Australia: Alana Kushnir arts lawyer and curator resigns from the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA) over her SM posts on Gaza Conflict

A hornets nest has been opened in the Australian arts & legal sphere

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The Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA), one of the country’s leading art institutions, is at the center of the storm. Alana Kushnir, a prominent arts lawyer and curator, resigned from ACCA’s board following complaints about her social media posts. Artists associated with ACCA had objected to Kushnir’s critical statements about artists who supported Palestine and condemned Israel’s invasion of Gaza.

The board of directors at ACCA acknowledged the concerns raised artists but stressed their commitment to supporting artists and maintaining a relationship of trust. Despite this, Kushnir resigned, citing offensive allegations and a lack of transparency in addressing the complaints made against her. She also expressed her concern about the rise of antisemitism in the arts.

In the midst of this controversy, two open letters have further divided the arts community. One, titled “Stop the genocide in Gaza,” called for an immediate ceasefire, an investigation into alleged war crimes, and an end to Israel’s occupation and apartheid regime. Over 1,000 artists, including notable figures such as Tara June Winch and Nazeem Hussain, signed the letter.

However, a counter-letter signed over 500 Jewish artists and academics criticized the first letter for failing to condemn Hamas’ attack on October 7. It accused the signatories of justifying the massacre of Israelis and refusing to address the actions of Hamas.

The conflict has also taken a toll on the relationship between arts organizations and their supporters. Arnold Bloch Leibler, a prominent law firm providing pro bono support to various arts organizations, terminated its partnership with the National Association for the Visual Arts (NAVA) after NAVA refused to withdraw its support for the controversial open letter. Collingwood Yards, an arts precinct in Melbourne, also lost its partnership with the law firm following an incident involving a pro-Palestine banner.

War in the Arts: How the Israel-Hamas Conflict is Dividing Australia’s Creative Community