"this is blood money" – artists remove work in opposition to arms event

Over 40 artists, including Shepard Fairey, designer of the iconic Obama ‘HOPE’ poster, have so far requested for their work be removed from London's Design Museum.

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Aug 3 2018, 12:15am

A group of artists have removed their work from London’s Design Museum following the revelation that a controversial arms event was held there in July.

Gathering outside the museum in Kensington, the artists assembled with banners reading #NopeToArms and “The Revolution Will Not Be Patronised”, before marching into the building to retrieve their pieces.

“We are meeting for the first time today but we are all artists and groups who have exhibits in the Hope to Nope exhibition at the Design Museum,” said Jess Worth of BP Or Not BP. “We found out a couple of weeks ago that the museum had hosted a private function for one of the world’s biggest arms companies, Leonardo, [who were] using the museum as a backdrop to legitimise a business model based on bringing death and destruction. We all felt horribly shocked by that.”

Over 40 artists, including Milton Glaser, Jonathan Barnbrook and Shepard Fairey, designer of the iconic Obama ‘HOPE’ poster, have so far requested for their work be removed from the museum. The Hope to Nope exhibition had been marketed as an exploration of "how graphic design and technology have played a pivotal role in dictating and reacting to the major political moments of our times".


“It’s a quite wonderful irony that this has blown up at an exhibition like this,” says artist Charlie Waterhouse of design studio This Ain't Rock'n'Roll. “Here we are, a bunch of artists who protest this kind of thing day in day out, so if we have an opportunity to shine a light on the dirty money that is flooding through the museum sector then that’s what we’ll do. It’s life imitates art imitates life.”

Bristol Street Wear’s iconic Jeremy Corbyn shirt -- which featured a bootleg of the Labour leader’s surname with the Nike swoosh -- was one of several pieces removed from the exhibition. It’s creator, who wishes to remain anonymous, says the situation is “a conflict of interests”.

“We’re being painted as a bunch hardline activists, troublemakers. But being a charity doesn’t absolve you. If anything you should be more cautious about where your funding comes from.”

“You can’t have this forward-thinking, left, protest, revolution, ethical show, and then in the opposite room a bunch of arms dealers,” he says. “I understand that this place is a registered charity, but doesn’t resolve you of responsibility. There are other ways to raise funds. This is blood money.”

He describes the response from the museum -- who have committed “not to have any arms, fossil fuels and tobacco corporate hires in the museum for the period of time during which we undertake our review” -- as “pretty lame”.

“We’re being painted as a bunch hardline activists, troublemakers,” he says. “But being a charity doesn’t absolve you. If anything you should be more cautious about where your funding comes from.”

When prompted for comment, the museum’s Director of Audience, Josephine Chanter, told i-D, “We are saddened the exhibition will not continue as it was curated. We think everyone has the right to a voice and the right to protest and to express that through design is really important, which is why we hosted the exhibition to begin with.

“The museum makes the distinction, as most museums do, between corporate hire and sponsorship. There was no sponsorship, there was no endorsement, no relationship. It was a corporate event that had nothing to do with the museum.”

This article originally appeared on i-D UK.