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Metropolitan and Brooklyn Museums Reject Saudi Funding for Arab Art Programs

Amid the international uproar over Saudi Arabia’s suspected involvement in the disappearance of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist who Turkish officials believe was assassinated by Saudi operatives earlier this month, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Brooklyn Museum declared that they would no longer accept funding from the Saudi government or groups supported by the country.

In a statement provided to the New York Times, the Brooklyn Museum said that “in light of recent events and in harmony with the international community’s concerns,” it no longer plans to use Saudi money for its exhibition “Syria, Then and Now: Stories from Refugees a Century Apart,” which opened on October 13. Curated by Ayşin Yoltar-Yıldırım, the show recounts the stories of Syrian refugees and was organized in conjunction with dozens of other events as part of New York’s yearlong Arab Art Initiative, in which several cultural institutions—including the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, the Museum of Modern Art, and Pioneer Works—are participating.

Daniel H. Weiss, the Met’s president and chief executive officer, told the New York Times that the museum accepted less than $20,000 from Saudi Arabia for a scholarly seminar that it will now fund itself, and the Middle East Institute, a Washington, DC–based think tank, announced that it will no longer participate in the initiative. In addition, Columbia University, which had planned to host a talk with the Saudi artist Ahmed Mater, said that it is postponing the event, even though it was not backed by Saudi money. MoMA continued with its intended programming and hosted a conversation with the Kuwaiti artist Monira al Qadiri, which was not financially backed by Saudi funds, earlier this week. The Guggenheim Museum will do the same—it will stage a talk with Samia Halaby, a a New York–based Palestinian artist, next week.

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