Artists up in arms over Design Museum private event

Artists whose work is currently on display at London’s Design Museum have called for it to be removed after they discovered the Museum hosted a private event linked to the arms industry.

In an open letter to the Museum, the 27 artists and collectives who feature in ‘Hope to Nope: Graphics and Politics 2008-18’, an exploration of the ways design and technology have influenced key political moments over the past decade, say they were appalled to discover the Museum was ‘happy to take blood money from arms dealers’.

The controversial event was a booking by Italian aerospace company Leonardo on 17 July in conjunction with the Farnborough International Airshow, which is described by campaigners as an arms fair. UK organisation, the Campaign Against Arms Trade claims Leonardo is the ninth largest arms company in the world and has equipped ‘human rights abusing regimes and dictatorships’.

The letter states that it is ‘deeply hypocritical for the museum to display and celebrate the work of radical anti-corporate artists and activists while quietly supporting and profiting from one of the most destructive and deadly industries in the world’.

The signatories are demanding the Museum remove their work from the exhibition by 1 August 2018 as they no longer consent to their pieces being displayed. Among the works featured in ‘Hope to Nope’ are the iconic ‘HOPE’ poster  designed by Shepard Fairey for President Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign, bottles of ‘Sour Brexit’, by Kathrin Böhm, co-founder of Company Drinks and a Volkswagen ‘subvertisement’ poster, which reads ‘We’re sorry that we got caught’, by Jonathan Barnbrook.

Responding to the letter in a statement, the Design Museum defended its decision to host the event. It explained that income generated from event hire, admissions and retail help it to meet 98% of its running costs. The Museum claimed it did not endorse the private Leonardo event and that it ‘welcomes a plurality of voices and commercial entities’.

The Museum did concede that management ‘take the response to Tuesday’s event seriously’ and would be reviewing its policy on commercial and fundraising activities. The artists behind the protest letter are calling on the Museum to develop an ethical funding policy, which rejects funds from fossil fuel, tobacco and arms companies.

One thought on “Artists up in arms over Design Museum private event

  1. Guy Sainty says:

    How pathetic. Would these same artists refuse to sell one of their works to a collector who held shares in an aerospace or armaments company, or in some other company of which they disapproved? Does Shepard Fairey designer of the “Hope” poster care that President Obama massively increased the use of drone strikes in the conflicts in the Middle East? Has he returned his fee now his hopes have been dashed? The chairman of the Trustees of the Design Museum, Lord Mandelson, as a minister was particularly responsible for promoting Britain’s arms industry, one of this country’s major exports; are they calling for him to resign? The majority of trustees of the Design Museum and those who generously fund it have made their fortunes in the corporate world, of which these “radical anti-corporate artists and activists” must thoroughly disapprove. The Defence industry pays substantial taxes which go in part to fund the schools and universities that turned them loose on the world. I am sure that when it comes to selling their works, however, these self-righteous hypocrites would not hesitate to take a cheque from anyone willing to pay.


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