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Six Artistic Directors of Documenta Pen Letter in Support of Activists Banned from UAE

As readers may remember, sixty curators, museum staffers, and critics wrote a letter last month in support of Andrew Ross, Ashok Sukumaran, and Walid Raad, all of whom were denied entry to the United Arab Emirates. The three have been critical of workers’ rights violations in the UAE.

Now, five former artistic directors of Documenta as well as the artistic director of the festival’s upcoming edition are bringing their weight to the campaign as well. Rudi Fuchs, Catherine David, Okwui Enwezor, Roger M. Buergel, Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, and Adam Szymczyk have all signed a letter sent to the Sheikh Sultan Bin Tahnoon Al Nahyan, the chair of Abu Dhabi’s Tourism and Culture Authority.

Citing Raad, Ross, and Sukumaran’s prohibition from entering the UAE, the signatories wrote, “Given the peaceful nature of these three individuals, we may unfortunately presume that the reason these three members of our global arts and academic community were denied entry to the UAE is because of their involvement with the Gulf Labor Coalition.”

The Documenta curators asked for the “unjust” ban to be lifted “in the name of art and culture, and freedom of passage for well-meaning people.” The letter concluded, “We believe that artists and academics should be allowed to conduct research and work that is done in a meaningful and productive manner. We urge you, as concerned authorities, to lift these bans and return the universe of art to its just place within the realm of the imagination and our shared futures.”