Top US editor sacked after outrage over pro-Palestine open letter: NYT Report - Hindustan Times
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Artforum editor sacked for publishing pro-Palestine open letter, claims magazine acted 'under pressure': NYT Report

Oct 27, 2023 04:01 PM IST

Artforum editor-in-chief David Velasco fired after publishing and supporting open letter supporting Palestine amid Israel-Hamas conflict

David Velasco, the eminent editor-in-chief at Artforum, was fired on Thursday following a public outcry over an open letter posted by the magazine's staff concerning the Israel-Hamas conflict, as reported by The New York Times. The letter, undersigned by thousands including Velasco, voiced support for Palestinian liberation and critiqued cultural institutions for their silence on Israeli airstrikes in Gaza and was published on Artform. Initially, the letter overlooked the surprise attack by Hamas on October 7, which claimed over 1,400 Israeli lives, a detail amended post backlash from readers and advertisers.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - OCTOBER 26: Supporters of Palestine hold a rally in New York's financial district as the fighting continues in Gaza on October 26, 2023. Spencer Platt/Getty Images/AFP (Photo by SPENCER PLATT / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP)(Getty Images via AFP)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - OCTOBER 26: Supporters of Palestine hold a rally in New York's financial district as the fighting continues in Gaza on October 26, 2023. Spencer Platt/Getty Images/AFP (Photo by SPENCER PLATT / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP)(Getty Images via AFP)

Who is David Velasco

Velasco, who joined Artforum in 2005 and assumed the editor-in-chief role in 2017, expressed disappointment over his termination, citing the magazine's longstanding commitment to free speech and artist representation. He remarked, "I'm disappointed that a magazine that has always stood for freedom of speech and the voices of artists has bent to outside pressure," according to The New York Times.

Pro-Palestine open letter published on Artforum

The letter, dated October 19, although clarified later as a reflection of individual signatories' views and not Artforum's, drew sharp criticism from the art community. Several campaigns emerged on WhatsApp, urging advertisers to sever ties with the magazine. “Silence at this urgent time of crisis and escalating genocide is not a politically neutral position. Over the last few years there have been significant steps to institutionally address social justice and inequality,” the letter read.

Prominent curator and collector, Michael Phillips Moskowitz labeled the move a "complete betrayal of their readers." Some artists retracted their endorsements, although many continued to support the cause, advocating for peace and freedom of speech.

Artforum's publishers, Danielle McConnell and Kate Koza, criticized the letter's posting as inconsistent with the magazine's editorial norms, expressing regret over the misconceptions it birthed regarding the magazine's stance on the geopolitical issue.

Reaction to Velasco's dismissal

Velasco's dismissal comes as a shock to many, especially after successfully navigating the magazine through a sexual harassment lawsuit against its former publisher, Knight Landesman, and reinstating its revered status in the art realm. Prior to his termination, numerous artists lauded Velasco's bold and uncompromising vision for Artforum in a letter to Jay Penske of Penske Media Corporation, the recent acquirer of Artforum, underscoring the critical need for his leadership amid the prevailing tumult in the art and political landscape.

A report by Interceptor claims, Martin Eisenberg, a high-profile collector and inheritor of the now-bankrupt Bed Bath & Beyond fortune, lobbied with famous art world figures. Eisenberg, who owns millions of dollars’ worth of work by Artforum contacted at least four artists whose work he owns. A few days later Velasco was summoned by Artforum CEO and fired.

(Several portions of this letter were generated using AI tools)

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