A Manchester Museum Director Has Been Forced Out After a Group of Pro-Israel Attorneys Objected to His Forensic Architecture Show

The human-rights research group included a statement in support of Palestine in its show.

Alistair Hudson has been asked to step down as director of the Manchester Art Gallery. Photo by Simon Webb, courtesy of the Manchester Art Gallery.
Alistair Hudson has been asked to step down as director of the Manchester Art Gallery. Photo by Simon Webb, courtesy of the Manchester Art Gallery.

The University of Manchester is forcing out Alistair Hudson from his position as director of the Whitworth Art Gallery after he showed the work of Forensic Architecture, a human rights research group that has been nominated for the Turner Prize, and its statement in support of Palestine.

The show, “Cloud Studies,” which took place last year, featured Forensic Architecture’s identification of possible human rights violations tied to poor air quality in Beirut, Louisiana, and Palestine. It initially included a statement of solidarity that began “Forensic Architecture stands with Palestine. While working on this exhibition we witnessed with horror yet another attack by Israel’s occupation forces on Palestinians.”

Citing complaints by U.K. Lawyers For Israel, the university has reportedly asked Hudson to resign from his post, which he has held since October 2017. Hudson also serves as director of the Manchester Art Gallery, and it is unclear if the resignation applies to both jobs.

“This story makes clear yet again that the anti-colonial struggle in support of Palestine and elsewhere has to be fought within and sometimes against our public institutions, including universities and art and cultural spaces,” Forensic Architecture founder Eyal Weizman, a professor at Goldsmiths in London, told Artnet News. “No conscientious curator could now take over Alistair’s job, and no artist would want to show their work within the stifling walls of the Whitworth.”

When the U.K. Lawyers For Israel complained that the language contained “inflammatory misrepresentations,” Nalin Thakkar, the vice-president University of Manchester, agreed to remove the text. Forensic Architecture countered by removing several pieces from the show and demanding the exhibition’s closure.

The galley pushed back, and reopened the show with the original statement, pledging to add “different perspectives on the issues raised by the exhibition and help contextualize them.” In September, the lawyer group wrote again to the university, insisting that the university “should consider appropriate disciplinary action against Mr. Hudson.”

Forensic Architecture, "Cloud Studies" at the Whitworth Art Gallery, University of Manchester.

Forensic Architecture, “Cloud Studies” at the Whitworth Art Gallery, University of Manchester.

“The director of the Whitworth Art Gallery had falsely assured the vice-chancellor that they had established the accuracy and legalities of the work presented in the Forensic Architecture exhibition,” Jonathan Turner, chief executive of the Lawyers For Israel, told the Guardian, which first reported the story. (The group filed a freedom of information request with the university, which it claims proves there was no investigation into the accuracy or potential negative consequences of the work.)

The University of Manchester has declined to comment.

“Cloud Studies” is currently on view in “New Elements” at the New Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow.


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