Artists Rally Support for Palais de Tokyo Amid Donor Spat

Camille Henrot, Pierre Huyghe, and Cecile B. Evans are among the artist signatories on an open letter that has condemned a patron who withdrew her funding over claims of 'wokeism.'

The Palais de Tokyo in Paris. Courtesy of Palais de Tokyo.

Over a hundred figures from across the art world have published an open letter in the French newspaper Le Monde in support of the Palais de Tokyo in Paris, after longstanding donor Sandra Hegedüs pulled her funding and accused the institution of “wokeism.”

Signatories include artists Camille Henrot, Cecile B. Evans, and Pierre Huyghe as well as Chris Dercon, the managing director of the Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain, and Emma Lavigne, the director general of the Pinault Collection. The letter was published on behalf of the French association for the development of contemporary art centers (D.C.A.) and is now available on the organization’s website.

Hegedüs quit the Amis du Palais de Tokyo patrons circle and announced that she would be withdrawing her support after a 15-year relationship with the contemporary art center. In an Instagram post, she explained that her reasons were related to the center’s “wokeism, anti-capitalism, pro-Palestine, etc.” and claimed that an exhibition focused on Palestine supported a biased point of view.

Past Disquiet”, which runs until June 30, is described by the Palais as a documentary and archival exhibition focusing on “museums in exile,” which sheds light “on the stories of the support of artists worldwide to the struggle for liberation of the Palestinian and Nicaraguan people respectively, and the struggle against the Pinochet dictatorship in Chile and the apartheid regime in South Africa.”

an exhibition title wall in a museum. the wall text reads Past Disquiet

View of the exhibition “Past Disquiet” at the Palais de Tokyo. Photo: Aurélien Mole.

The D.C.A. letter denounces Hegedüs’s views as well as “the false information all too often relayed on social media by [artistic institutions’] detractors.”

“Like art and artists, our cultural institutions must remain free, or else risk disappearing,” the letter states.

It also mentions a previous incident in which the Palais de Tokyo was accused of promoting pedophilia by exhibiting a painting by Miriam Cahn, which was made in response to the war in Ukraine. The letter is accompanied by a petition, which currently has just under 2,000 signatures.

The Palais de Tokyo did not respond to a request for comment.

In a statement to The Art Newspaper, Guillaume Désanges, president of the Palais de Tokyo, said he has spoken with Philippe Dian, the president of the Amis, who has expressed his ongoing support for the institution, “recalling that the mission of the Amis is to support the Palais, not to pass judgment on its programming.”

In response, Hegedüs has posted a detailed statement on Instagram further outlining her decision. “My withdrawal [of funds] does not threaten the existence [of the Palais de Tokyo] or its programming policies. It’s my legitimate right to pull back from an institution that I no longer recognize.”

She goes on to add: “It’s no secret that I am Jewish and that I defend the right of Israel to exist (this is the meaning of the word Zionism). In the same way I defend the right of Palestinians to have [their own] state.”

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