KAWS Show Shut Down by Protestors

KAWS Show, Taking Place at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO), Got Cancelled by Pro-Palestine Protestors on Wednesday.

Feb 17, 2024By Angela Davic, News, Discoveries, In-depth Reporting, and Analysis
Pro-Palestine demonstrators stage a protest at the Art Gallery of Ontario. Photo: Kinza Zafar.


KAWS show, taking place at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO), ended shut down by a group of more than 75 pro-Palestine protestors. For some, this day symbolises love, but for the protestors it was much more. The demonstration was in response to the latest criticism of Wanda Nanibush, the museum’s curator of Indigenous art, over her sudden withdrawal. This happened soon after a misunderstanding with the Israeli museum.


KAWS Show as Protester’s Target

The Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO). Via Wikipedia


Israel Museums and Arts, Canada (IMAAC) accused Nanibush of “hate speech” in October. On social media, Nanibush posted things endorsing Palestine, but those are already withdrawn. Stephan Jost, the director of the AGO, asserted her exit was a “mutual decision”. The demonstrators, who included a mix of artists and art workers, arrived at the AGO on Wednesday night at around 6:30 p.m.


The protestors took over the display area. Also, they chanted in favour of Palestine. This includes resistance songs like “Strong Women’s Song” and “Sawfa Nabqa Huna”. They also carried placards that said things like “#BoycottAGO,” “Free Palestine,” and “Why did Wanda go?”. They requested permission to leave from security at about 7:40 p.m.


KAWS. Via Canoo


“Supporters, and some other AGO visitors were barricaded in the room and heavily surveilled by AGO staff, but that didn’t break our spirit”, the protest organisers wrote on Instagram. They continued by saying their goals were already established and clear in an open letter to AGO employees. Also, to trustees and the board of directors, with more than 21,000 signatures.

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Bronze, paint, (219.1 x 207 x 95.6 cm) © KAWS

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The response to Nanibush’s departure, the letter stated: “Artists and cultural workers, who  voiced solidarity with Palestine, faced draconian attempts at silencing. The AGO’s silent removal of Nanibush following pressure from Israeli apologists implicates the Gallery in this troubling pattern. I call on the AGO to remember its institutional commitment to ‘dismantl[e] institutional discrimination, racism, and oppression”.


Also, to foster an ‘inclusive, diverse, equitable, and accessible’ environment. When contacted for comment, the AGO remained silent. Political protests are progressively taking place at art establishments. The previous weekend saw similar pro-Palestine demonstrations at museums in Berlin, London, and New York. Climate activists on Tuesday covered Botticelli’s Birth of Venus at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy, with pictures of a flooded Tuscan town.


yayoi kusama infinity mirrored room
Infinity Mirrored Room – The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away by Yayoi Kusama, 2013, via The Art Gallery of Ontario


Another group conducted an act of protest at MoMA in New York on Wednesday. They called the elimination of board members with ties to the fossil fuel sector. Meanwhile, the U.K.’s Arts Council England came under fire this week after changes to its relationship framework policies cautioned that “overtly political or activist” statements made by individuals linked to cultural organisations could jeopardise funding agreements.

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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.