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Jan 10 2020

Artists Protest Palais de Tokyo-Mathaf Collaboration Over LGBTQ Issues

by Kylie Yeung

The upcoming collaborative exhibition from Doha’s Mathaf (left) and Palais de Tokyo in Paris (right) has received criticism from the art community. Images via Wikimedia Commons and Facebook.

A guest exhibition at Paris’s Palais de Tokyo organized by Qatar’s state-run Mathaf, Arab Museum of Modern Art in Doha scheduled to open on February 21, titled “Notre monde brûle” (Our World is Burning), has received backlash from the art community due to ethical concerns regarding Qatar’s stance on homosexuality and its mistreatment of the LGBTQ community.

Critics questioned the collaboration between the LGBTQ-friendly French museum and the Qatari museum run by a state that has criminalized homosexuality. Yves Michaud, the retired director of the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris said to The Art Newspaper that the partnership is an attempt to “bribe French society and soften its stance on human rights issues in the Persian Gulf region.” Others are calling for the event’s cancellation. “The gay community shall fight for the cancellation of the exhibition,” said Paris-based Azerbaijani artist and LGBTQ activist Babi Badalov. Russian artist Fyodor Pavlov-Andreevich is also advocating for Palais de Tokyo to publicly renounce funding from Qatar.

On January 9, Palais de Tokyo released a statement in response stating that it has no intentions of cancelling the show, and that “this is a collaboration with Abdellah Karroum, the director of Mathaf, an internationally acclaimed curator who has always fought against sexual discrimination…Mathaf’s exhibition program is very relevant and open to diversity.”

The group show will present mostly non-Qatari artists from the Mathaf collection, including Michael Rakowitz, John Akomfrah, and Danh Vō, with an aim to highlight the conflicts and human disasters in the Gulf region within the context of ongoing global political and environmental crises. 

The collaboration is part of Qatar-France 2020 Year of Culture, the ninth year of an exchange program of exhibitions and events aimed to “promote mutual understanding, recognition and appreciation between countries.”

The exhibition is slated to run until May 17, 2020.

Kylie Yeung is an editorial intern of ArtAsiaPacific.

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