UK gallery director forced out after complaints from pro-Israel legal group

Whitworth Art Gallery director Alistair Hudson has been asked to step down from his position after being targeted by a pro-Israel legal group, The Guardian reports. The campaign to remove him was sparked by a 2021 art exhibition that contained a statement expressing solidarity with Palestinians. The gallery is run by the University of Manchester. Art Forum reports that Hudson was “ousted.”

Last August the investigative art group Forensic Architecture pulled its Cloud Studies exhibition from the Whitworth after a statement they included on Palestine was removed. “Forensic Architecture stands with Palestine,” it read. “We believe this liberation struggle is inseparable from other global struggles against racism, white supremacy, antisemitism, and settler-colonial violence and we acknowledge its particularly close entanglement with the Black liberation struggle around the world.”

The gallery removed the statement in response to a series of complaints from a Zionist legal organization called UK Lawyers For Israel (UKLFI), which claimed the note was “incendiary.”


“The level of nastiness is really outrageous,” Forensic Architecture founding director Eyal Weizman told Mondoweiss at the time. “And we understood that we have to confront this group, because we are in a relatively stronger position than other cultural institutions and artists that are targeted by pro-Israel lobbyists in the UK. And that we are going to fight that one. It takes some mobilization, organizing. It also takes good lawyers.”

The gallery eventually allowed the statement to stay in the exhibition, after Palestine activists began protesting in front of the Whitworth and thousands of letters opposing the move poured in.

Hudson said the statement would be displayed prominently. “The university, as a non-political organization, has tried to balance extremely complex issues raised by the exhibition, but we believe that the worst outcome for all parties concerned would have been to close this exhibition for an extended period of time,” he explained.

The gallery’s reversal prompted a series of complaints against Hudson from the UKLFI. Jonathan Turner, chief executive of UKLFI, told The Guardian that the group had “pointed out to the university that the director of the Whitworth Art Gallery had falsely assured the vice-chancellor that they had established the accuracy and legalities of the work presented in the Forensic Architecture exhibition…we suggested that the university should take appropriate disciplinary action.”

A University of Manchester spokesperson told the British newspaper that “staffing matters are strictly internal to the university and we never comment on questions of this nature.”

According to the group Artists for Palestine UK many artists have pulled their work from the gallery in response to Hudson’s dismissal. “The withdrawal is an act of foremost solidarity with Palestine and Palestinian people and ensuring that artists, academics and the public can continue to freely express their views as well as with Alistair Hudson and the workers and employees of The Whitworth,” tweeted the artist Tai Shani.

In 2019 the London-based writer Hilary Aked called UKLFI “one of the quietest yet most influential Israel lobby actors currently operating in Britain.” She detailed numerous links between the organization and the Israeli government.

Forensic Architecture responded to Hudson’s forced departure on Twitter: “All members of FA are shocked & enraged at this blatant punishment and vengeful attempt to suppress solidarity with Palestinians who continue to face violent human rights abuses and apartheid by Israel in Palestine and beyond.”

“Alistair turned the Whitworth into an art space where the important questions of our time could be asked,” Eyal Weizman told The Guardian. “His sacking is the last in series of bullying actions by the University of Manchester, which initially aimed at silencing our solidarity with Palestinians, then at stifling open debate and taming political art more generally. This move will shrink the space for art and artists.”

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