abu Dhabi, Head of the Collection of The Musée d’Art Moderne et Contemporain Saint Etienne
Seungduk Kim, Co-director Le Consortium, Dijon
Sharmini Pereira, Director, Raking Leaves, Sri Lanka
Sheena Wagstaff, Chairman of the Department of Modern and Contemporary Art, Metropolitan Museum, New York
Solange Farkas, Director/Curator, Associação Cultural Videobrasil, Sao Paulo
Sukhdev Sandhu, Film critic and writer, New York University, New York
Sumesh Sharma and Zasha Colah, Clark House Initiative, Mumbai
Sunjung, Kim, Artistic Director, Asia Culture Information Agency of Asian Culture Complex, Gwangju
Tasneem Zakaria Mehta, Managing Trustee & Honorary Director, Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Mumbai City Museum, Mumbai
Ute Meta Bauer, Founding Director, NTU Centre for Contemporary Art, Singapore
Vasıf Kortun, Director of Research & Programs, SALT, Istanbul and Ankara
Yasmine Eid-Sabbagh, Vice-President, Arab Image Foundation, Beirut
(Photo: Sharjah Art Foundation’s March Meeting 2015, where artists Ashok Sukumaran and Walid Raad had been invited to speak when denied entry into the UAE. Courtesy Sharjah Art Foundation.)