Protesters Call Out Art World’s Silence on Gaza at Frieze LA Fair

LOS ANGELES — In pouring rain, a group of 20 unaffiliated cultural workers gathered to protest the United States’s continued funding of Israel’s attacks on Gaza. Citing Frieze partner Deutsche Bank’s ties to Israel, the organizers rallied outside of the fair entrance at Santa Monica Airport  during peak visiting hours on Saturday, March 2 from 11am to 2pm.

At the busy intersection of Bundy Drive and Airport Avenue, where designated fair parking begins, many fairgoers drove by honking and cheering with fists out their windows as protestors held signs that read “Let Gaza Live,” “Deutsche Bank Invests in Genocide,” and “Decolonization is more than just a buzz word in a press release.”

“I’m protesting today because I’m horrified every day when I look at the news and see the cruelty and injustice that’s happening in Gaza and the West Bank,” 39-year-old artist Nina Sarnelle from Arlington Heights told Hyperallergic. “We as Americans have power and we’re not using it in the way we could be. And that’s why we need to be out here.”

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Organizers held flags and signs with phrases like “Opulence + Cowardice = Soul Loss” as they protested outside on the third day of the fair.

Another protester, 40-year-old LA local Evan Apodaca, stated that “art is used as a vehicle to hide wealth” and shared his experiences of being silenced by the cultural sector for his expressions of Palestinian support.

“As someone who has been censored for my artwork about militarism and asked to remove mention of ‘Palestine’ by art galleries, I start to question how anyone can express themselves if you can’t express solidarity for the liberation of a people whose murders are bought and sold by the most oppressive regimes in the world,” Apodaca said.

Deutsche Bank, the primary financial sponsor of Frieze, has several locations in Israel and has provided loans to real estate corporations who are responsible for selling properties forcibly taken from Palestinian homeowners and sold to Israeli settlers in the West Bank. 

“We’re out here today because the silence from the art world has been incredibly loud,” a protester who preferred to remain anonymous told Hyperallergic. “There’s a lot of power concentrated in the art world — a lot of money passes through — and Frieze is sponsored by Deutsche Bank, who on the record has given money to different groups, including Israel. The fact that the art world continually chooses opulence and cowardice is disappointing.” 

Deutsche Bank has not yet responded to an immediate request for comment. 

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Activists protested Deutsche Bank, Frieze’s global lead partner since 2004, over its alleged links to Israeli settlements.

Protestors moved to the ticket holder entrance of the fair as participants filed in and out, including actor Jane Fonda. Asked by Hyperallergic for her thoughts on the protest, Fonda replied, “What protest?” 

Frieze staffers welcomed visitors to the fair as protesters chanted, “What good is art that ignores genocide?” 

“It goes above my couch!” replied one man entering the show.

“Go to a concert to yell!” another responded. 

“Fuck you!” screamed one man wearing a Burberry trench coat as he moved through the crowd. “Fuck you all!” 

A few exiting fairgoers joined in the protest, yelling and clutching the neon green maps of militarization in southern California made and distributed by the group. 

“I was very happy to see this when I got here to be honest,” said Oscar Mendoza, 39, who was visiting the fair with family. “I think it’s absolutely necessary.”

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Many fairgoers cheered and honked in solidarity with the protesters.

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