A months-long artists’ boycott of Helsinki’s Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma over the institution’s connection to British-Finnish billionaire Chaim “Poju” Zabludowicz has ended. The cessation came after the Finnish National Museum, of which Kiasma is a part, announced it would hew to new guidelines regarding ethical funding, and thus would remove Zabludowicz from the board of its support foundation. Zabludowicz, an avid art collector and the cofounder, with his wife, Anita, of London’s Zabludowicz Collection, is the CEO of London-based investment group Tamares. Founded by Zabludowicz’s father, who made his fortune facilitating the arms trade between Finland and Israel, Tamares has stakes in Knafaim Holdings, a contractor providing military aircraft maintenance services to the Israeli Air Force, and in Palantir Technologies, which develops data-analytics tools used by Israeli security forces spying and profiling.
“The strike was begun out of solidarity with the Palestinians. It matters that our biggest art institution has taken human rights issues seriously. We are happy that it has been possible to conduct this difficult discussion in a constructive spirit so that it is now good to return to cooperation,” said visual artist Terike Haapoja, who with Eero Yli-Vakkuri last October published an open letter calling for Kiasma to remove Zabludowicz from the support foundation’s board. The letter cited not only Zabludowicz connection with Tamares but that with the pro-Israel lobbying group BICOM (Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre), of which he is a cofounder. Established in 2002, BICOM aims to reject all characterizations of Israel as an apartheid state, as Amnesty International cast it in a 2022 report.
Kiasma director Leevi Haapala also resigned from the board of the Kiasma Support Foundation which Zabludowicz was instrumental in establishing. According to the Finnish National Gallery’s new guidelines, which also affect the Ateneum and the Sinebrychoff Art Museum, the museum will refused donations from organizations sanctioned by the Finnish government, or those affiliated with oil and gas production, the tobacco industry, weapons manufacturing, or the production of environmentally hazardous chemicals. The regulations also forbid the museum to establish ties with “organizations or other bodies whose operations promote the oppression of minorities or human rights violations, authoritarian governance, gender inequality or criminal activities.” Attendant to the new rules, the Finnish National Gallery is being more transparent regarding its private funding streams, with the result that anyone may request and review documents regarding its private support.