The museum ethics body International Committee for Museums and Collections of Modern Art (Cimam) has condemned the ousting of Alistair Hudson from his post as director of the Whitworth Art Gallery in Manchester, UK, demanding that “the conditions of his dismissal be made more transparent”.
According to the Guardian, Hudson was reportedly asked to step down from his post after a statement of solidarity with Palestine was displayed in an exhibition last year sparked a furore. The show, titled Cloud Studies, was devised by the investigative agency Forensic Architecture and examined human rights violations linked to air toxicity in Beirut, Syria and Louisiana, US, as well as Palestine.
It has been reported that Hudson was asked to leave by the University of Manchester, which runs the Whitworth, following a series of complaints by UK Lawyers for Israel (UKLFI), an Israel-focused legal organisation.
In a lengthy statement, Cimam’s Museum Watch Committee (MWC) outlines “the forced resignation of Alistair Hudson”, detailing the different stages of the alleged dismissal. It describes how Forensic Architecture initially wished to put up a statement “expressing solidarity with the people of Palestine against violence against its people and the destruction of their land”.
UKLFI cited the statement as being “factually incorrect and dangerously one-sided account on an extremely complex foreign policy issue”, says Cimam, adding that: “It is clear that the UKLFI will take issue with findings on Israeli-occupied Palestine that runs contrary to their stance.”
Despite pressure from all sides, Hudson’s mediation did manage a “respectable compromise”, says Cimam, adding that the Whitworth reopened Cloud Studies accompanied by a framing statement, the UKLFI’s counter statement, and another from representatives of Palestine. But UKLFI deemed Hudson to have been “duplicitous in his dealings with the university and suggested disciplinary action be taken against him”, adds the Cimam organisation.
“In light of the limited information made available to it, the Museum Watch Committee demands greater clarity as to the reasons for Hudson’s removal and reconsideration of the university’s decision, given that he took conscious and proactive steps to seek leadership’s consensus on difficult decisions, and has appeared to balance competing interests through the disputes surrounding Cloud Studies,” says Cimam.
Meanwhile, the Guardian reports that more than 100 members of staff at Manchester University have signed an open letter opposing the proposed dismissal of Hudson. The letter demanded that “the university reinstate Alistair Hudson and apologise to Whitworth Art Gallery, the wider [university] staff, and students for this grave violation of the principle of academic and artistic freedom”.