Monday, May 11, 2009

Update: Toronto Artist's Contract Ended due to View on Israel

This weekend, there's been much to-do over a Toronto gallery's surprising decision to renege on an artist's contract due to the artist's views on Israel. The gallery, the Koffler, is part of a Jewish cultural centre and the artist, Reena Katz, who is Jewish, was part of the Koffler's scheduled programming for May and June. Katz has been associated with Israel Apartheid Week, a group which questions Israel's actions in Palestine.

On Friday, the Koffler issued a statement dissociating themselves from Katz. Facebook uproar and articles in the local media (here and here) have since followed.

In my opinion, this is quite a bad move for the gallery. The Koffler has in recent years tried to open and hip-ify their image by doing more downtown programming (their actual gallery is located in the suburbs). Katz was to be part of that initiative. This decision goes right against that kind of open and flexible image.

Further, it's almost certain that artists who've exhibited at the gallery in the past--like BGL and Blue Republic--are not Zionist in identification.

So what's the problem here? It's that the artist is open about their non-Zionist views? That the information regarding same is available on her Facebook page?

Also, if the political views of artists was so important to the Koffler in the first place, they should have scoped all this out beforehand--before months of press material and hype have gone out on their part.

Photo of Reena Katz from the Star


Gabby said...

Hey Leah, I'm glad you brought this up. I'm also gonna go out on a very short limb and say this is a bad move for the Koffler. Especially since they receive funding from the Toronto Arts Council, the Ontario Arts Council and the Canada Council for the Art - all organizations that stipulate that their recipients cannot discriminate against their participants (although I guess they offered to still fund the project in order to get around this problem?).

Also, Kim Simon and Reena Katz have started their own website for the project, where they've also posted a joint statement in response to the Koffler, at

Leah Sandals said...

Thanks Gabby! I had wondered about the charitable status of the Koffler too, as I assume that would not permit discrimination on the basis of political views either. But the funding sources makes total sense.

Leah Sandals said...

Or, in other words, I was kind of like, "is this unethical as well as stupid?" but wasn't sure how to figure for certain. The funding you've cited answers the question.

L.M. said...

The Koffler's response is unique in that they are not with holding the funding or cancelling the show. You can't accuse them of censorship in this case.

Of course, in 'disowning' the show they presented the artist with a weird opportunity to discuss the issue in a broader context. Though the show isn't even about her political views.(the comment sections on both of those links are fascinating)

Gabby said...

I think that by not withholding the funds, the Koffler is just practicing slander/libel, against the artist in particular, rather than censorship. Though the controversy is having the strange effect of making a lot of people in the art world aware of the project who might not have otherwise been interested.

Anonymous said...

Hey Reena, and all the rest of you who are anti - zionist, are you aware that the Jews have been in exile for over 2000 years? Now they have a a tiny piece of land. Let the Jewish people live in peace without the threat of being pushed into the Mediterranean Sea by the Palestinians (aka the Arab World).
Oh, by the way, what about all those Jewish people that have been tortured and kicked out of Syria, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, not to mention the Jewish people who were tortured in Europe for centuries. Some Jewish people who survived the second world war, also still have keys to their ancestral homes and are not demanding the right to return.
Oh and another thing, how come the Arabs have kept their brothers in refugee camps for 60 years and not allowed them to settle in the neighbouring Arab lands?
What does Canada do with their refugees? They are not in camps.
Let the Jewish people live in peace in Israel

Leah Sandals said...

Er, yeah -- I should check out the comment sections of those other sites, LM, thanks for the suggestion. Though I fear they may be full of such "helpful" info as offered to us by anonymous here.

Anon, just because Jewish people rock doesn't mean they should throw stones/missiles/bombs at people who aren't Jewish. Or in other words, two wrongs don't make a right.