Statement of support for the artists’ group Boycott the Sydney Biennale – end Transfield sponsorship

cropped-boycott-biennale1Liberate Tate calls for the Sydney Biennale to withdraw from the current sponsorship it receives from the Transfield Foundation, and we support the challenging of unethical sponsorship by the group Boycott the Sydney Biennale and the Biennale artists who have added their names to the open letter to the board. While artists prepare their works for the fabulous event that is the Biennale, Transfield are profiting from incarcerating asylum seekers in offshore detention centres. As freedom is an essential element of artistic practice, it is ill-fitting for an arts event to associate itself with this company.

The mandatory detention of asylum-seekers has always been subject to powerful criticism from anti-racist campaigners and human rights advocates. Liberate Tate agrees with these critiques as it is our understanding that it is not a crime to seek peace and liberty. The Transfield-operated detention centre on Manus Island has come under particular criticism this week in light of the death of 23 year old Kurdish asylum-seeker Reza Berati. Thinking of the many refugee artists who have been able to practice and make work only by finding asylum and continuing to work in exile – Lucien Freud, Paul Klee, Wassilly Kandisky, Max Ernst, Marc Chagall, Anish Kapoor, Mona Hatoum, the list goes on – is it not a disrespect to their memory, story and experience for the Sydney Biennale to accept funds from a sponsor currently engaged in the incarceration of exiled people?

Liberate Tate’s artworks challenge Tate’s association with BP because we feel the company’s global impacts are a stain on the collection, and the presence of BP limits creativity in how visitors engage with art at Tate, and in how audiences imagine a world without the devastating impacts of oil. As artists we refuse to give BP or Transfield the social licence to continue their destructive operations by associating themselves with the arts.

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