The goal of the strike is to stop Kiasma receiving funding from the arms trade and from investment in conflict areas. For example, because of the war in Ukraine, many art institutions have stopped receiving support from institutions and individuals connected to the Russian state or its arms industry. Our goal is to apply the same principle to the state of Israel because of its oppression of the Palestinians.
With the strike, the signatories express their reluctance to cooperate with Kiasma as long as representatives of the Zabludowicz Art Trust, whose capital is partly formed from business in the occupied Palestinian territory and arms trade with the state of Israel, sit on the board of its support foundation.
The strike is not targeted at an individual, their ethnic background, beliefs or political views, but at the source of the funding coming to Kiasma. More stringent ethical guidelines should be applied to all future donors and patrons of Kiasma.
Our goal is to increase ethical responsibility for human suffering in the Palestinian Territories and in other conflicts around the world, and to support life-preserving, restorative measures in the field of art and in society more broadly.
By structures, we mean the form of organizational, i.e. the practices by which people are selected for organizations and involved in their processes, as well as their funding base and its criteria.
It is great that private entities such as the Kiasma Foundation are willing to support the Museum financially. The Kiasma Foundation is administratively a different organization from Kiasma, but they inevitably have a symbiotic relationship with each other. We hope that Kiasma and the Foundation together will create more detailed guidelines for the selection criteria for the Foundation's board, and that the National Gallery and Kiasma will review the guidelines for accepting private funding. Clearer guidelines provide security for all parties.
We support Kiasma's staff in dealing with this issue. Kiasma is an important institution for the signatories, and the strike is not about criticism of the Museum or its programs, personnel or management.
The signatories are on strike, meaning they refuse to sell their art or work to Kiasma for the duration of the strike. We emphasize that there would be no art institutions without the work of the artists, and therefore the artists should be heard. Everyone involved can define for themselves how to apply the strike. Signatories can leave the strike at any time by removing their name from the list.
Economic, principled and life-situation circumstances affect people's possibility to participate in the strike. The issues which the strike has raised can be discussed and developed in many ways and from many roles, and no conclusions should be made about anyone's position based on the list of names. No one should be pressured to join or leave the strike.
A strike is not a boycott. The museum’s public can boycott it, for example, by not visiting its exhibitions. We do not invite the public or artists to boycott Kiasma.
We also do not require Kiasma to boycott anyone, but rather to choose its partners. Zabludowicz Art Trust is an influential player in the international art world. Even if its representative does not work at the Kiasma Foundation, it has the opportunity to continue supporting art in other contexts. Every artist can then decide as an individual whether they want to cooperate with them.
The Israeli state's oppression of Palestinians has escalated to such an extent that human rights organizations such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the Jerusalem-based human rights organization B'Tselem have defined it in their reports as an apartheid regime. South African representatives have demanded that the anti-apartheid committee should be restarted in the United Nations and experts working for the UN have defined Israel's actions as apartheid crimes. Get news on the matter, for example, from +972 Magazine and more details on occupation related businesses via “Who Profits”.
BDS — Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions — is a non-violent anti-racist movement led by Palestinians for freedom, justice and equality, whose activities are based on a simple principle: Palestinians have the same human rights as everyone else. The movement strives for international condemnation of the colonialism practiced by the state of Israel and the oppressive measures against the Palestinians.
The Finland Against Apartheid declaration launched in 2021 promotes organizing against the same oppressive measures and is from Finland. It calls artists, individuals in the art and culture field and researchers to join in a cultural and academic boycott of the state of Israel. The declaration has been signed by more than 420 individuals and institutions in the field of art and culture. A statement in support of the Palestinians from the magazine No-Niin aimed at promoting the goals defined by the BDS movement has also been organized. No-Niin’s statement has been signed by 380 employees of culture and art institutions who intend to show their support for the Palestinians with non-violent, peaceful criticism of the state of Israel until its actions are in accordance with international law.
Criticism of arms sales carried out by the Finnish state can be expressed through these networks or as an individual, for example, by voting in elections, lobbying politicians, and by organizing demonstrations or launching citizens' initiatives.
Our critique of the Zabludowicz Art Trust is based on data from public records and sources.
The wealth of the Zabludowicz Art Trust originates from the Tamares Group, which has done business with the Israeli military. Art purchases have been made with the proceeds and exhibition spaces and collections have been established with these funds. Chaim "Poju" Zabludowicz manages the Tamares Group founded by his father, whose wealth was built up through the arms trade between Finland and the state of Israel. Although Tamares began to distance itself from the arms trade in the 1990s, it has maintained connections with the activities of the Israeli state security services and the army.
The last connection Zabludowicz had with arms and ammunition manufacturing was a 2013 deal when they sold a Pennsylvania (US) based large-caliber projectile shell manufacturing company Pocal Industries. It is currently owned by the Norwegian Nordic Ammunition Company (Nammo) which is co-owned by the Finnish arms manufacturer Patria and the Norwegian trade-, industry and fishing ministry. This detail is from Matti Mörttinen's book “Shlomo Zabludowicz” published by Into in 2021.
In 2017 Tamares started to invest in the US software company Palantir Technologies, which Amnesty has accused of human rights violations. The accusations are based on the data-analytics tools developed by the company, which have been used, for example, in tracking asylum seekers seeking asylum in the United States. Palantir has been speculated to be involved in profiling Palestinian activists.
In 2019, Tamares sold its stake in Knafaim Holdings Ltd, which provided maintenance services to the Israeli Air Force. Tamares has had real estate development investments in the illegal Israeli settlement of Ma'ale Adumim. Although the company has announced that it has given up doing business in illegal settlements, Tamares Telecom has announced a partnership with Partner Communications, which has built communications infrastructure on occupied Palestinian land.
The Britain Israel Communications and Research Center (BICOM), founded and funded by Poju Zabludowicz in 2002, has systematically denied that the Israeli state's oppressive actions against the Palestinian population are apartheid crimes. In its response to Amnesty's February 2022 report, BICOM described Amnesty's publication as "twisted and one-sided", claiming that its aim is to sabotage the peace process.
A 2009 article in The Guardian identified BICOM as one of Britain's most influential Israel lobbying organizations. In 2019 it was announced that Zabludowicz would step down from the leadership of the organization in 2019, but he has not distanced himself from its statements.
The Boycott Divest Zabludowicz (BDZ) campaign, launched in 2014, is a parallel to the broader Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS) movement. The BDZ campaign, which was initiated in the United Kingdom and targets organizations bearing the name of Zabludowicz, has gathered the support of 840 international individuals and institutions in the art and culture sector. The group includes art historian Claire Bishop, Turner Prize-winning contemporary artist Lawrence Abu Hamdan and Forensic Architecture group leader Eyal Weizman. The targets of the boycott are Zabludowicz Art Trust, Daata Art and artist residencies in New York and Sarvisalo. The latter also houses works from the Zabludowicz Collection. The boycott has been written about in art media such as Hyperallergic (2021), Mute (2014) and Art Forum (2021).
Kiasma_strike is independent of the BDS and BDZ campaigns. However, it is also based on the fact that oppression of Palestinians and businesses in the occupied territories or for the benefit of the occupier must be condemned. Kiasma_strike considers it unethical for Kiasma to receive funds from transactions in the occupied Palestinian territory and with the armed forces of the Israeli state.
Artwashing is connected to soft influence, i.e. an attempt to subtly change social values, images or, for example, the meanings of certain words. It also describes a situation where a business influencer or company that built its wealth from questionable sources tries to clean up its reputation, for example by donating works of art to public museum collections.
An open letter published in Voima magazine on 7.10.2022 led to artists organizing and making preparations for a strike.
The representatives of the strike met with Kiasma's Director and the Chair of the Kiasma Support Foundation on 7.11.2022. At the meeting, the demands made from the Support Foundation were presented. After the meeting, Kiasma proposed that the artists planning a strike meet with Poju Zabludowicz. At that time the group of about thirty artists behind the demands felt it important that the matter be dealt with in public. It is not a matter of personal differences of opinion. The group's response to Kiasma stated:
Our view of the problematic nature of Poju Zabludowicz's role is explained in our open letter. If our words are based on false information, this can be corrected by a public response. Our demands are addressed to Kiasma and are directed at Kiasma's policies regarding partners in collaboration and the terms and conditions for any financial support received. For this reason, we do not see a meeting with Poju Zabludowicz as pertinent here. (…) Our negotiating partner in this matter is the Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma.
From the artists' point of view, the broader problem underlying the situation is the lack of ethical guidelines to ensure the transparency of the Museum's funding. Without these, the Museum’s visitors and artists will not know the context for the artists’ work. We would avoid similar situations arising if the Museum were to commit to creating ethical guidelines that limit from whom and on what terms the Museum will accept private support.
We will leave the Museum in peace before the Foundation's upcoming annual meeting. It is in everyone's interest that the situation be resolved without unnecessary publicity. We understand that the situation is difficult for Kiasma's leadership and we want to demonstrate our support for a resolution. Our goal is to create even better conditions for cooperation between the art field and the Museum. However, if Kiasma does not commit to making these changes, we will have to conclude that cooperation is no longer possible for us under these circumstances, and we will begin a strike. We hope that channels of negotiation will remain open and that our message will be received in a constructive spirit.
The Museum and its partners in collaboration have had a month to publicly comment on the matter, to correct our claims based on public sources, or to take the initiative for negotiations. Since this has not happened, the strike was begun on 1.12.2022. We continue to show our full support for Kiasma and hope that the discussion will continue to be constructive.
It has taken a great deal of pressure for this difficult issue to be taken seriously. It is good that a debate is now under way. The initiative has sparked an active debate on funding of the arts, raised awareness of the situation in Palestine, and challenged people to think about the social responsibility of art institutions. We hope that this debate will continue within organizations, in the leadership of the National Gallery, and at discussion events. The aim is to achieve a common, deeper understanding of the social responsibility of art institutions, and to prompt the taking of corrective actions, for example, from the perspective of decolonial work, and in the relationship between publicly funded art and private funding.
The strike is anti-racist and opposes antisemitism and islamophobia in all their forms. We do not tolerate any kind of hate speech against an individual, ethnicity or beliefs in the name of this strike. We strive to promote the realization of human rights for all people equally.
More perspectives and resources for action against antisemitism and Palestinian human rights work:
Kiasma_strike has received a lot of domestic media coverage. Here are links to the most important publications. We recommend using webpage translator as most publications are in Finnish or Swedish.