The Editor of ‘Artforum’ Has Been Fired Over the Publication of a Pro-Palestine Open Letter

Artforum's publishers have put out a statement addressing the open letter.

David Velasco at Fondazione Prada on April 18, 2018 in Milan, Italy. Photo by Pietro D'Aprano/Getty Images for Fondazione Prada.

The editor-in-chief of Artforum, David Velasco, was fired yesterday after six years in the role. On the same day, the magazine’s publishers released a statement regarding an open letter in support of Palestine that had been published by Artforum on October 19. Their statement claimed that the letter had been shared “without our, or the requisite senior members of the editorial team’s, prior knowledge,” and that its presentation had been “widely misinterpreted as a statement from the magazine.”

The letter received considerable backlash for not mentioning or condemning the attacks of Hamas against Israel on October 7. The authors called for “an end to the killing and harming of all civilians, an immediate ceasefire, the passage of humanitarian aid into Gaza, and the end of the complicity of our governing bodies in grave human rights violations and war crimes.”

Multiple signatories withdrew their names, including the artists Peter Doig, Tomás Saraceno, Joan Jonas, and Katharina Grosse. The letter on Artforum stated that it “reflects the views of the undersigned individual parties and was not composed, directed, or initiated by Artforum or its staff.” Velasco is one of the signatories.

“I have no regrets,” Velasco told the New York Times. “I’m disappointed that a magazine that has always stood for freedom of speech and the voices of artists has bent to outside pressure.”

Several letters and statements were put out in response to the October 19 letter. These include a letter, also published by Artforum, by the the art dealers Dominique Lévy, Brett Gorvy, and Amalia Dayan. They wrote of their distress that the letter “does not acknowledge the ongoing mass hostage emergency, the historical context, and the atrocities committed in Israel on October 7, 2023—the bloodiest day in Jewish history since the Holocaust.”

The authors of the original open letter subsequently revised their text. On October 23, they clarified that the rejection of “violence against all civilians, regardless of their identity,” included a shared “revulsion at the horrific massacres of 1,400 people in Israel conducted by Hamas on October 7th,” adding: “We mourn all civilian casualties. We hope for the expeditious release of all hostages and continue to call for an immediate ceasefire.”

In their statement, the publishers of Artforum said: “Had the appropriate members of the editorial team been consulted, the letter would have been presented as a news item with the relevant context. The open letter was widely misinterpreted as a statement from the magazine about highly sensitive and complex geopolitical circumstances.”

“Our publication has a proud history of advocacy,” they added. “That the letter was misinterpreted as being reflective of the magazine’s position understandably led to significant dismay among our readers and community, which we deeply regret. It also put members of our team in the untenable position of being represented by a statement that was not uniformly theirs.”

The authors of the letter, who have so far remained unnamed, said the letter was closed when it reached 8,000 signatories. Penske Media, which owns Artforum, has not responded to multiple requests to confirm the number of signatories. Neither Penske Media nor Velasco had confirmed Velasco’s termination by the time of publication.

Velasco has been editor-in-chief of Artforum since 2017, having joined the publication in 2005 as an editorial assistant.

 

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