Yerba Buena Center for the Arts to Reopen After Pro-Palestine Intervention

The Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (YBCA) announced that it will be reopening its Bay Area Now 9 (BAN9) group exhibition to the public this Friday, March 15, after artists altered their displayed work in a pro-Palestine intervention. The San Francisco arts center has remained closed since mid-February, following the action.

YBCA’s board of directors recanted on their original decision to remove and store the altered pieces, opting to present the works with new signage in line with the aim of “supporting artists’ voices and creating a space where diverse perspectives are welcomed, celebrated, and thoughtfully explored.”

In an interview with Hyperallergic, exhibiting artist Paz G., who spray painted their work during the intervention, said that despite the Center’s latest statement, “YBCA still hasn’t spoken to any of us in person or virtually regarding the protest.”

This new decision comes 10 days after YBCA’s Interim Chief Executive Officer Sara Fenske Bahat cited the demonstration and its aftermath as the reasons for her immediate resignation. On February 15, eight artists from the BAN9 exhibition used fake blood, spray paint, posters, and banners with messages including “Free Palestine” and “Ceasefire Now” to cover or alter their art during an event at the Center after two members of the group alleged that they had been prevented from advocating for Palestine in additional projects for the show.

The artists, supported by other pro-Palestine organizers across San Francisco, also distributed flyers demanding an “end to YBCA’s censorship of artists” and “the removal of Zionist YBCA funders and board members.”

Though the action was peaceful, YBCA’s board opted to keep the galleries closed after the demonstration to strategize next steps and initially settled on removing and storing the altered works in order to reopen the space. The board also called the artists’ demands “unreasonable.”

The artists responded with an open letter calling upon a boycott of the Center unless it opened the exhibition as is, divested from specific funders, and made a commitment to the Palestinian Campaign for the Cultural and Academic Boycott of Israel. These sentiments were echoed in a separate letter co-signed by various YBCA employees and affiliates. The galleries remained closed despite outrage as the story circulated on social media, and Fenske Bahat resigned on March 3, highlighting “vitriolic and antisemitic backlash” directed toward her since February 15.

YBCA did not immediately specify whether it would engage in further dialogue with the artists who altered their works, nor did it elaborate on its position on the artists’ additional demands. In its public statement about the reopening, the board underscored that “the opinions expressed by each artist are their own, and are not those of YBCA.” The statement was also published on YBCA’s Instagram, inciting dozens of commenters who criticized the use of the term “Israel-Hamas war.”

Paz G. noted that when they and the other artists staged the intervention, the group didn’t understand “just how corrupt” YBCA was. “We knew we were being censored, and we took a stand against it. But the further we go into this, the more we realize that this way this space is being run lacks moral clarity.”

“You can see in the comments on that post, that the Bay Area stands with us,” Paz G. told Hyperallergic. “It’s not even just about standing with us, it’s that this institution belongs to the Bay Area as it’s publicly funded by the city of San Francisco. YBCA still hasn’t apologized, and I think the community wants an apology and deserves an apology for the Center closing down for an entire month.”

Source link

About The Author

Scroll to Top