Anita and Poju Zabludowicz Courtesy Zabludowicz Foundation

A boycott against the Zabludowicz Fpoundation, set up by London tycoon Poju Zabludowicz and his wife Anita because of his arms trade dealing in the Middle East.

The Zabludowicz Foundation is the umbrella organization overseeing the Zabludowiczes’s philanthropic activities centered around the contemporary art collection the couple started in 1994. The foundation operates from a former Methodist Church in North London, as well as from 1500 Broadway in New York and three locations on the island of Sarvisalo, in Finland, Poju Zabludowicz’s country of birth. The London venue currently hosts a solo exhibition by the American video artists Lizzie Fitch and Ryan Trecartin.

While acknowledging the foundation’s “central role in supporting emerging artists in London,” the call for boycott accuses the organization of “laundering some very dirty money through the labour pool of young, London-based artists.”

“We call on artists not to scab and to act in solidarity,” the group continues.

Poju Zabludowicz’s links to the arms trade have long been one of the London art world’s favorite points of gossip. But as Kunstraum director Thomas Cuckle points out in his eloquent open letter to the editor, few in the art industry bothered to substantiate their claims. And in Cuckle’s view, neither did Boycott Zabludowicz.

Cuckle says the boycott is “full of undocumented opinion and is misleading in a number of ways,”

The extensive document details the career of Poju Zabludowicz’s father, Shlomo Zabludowicz, a concentration camp survivor who “sold weapons to some of the world’s most repressive regimes over several decades.” It also reports on the Zabludowiczes’ progressive transition from arms to real estate under the leadership of Poju Zabludowicz, who, in at least one instance, was involved with property in an Israeli settlement.

Pointing out that he doesn’t stand up for Zabludowicz, Cuckle warns of the dangers of publishing an anonymous call for boycott and using abusive language (“scab”). “This approach will lead further down the path in polarisation of opinion amongst people who should be peers, and that serves no one’s interests,” he writes. “It is a mob mentality which says ‘you are either with us or against us’ but politics and ethics just aren’t that simple.”

Boycott Zabludowicz, for its part, concludes its call for boycott with an invitation to any philanthropists to “close their institutions and unconditionally to deliver over all their money, property and resources to artists and everyone else, who can perfectly well distribute, self-administrate and self-organise themselves: We want the money!”

The Zabludowicz Foundation has made no comment.

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