French clothing firm Lacoste censors, expels Palestinian artist Larissa Sansour from prestigious contest

Update: 21 December 2011 at 19:45 GMT

The Musée de L’Elysée in Lausanne has suspended the 2011 Lacoste Prize.

Original post

Image from Larissa Sansour’s Nation Estate project censored by the Lacoste Elysée Prize

Larissa Sansour

The high-end French clothing chain Lacoste has demanded the removal of work by Palestinian artist Larissa Sansour from the shortlist for the €25,000 Lacoste Elysee Prize that is awarded by the Swiss Musee de l’Elysee with sponsorship from the firm.

A Palestinian who is “too pro-Palestinian”

Sansour was among eight finalists shortlisted for the 2011 prize. According to a press release issued by Sansour, “Lacoste stated their refusal to support Sansour’s work, labelling it ‘too pro-Palestinian.’”

This latest instance of apparent censorship of Palestinian artists by a cultural institution comes just months after the Museum of Children’s Art in Oakland, California censored an exhibit of art by children in Gaza just before its planned opening under pressure from anti-Palestinian Zionist groups.

Sansour refuses to sign statement that she withdrew voluntarily

Sansour, who is based in London, is a native of Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank. The press release explains:

As a nominee, Sansour was awarded a bursary of €4,000 and given carte blanche to produce a portfolio of images for the final judging. In November 2011, three photos for Sansour’s Nation Estate project were accepted, and she was congratulated by the prize administrators on her work and professionalism. Sansour’s name was included on all the literature relating to the prize and on the website as an official nominee. Her name has since been removed, just as her project has been withdrawn from an upcoming issue of contemporary art magazine ArtReview introducing the nominated artists.

In an attempt to mask the reasons for her dismissal, Sansour was asked to approve a statement saying that she withdrew from her nomination ‘in order to pursue other opportunities’. Sansour has refused.

Søren Lind, Sansour’s assistant, told The Electronic Intifada today that the Lacoste company had yet to give any public response on the matter. A Google-cached image of the official Elysée Prize website captured by The Electronic Intifada proves that Sansour’s name was on the shortlist until at least 12 December, and then removed on the current version.

Imagining a Palestinian state as science fiction

Sansour’s multimedia project Nation Estate was “conceived in the wake of the Palestinian bid for UN membership. Nation Estate depicts a science fiction-style Palestinian state in the form of a single skyscraper housing the entire Palestinian population. Inside this new Nation Estate, the residents have recreated their lost cities on separate floors: Jerusalem on 3, Ramallah on 4, Sansour’s own hometown of Bethlehem on 5, etc.”

Sansour was born in Jerusalem and her multimedia work has been exhibited all over the world. The photo above, from the exhibit, is published courtesy of Sansour. More can be seen at her website.

A Space Exodus

A clip from Sansour’s 2009 short film A Space Exodus.

Full text of press release

20th December 2011

LACOSTE: NO ROOM FOR PALESTINIAN ARTIST

French fashion brand demands the removal of Bethlehem artist Larissa Sansour from major photographic prize.

The prestigious €25,000 Lacoste Elysée Prize is awarded by the Swiss Musée de l’Elysée with sponsorship from Lacoste, the clothing brand.

Larissa Sansour was among the eight artists shortlisted for the 2011 prize. In December 2011, Lacoste demanded that her nomination be revoked. Lacoste stated their refusal to support Sansour’s work, labelling it ‘too pro-Palestinian’. A special jury will convene in January 2012 to select the winner.

As a nominee, Sansour was awarded a bursary of €4,000 and given carte blanche to produce a portfolio of images for the final judging. In November 2011, three photos for Sansour’s Nation Estate project were accepted, and she was congratulated by the prize administrators on her work and professionalism. Sansour’s name was included on all the literature relating to the prize and on the website as an official nominee. Her name has since been removed, just as her project has been withdrawn from an upcoming issue of contemporary art magazine ArtReview introducing the nominated artists.

In an attempt to mask the reasons for her dismissal, Sansour was asked to approve a statement saying that she withdrew from her nomination ‘in order to pursue other opportunities’. Sansour has refused.

Sansour says: “I am very sad and shocked by this development. This year Palestine was officially admitted to UNESCO, yet we are still being silenced. As a politically involved artist I am no stranger to opposition, but never before have I been censored by the very same people who nominated me in the first place. Lacoste’s prejudice and censorship puts a major dent in the idea of corporate involvement in the arts. It is deeply worrying.”

Sansour’s shortlisted work, Nation Estate, is conceived in the wake of the Palestinian bid for UN membership. Nation Estate depicts a science fiction-style Palestinian state in the form of a single skyscraper housing the entire Palestinian population. Inside this new Nation Estate, the residents have recreated their lost cities on separate floors: Jerusalem on 3, Ramallah on 4, Sansour’s own hometown of Bethlehem on 5, etc.

Regretting Lacoste’s decision to censor Sansour’s work, Musée de l’Elysée has offered to exhibit the Nation Estate project outside of the confines of the Lacoste sponsorship. Musée de l’Elysée is based in Lausanne, Switzerland. The Lacoste Elysée Prize 2011 is the award’s second edition. Please find attached three photos from Sansour’s Nation Estate project.

BACKGROUND INFORMATION

Sansour Bio

Born in Jerusalem, Larissa Sansour studied Fine Art in Copenhagen, London and New York. Her work is interdisciplinary, immersed in the current political dialogue and utilises video art, photography, experimental documentary, the book form and the internet.

Sansour’s work features in galleries, museums, film festivals and art publications worldwide. Recent solo shows include exhibitions at Kulturhuset in Stockholm, Depo in Istanbul, Galerie La BANK in Paris and Jack the Pelican in New York.

She has participated in the biennials in Istanbul, Busan and Liverpool. Her work has appeared at venues such as Tate Modern, London; the Brooklyn Museum, New York; the Third Guangzhou Triennial, China; Alternative Space LOOP, Seoul; Institut du Monde Arabe, Paris; Iniva, London; Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin; Al Hoash, Jerusalem; Centre Pompidou, Paris; Museo Reina Sofia, Madrid; MOCA, Hiroshima; PhotoCairo4, Egypt.

Sansour’s short film A Space Exodus was nominated in the Best Short category at the Dubai International Film Festival.

She lives and works in London.

Image from Larissa Sansour’s Nation Estate project censored by the Lacoste Elysée Prize

Larissa Sansour

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Comments

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And that statement she was asked to approve... even more ridiculous!

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The treatment of this Palestinian is disgracefull and should be condemned .

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Is Lacoste being too crocodilian by labelling Palestinian Larissa Sansour as "too pro-Palestinian", or do they too think that Palestinians are invented?

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I just wrote my new hero an email to thank him for his brave stance when he canceled the competion that Lacoste was sponsoring. He's Sam Stourdzé, Director of the Musée de l’Elysée. He is interested in making a difference, while the preppie alligator is only interested in supporting apartheid and racist blackmailers.
I would threaten to boycott Lacoste but I don't wear their clothes.

Here is his contact information for anyone else who would like to thank him for defeating racism:
Sam Stourdzé
+41 21 316 99 10
sam.stourdze@vd.ch:

Dear Mr. Stourdzé,

Thank you for supporting Palestinian artist Larissa Sansour's freedom of expression and for refusing to give in to injustice and censorship. Your decision and integrity made an impact on many people around the globe today who have been waiting for someone to take this stance. I am aware that as a director of a prestigious French institution, you are under a lot of pressure from your sponsors and the mainstream public to side with the corporations. Therefore, I am extra appreciative of your brave stance, which came as a victory. You did the right thing by defeating Lacoste's discriminative behaviour, which will send a strong message to anyone who attempts to do the same in the future. Because silencing creative expression never blends with art.

Sincerely,
Nihal

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Mr. Sam Stourdze,
J'admire votre clairvoyance, votre sens de l'equite, de la justice et votre fermete dans le respect des principes universels. Votre decision de repudier le sponsor La Coste du concours est un gage de la grande valeur morale des institutions et du peuple Francais!

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Good Work ! He is interested in making a difference, while the preppie alligator is only interested in supporting apartheid and racist blackmailers. Thanks for sharing!

Ali Abunimah

Ali Abunimah's picture

Co-founder of The Electronic Intifada and author of The Battle for Justice in Palestine, now out from Haymarket Books.

Also wrote One Country: A Bold-Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse. Opinions are mine alone.