Oscar Murillo among a host of performers to pull out of Manchester show in protest at treatment of allegedly ousted director

More than 20 artists, including Oscar Murillo, Helen Cammock and Heather Phillipson, have pledged to remove their works from the next British Art Exhibition 9 (BAS9) which is due to be held in Manchester this spring following the alleged expulsion of Alistair Hudson from his position as director of the Whitworth Art Gallery. The Manchester leg of the fair is set to open in four venues (HOME; Manchester Art Gallery; Castlefield Gallery; the Whitworth; May 13-September 4).

According to Guardian, Hudson was reportedly asked to resign from his post after a statement of solidarity with Palestine displayed at an exhibition last year sparked an outcry. The show, titled Cloud studies, was designed by investigative agency Forensic Architecture and examined human rights violations related to air toxicity in Beirut, Syria and Louisiana, USA, as well as Palestine .

It was reported that Hudson was asked to leave by the University of Manchester, which runs the Whitworth, following a series of complaints from UK Lawyers for Israel (UKLFI), an Israel-focused legal organization. It’s unclear where that leaves Hudson, who did not respond to a request for comment, while the university maintains that “personnel matters are strictly internal to the university.”

In a tweet posted by Turner Prize-winning artist Tai Shani – who is also among those to step down – BAS9 artists say that “in solidarity with the ongoing liberation struggle of Palestine and the Palestinians living under the Israeli occupation; in support of political freedom and artistic expression in UK cultural institutions and universities, as BAS9 artists we have decided to withdraw our work from the exhibition iteration in Manchester unless significant restorative measures are taken”. The 21 artists named in the tweet also include Lawrence Lek, Celia Hempton and Paul Maheke. The arts journal understands that two other artists have since withdrawn, including James Bridle.

In another tweet, the signatories say they condemn “the university’s capitulation to the continued demands of the UKLFI, especially in the spaces where we often work… the truth must be made public and cultural spaces must remain open to difficult discussions”. The university did not respond to a request for comment.

the British Art Exhibition, organized by the Hayward Gallery in London, takes place every five years; this year’s edition includes works by 47 artists encompassing several new commissions. “The exhibition is structured around three main themes; history of healing, care and repair; tactics for being together; and imagining new futures,” explains the BAS9 website.

A spokesperson for the Hayward Gallery tour said: “We are having an open discussion with British Art Show 9 artists and curators Irene Aristizábal and Hammad Nasar, to decide on the next steps for Manchester.”

UPDATE: A spokesperson for the University of Manchester said: “We would like to respond to explicit criticism in media coverage that the university has somehow suppressed academic and artistic freedoms, in particular with regard to the Cloud Studies Forensic Architecture exhibition last year.

“We fully refute these claims; indeed, the university has gone to great lengths to ensure that the Cloud Studies exhibit remains open for the entire scheduled period. The university’s position has been clearly stated in a statement that accompanied the exhibit..”

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