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Finnish national gallery declines to join Zabludowicz boycott

Artists have launched a boycott of the Finnish-Israeli London resident because of his organisations' links to Israel's occupation of Palestinian land.

Poju Zabludowicz has donated substantial sums to Britain's Conservative Party, Image: AOP

Finland's National Gallery will not join the boycott of the Zabludowicz Art Trust launched by artists in protest at Chaim "Poju" Zabludowicz's links to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory.

The modern art wing of the National Gallery, Kiasma, had been asked to participate, with a group of more than 40 Finnish artists announcing on Thursday that they would not cooperate with the museum.

They are demanding that publicly-funded museums operate according to principles of sustainable ethical principles.

The campaigners say that would entail a representative of the Zabludowicz Art Trust stepping down from the foundation supporting Kiasma's work, Kiasma Support Foundation.

"The artists' demand and its justifications have been presented to the Kiasma leadership and representatives of the Kiasma foundation without success at the start of November," said Eero Yli-Vakkuri, one of the artists involved in the campaign, which goes by the name 'Kiasma Strike'.

"As an artist, I don't want to be party to the normalisation of the occupation of Palestine and the oppression of Palestinians," said Pilvi Takala, another of the artists involved in the campaign who had represented Finland at the 2022 Venice Biennale

Kiasma has worked with the Zabludowicz Art Trust since 2009.

Opposition to the Israeli occupation and its normalisation in cultural circles has grown among artists worldwide in recent years. Zabludowicz Art Trust has been the target of an international boycott since 2014.

Zabludowicz grew up in Tampere, from where his father Shlomo sold arms to Israel. Later Shlomo established the Tamares investment firm, which Poju now leads.

In 2002 he set up the pro-Israel lobyying firm Bicom, which has fougth Amnesty International's claim that Israel operates an Apartheid regime.

No to 'artwashing'

The artists involved in the boycott want Kiasma to promise that the museum will not receive financial or other support from figures that are linked to the weapons trade or other questionable activities in conflict regions.

They also demand that the museum does not participate in artwashing that could endanger lives, and takes a more critical attitude to private funders.

The campaign's press release suggests that artwashing is linked to soft power, or attempts to alter societal values, impressions or for example the meanings of some words.

Artwashing is also linked to attempts by wealthy individuals or organisations to improve their reputations by, for example, donating artworks to public museums.

Kiasma said in its press statement that the National Gallery has no power to decide who sits on the board of the Kiasma Support Foundation

"As an organisation operating under the Finnish state, the National Gallery and its museums cannot participate in boycotts directed at individual citizens," read the statement. "We participate in those boycotts and blockades to which the Finnish state has committed and directed us to."

The statement goes on to state that the National Gallery and Kiasma would like to continue working with those artists participating in the stoppage once it is over.

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