LGBT-friendly art show under fire for partnership with anti-gay Qatar


The museum is collaborating with a Qatari counterpart for the France-Qatar Year of Culture 2020 (Pexels)

A French gallery has sparked outrage in the art world after it announced a partnership with a state-run museum in Qatar, a country where it’s illegal to be gay.

The Palais de Tokyo in Paris is collaborating with the Mathaf Arab Museum of Modern Art on an exhibition called ‘Notre Monde Brûle’ (Our World Is Burning), as part of the Qatar-France 2020 Year of Culture.

The show will offer a “fully political view of international contemporary creation seen from the Gulf,” according to Palais de Tokyo’s website.

But critics have noted the hypocrisy of an art centre that positions itself as LGBT-friendly working alongside a country that punishes homosexuality with up to seven years in prison. LGBT+ people in Qatar can also be put to death under Sharia law, although there are no known cases where the death penalty has been enforced.

“This is part of the Qatari government’s shameless and long-term strategy to bribe French society and soften its stance on human rights issues in the Persian Gulf region,” Yves Michaud, retired director of the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts, told The Art Newspaper.

Protests are anticipated ahead of the show’s opening on 21 February. “The gay community shall fight for the cancellation of the exhibition,” said the Azerbaijani artist and LGBT+ activist Babi Badalov.

Responding to criticism in The Art Newspaper, Palais de Tokyo emphasised that it is not partnering with the state of Qatar but with a museum (which is run by the state).

“The Palais de Tokyo has always been sensitive to the appearance of new structures, and the work accomplished by Mathaf in the Middle East has seemed to us too little known in France and Europe. Mathaf’s exhibition program is very relevant and open to diversity,” it added.

In 2018, the museum hosted a three-day event focusing on the arts scene in Saudi Arabia – another Middle Eastern country that holds the death penalty for homosexuality.


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