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The MET and Brooklyn Museum Opt to Reject Saudi Funds For Projects as International Crisis

The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Brooklyn Museum on Thursday said that Saudi funding for two upcoming programs, part of a year-long “Arab Art & Education Initiative” organized by the Saudi government, will not be used as the international outcry over the fate of missing Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi grows. The New York Times reported this on the 18th of October 2018.

The Met’s president and CEO Daniel Weiss informed participants that the event, which originally was partly funded by an organization linked to the Saudi prince, will now be entirely self-funded. “Collecting and Exhibiting the Middle East,” an invitation-only symposium scheduled for October 23, is part of the just-launched Arab Art & Education Initiative, an ambitious year-long, citywide cultural exchange program in New York City.

In light of recent developments it was decided that the Museum will itself fund this event, Weiss said to participants.

The amount of funding with ties to the Saudi government was a relatively minor contribution to the event (less than $20,000); the museum has also noted it does not receive significant funding from Saudi government sources.

In a statement, Brooklyn Museum officials said they “believe strongly in the value of culture to create bridges and build a more connected, civic and empathetic global community.” But they said that “in light of recent events and in harmony with the international community’s concerns,” the museum would not be using Saudi money for its exhibition, “Syria, Then and Now: Stories from Refugees a Century Apart,” which began last Saturday.

Stephen Stapleton, a London-based artist who runs Edge of Arabia, which is partially supported by the Saudi government and its state-run oil company, and is a main organizer of the yearlong initiative, said in a statement: “We are fully understanding and supportive of our partner organizations in the Arab Art & Education Initiative when it comes to decisions around funding, and WE are delighted there continues to be a commitment from our partners to present open and free cross-cultural programming, as part of the initiative, here in New York City.”

Max Hollein, the Met’s new director said in an interview last month, that he would carefully consider the sources of the Met’s funding to make sure they were ethically sound.

“I think that it’s clear that if you are one of the leading museums in the world, if you have a very strong voice in the cultural discussion, that means that you have to have a morally sublime attitude not only about how the institution is set up, how it operates, how it is providing its services to the community, but also that its fundraising and funding is based on a clear set of values that we project,” he said. “And I have not seen the Met not doing that ever since I came on board, but it’s clearly going to be a guiding principle for us going forward in the future.”

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