Collectors Pull Lent Works From London’s Barbican

Collectors Started Pulling Lent Artworks From the Barbican in London Due to the Protest and Solidarity With Palestine.

Mar 7, 2024By Angela Davic, News, Discoveries, In-depth Reporting, and Analysis
Collectors, Barbican Centre
Barbican Centre. Via Wikipedia.


Collectors started pulling lent artworks from the Barbican in London, as an act of protest and solidarity with Palestine. Everything started when the arts center cancelled a talk titled “The Shoah after Gaza” by Indian writer Pankaj Mishra. Collectors Lorenzo Legarda Leviste and Fahad Mayet sought one of the quilts by Gee’s Bend artist Loretta Pettway, from the show “Unravel: The Power and Politics of Textiles in Art”.


The LRB Rejected Center’s Assertion

Collectors, Barbican Centre
Quilts by Loretta Petway, installed at “Unravel: The Power and Politics of Textile Art” at the Barbican in February 2024. Photo: Courtesy of Censorship at the Barbican.


With Lorenzo Legarda Leviste and Fahad Mayet’s move, censorship started.  Shortly after the cancellation came to light on February 6, Leviste and Mayet spoke to the curators of “Unravel” to explain their choice to cancel the lecture. They also recently made their whole email exchange with the institution available online upon the removal of the quilts. Last month, the Barbican abandoned its arrangement to present a talk with the London Review of Books (LRB).


This happened after learning the theme of the event and realising it will be about Israel’s current conflict in Gaza. In a statement issued on February 14, the Barbican spoke about this event. The centre stated the LRB had hastily publicised the centre as the location for the talk series before it was properly agreed upon. It said that as a result, it found itself unable to provide the topic with the “dedicated and thoughtful care” that the Barbican deemed necessary.


Collectors, Barbican Centre
Loretta Pettway’s quilts were removed from the “Unravel” exhibition at the Barbican in London in February 2024. Photo: Courtesy of Censorship at the Barbican.


The LRB rejected this assertion, stating that the event was called off “at a late stage”. “We reject the Barbican cloaking its violent suppression of speech with the gloopy language of -‘care'”, the lenders stated, in reference to the center’s public statement.

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Collectors Stated Their Reasons for Pulling Art


Barbican Centre.
Barbican Centre. Via Wikipedia


The LRB also said: “The vagueness of this language guarantees that any artwork, performance or public conversation at the Barbican can arbitrarily shut down for its ‘sensitive’ subject matter. Also, because the institution cannot afford enough ‘care’. We refuse to accept this”. The collectors further stated the reasons for their decision to pull the quilts from “Unravel”.


They said the spirit of the artists presented in the display. They also added how many of the artists felt obligated to weave, sew, and stitch. This was their response to repressive regimes and systems of power. The Barbican’s curators of “Unravel” posted a sign beside the now-empty stand where Pettway’s two quilts were originally installed, explaining their absence. “We respect the lenders’ decision”, they wrote.


Barbican Centre. Via Wikipedia
Barbican Centre. Via Wikipedia


In their online statement, Leviste and Mayet also brought attention to an incident last year where the radio host Elias Anastas was asked to “avoid talking about free Palestine at length… just to further safeguard the audience”. His interviewer Nihal El Aasar was also advised to “steer clear of thorny issues”, according to the Guardian. Last November, the Barbican hosted the London Palestine Film Festival 2023.

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By Angela DavicNews, Discoveries, In-depth Reporting, and AnalysisAngela is a journalism student at the Faculty of Political Science in Belgrade and received a scholarship for continued education in Prague. She completed her internship at the daily newspaper DANAS and worked as an executive editor at Talas.