Artists seek to pull work from Design Museum after arms dealer reception

Museum criticised after hosting event for weapons manufacturer
Robert Picheta
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Twenty-five artists and designers have written to the Design Museum demanding that their works be removed from display after it hosted a reception for one of the world’s largest arms manufacturers.
 
The signatories, including the designers Jonathan Barnbrook and Peter Kennard and the group Occupy London, all have work featured in the museum’s Hope to Nope exhibition, which celebrates political protest over the past decade.

The letter reads: “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.

It adds: “We therefore request that our artwork be immediately removed from the exhibition… We will not associate our names and our work with an institution that actively supports the arms industry.

The letter asks for featured work to be removed by 1 August, adding: “Our art is now being displayed in your museum without our consent.”

It also urges the museum to adopt a new policy which refuses any funds from arms, tobacco and fossil fuel companies, adding: “Once this is in place, we would consider working with the museum again.”
 
The museum hosted an evening reception for Leonardo, the ninth largest defence contractor in the world, on 17 July.
 
The move was criticised by the group Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT), and a petition set up by the group has received more than 2,400 online signatures in the past week.
 
A spokesman for CAAT said: “A lot of artists and designers have been rightly appalled by the museum's decision.”
 
He added: “The Design Museum is a prestigious and highly regarded museum, which is why Leonardo wanted to host the event there. Museums are meant to be places for learning and showcasing great work, not promotional vehicles for arms companies.
 
“By hosting them the museum is giving practical support to an industry that profits from war and conflict around the world.”
 
The reception was held during the Farnborough Airshow, which features a major trade exhibition for aerospace and defence companies alongside its public displays.
 
The Design Museum did not respond to a request for comment regarding the letter, but had previously confirmed it is reviewing its policies following the initial criticism.
 
A statement from the museum earlier this week said: “As a charity, 98% of the museum’s running costs come from admissions, retail, fundraising and event hire, such as the one hosted that night. This was a private event of which there was no endorsement by the museum.
 
“The Design Museum is committed to achieving its charitable objective to advance the education of the public in the study of all forms of design and architecture and is thus a place of debate that, by definition, welcomes a plurality of voices and commercial entities.
 
“However, we take the response to Tuesday’s event seriously and we are reviewing our due diligence policy related to commercial and fundraising activities.”

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