Pro-Palestine Demonstrators Protest at Art Gallery of Ontario, Marching Through KAWSShow

The protestors called on the museum to further address the departure of Indigenous art curator Wanda Nanibush.

Dozens of pro-Palestine demonstrators protested on Tuesday at Canada’s Art Gallery of Ontario, where they marched through a vast KAWS show that is currently on view.

Walking amid the artist’s signature sculptures of cartoonish figures with Xed out eyes, the protestors held signs that referred to the departure of Wanda Nanibush, a curator of Indigenous art who abruptly left the museum last year.

Although director Stephan Jost said that Nanibush’s departure was done by “mutual decision,” many have continued to question what led up to it. The Globe and Mail reported that her public support of Palestine had created behind-the-scenes tension that was only exacerbated by the current conflict in Gaza, which has killed more than 28,000 people, according to the local health ministry.

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Second Indigenous Art Curator Leaves Art Gallery of Ontario as Scrutiny Continues

Indigenous groups have criticized the museum in open letters, and another curator of Indigenous art at the AGO left in the wake of Nanibush’s departure.

On Tuesday, the protestors brought a banner that read: “Where did Wanda Go?” They also brought materials that urged a boycott of the AGO and valentines that spoke of “Palestinian love stories targeted by the Zionist occupation, genocide, and settler colonialism of Palestine,” according to the group Artists Against Artwashing, which said on Instagram that the museum had briefly shuttered the KAWS show.

“We have witnessed the Zionist attacks on every aspect of Palestinian life,” the group wrote. “We have witnessed the Canadian government’s continued aiding and abetting of the Israeli army while severing life-saving UNRWA aid. And we have witnessed cultural institutions’ complicity in this genocide. Most notably, former AGO curator Wanda Nanibush was forcibly “departed” for her private posts in support of Palestine.”

An AGO spokesperson did not respond to request for comment.

It was the latest protest staged at a major museum in North America. In New York, over the past week, protests have been staged inside the Museum of Modern Art and in front of the Brooklyn Museum. Protestors also interrupted a talk at the Jewish Museum, claiming in mounting a show of works about the October 7 Hamas attack by Israeli artist Zoya Cherkassky, the institution had put forward “imperial propaganda.”

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