The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Brooklyn Museum and Columbia University have responded to the apparent seizure and Turkish reports of hideous torture and beheading by the Saudi government of Washington Post journalist and American legal resident Jamal Khashoggi.
ArtNet News reports that Saudi funding for a new Arab art initiative is under the microscope. The diplomatic crisis coincides with the launch in New York of the first-ever Arab Art & Education Initiative, a year-long cultural exchange across the city’s five boroughs.
The Middle East Art Institute, a think tank based in Washington, DC, withdrew from the program almost immediately after news broke about Khashoggi walking into the Saudi embassy in Istanbul and not being seen again.
Eighty-five percent of the Arab Art and Education Initiative’s funding comes from sources outside of Saudi Arabia, according to artNet News.
MoMA’s show “Modern Mondays: Monira al Qadri,” opened on October 15 and is totally funded by the museum. “We joined the Initiative because we hope it will spark cultural exchange and experimentation, and open dialogue on important issues in the region,” the museum said in a statement. “Our program is completely and independently funded by the museum; we have received no funds from Saudi government agencies or members of the royal family to participate in the Arab Art and Education Initiative.”
The Met’s president and CEO Daniel Weiss has now informed participants at an invitation-only symposium “Collecting and Exhibiting The Middle East” will be entirely self-funded. Explaining that the event originally received $20,000 in Saudi funding, Weiss also noted that The Met does not receive “significant funding from Saudi sources”, according to artNet.
The Brooklyn Museum decided to reject Saudi funding to support the exhibition “Syria Then and Now: Stories from Refugees a Century Apart.” In a statement provided to the New York Times, museum officials said that although they “believe strongly in the value of culture to create bridges and build a more connected, civic and empathetic global community,” they have re-evaluated the decision to accept the money “in light of recent events and in harmony with the international community’s concerns.”
Columbia University has cancelled a talk ‘An Artist’s Lens on Mecca’, planned for October 22 with Saudi artist Ahmed Mater, who also serves as leader of the Saudi-funded Misk Art Institute. While the event itself had not received any Saudi funding, the event was organised in collaboration with the university’s Middle East Institute which has received Saudi funding in the past.