Thousands of artists ask Venice Biennale to exclude Israel

By Thomson Reuters Feb 27, 2024 | 8:08 AM

ROME (Reuters) – Almost 9,000 people, including artists, curators and museum directors, have signed an online appeal calling for Israel to be excluded from this year’s Venice Biennale art fair and accusing the country of “genocide” in Gaza.

Israel has been facing mounting international criticism, including in the arts world, over its offensive in the Palestinian enclave, which was triggered by an Oct. 7 attack by Hamas militants in southern Israel.

The Hamas raids left 1,200 people killed and 253 taken hostage, according to Israeli tallies, while Israeli actions in Gaza have killed nearly 30,000 people and displaced most of the territory’s 2.3 million inhabitants, according to Palestinian health officials.

Israel strongly rejects any accusation that its actions amount to genocide.

“Any official representation of Israel on the international cultural stage is an endorsement of its policies and of the genocide in Gaza” said the online statement by the Art Not Genocide Alliance (ANGA) collective.

ANGA noted that the Venice Biennale previously banned South Africa over its apartheid policy of white minority rule, and excluded Russia in the wake of the Kremlin’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine.

The Venice Biennale press office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Tuesday.

Signatories of the appeal include Palestine Museum U.S. director Faisal Saleh, activist U.S. photographer Nan Goldin and British visual artist Jesse Darling, who won last year’s Turner Prize.

Dubbed the “Olympics of the art world”, the Biennale is one of the key events in the international arts calendar. This year’s edition, “Foreigners Everywhere”, is due to host pavilions from 90 countries between Apr. 20-Nov. 24.

(Reporting by Alessandro Parodi, editing by Alvise Armellini, William Maclean)