Pro-Palestine Activists Protest at the Met, Unfurling a Large Quilt Across Museum’s Stairs

Pro-Palestine Activists Protest at the Met, Unfurling a Large Quilt Across Museum’s Stairs

A vast quilt calling for Palestinian liberation was unfurled across the steps of the Metropolitan Museum of Art on Sunday, making the institution the latest one in New York to be targeted by activists seeking a permanent ceasefire in Gaza.

Each of the quilt’s squares were rendered in the green, black, and red of the Palestinian flag, and bore an artist’s response to a prompt: “From oppression to liberation, free Palestine.”

According to the artist-led advocacy group Hope in the Art World, 64 artists participated in the creation of 30-by-50-foot quilt, titled From Occupation to Liberation. The squares variably invoked tatreez, a traditional form of Palestinian embroidery; poppies, a national symbol and a plant that is indigenous to Palestine; and Thomas Kilpper’s Jenin Horse (2003), a 16-foot sculpture installed removed by the Israeli military during a raid on the occupied West Bank city of Jenin.

The quilt also honored the poet Refaat Alareer, who was killed in an airstrike in Gaza in December. His writings have frequently been invoked by pro-Palestine protestors, most notably the verse, “If I must die/you must live/to tell my story…”

The presentation of the quilt at the museum was realized by a group of autonomous organizers working with the artists. Scattered worldwide, the artists rallied around feelings of solidarity and resistance—which coalesced into Hope in the Art World—and began gathering contributions to the quilt.

One artist who contributed a square and was present at the action told ARTnews: “I worked on putting the quilt together, gathering artists to paint and stitch. It was an act of love, unfurling the quilt felt like alchemy. We must find a way for love to win, artists, dancers, musicians, culture bearers and activists all brought their care and skills together to demand an end to genocide and to show support for Palestinians.”

The peaceful action included an interpretation of dabke, a Levantine folk dance, was performed. With some national variations, dancers clasp hands and move in a circle or line, stamping their feet to the beat, to mark joyous occasions. In observance of Ramadan, the demonstration paused for prayers and provisions were distributed for iftar, the meal eaten by Muslims to break the day’s fast.

Visitors freely entered and exited the museum while protestors handed out mock museum brochures urging the crowd to “Dump the Fine Art of Imperialism.” No arrests were made during the demonstration.

Copies of the mock brochure handed out at the action in the atrium of the museum.

“We ally ourselves in the global movement for a ceasefire and Palestinian liberation and the acknowledgment that the history of Palestinian subjugation is upheld by occupation and U.S. military funding,” Hope in the Art World said in a statement. “We, furthermore, object to the argument of conflating the call for a ceasefire to be a baseless accusation of antisemitism.”

A representative for the Metropolitan Museum of Art did not immediately respond to ARTnews’s request for comment.

Since the October 7 attack by Hamas, which killed 1,200 Israelis and took more than 200 hostages, at least 100 of which have since been released, more than 32,000 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli air strikes and ground operations in Gaza, according to the local health ministry. On March 18, the World Health Organization reported that a famine in northern Gaza is “imminent,” while 30 percent of the population of the entire territory—some 667,000 people—are already suffering “catastrophic” levels of hunger. International committees project that the consequences of such malnutrition will be multi-generational.

The demonstration at the Met joins a wave of similar actions at cultural institutions in New York City and beyond.

In February, hundreds of pro-Palestine protestors gathered inside the Museum of Modern Art and outside the Brooklyn Museum. Inside MoMA’s atrium, some banners read, “Cultural Workers Stand with Gaza.” Over 1,000 custom-printed mock museum guides handed out at MoMA accused certain board members of “directly [funding] Zionist occupation via arms manufacturing, lobbying, and corporate investment.”

The post “Pro-Palestine Activists Protest at the Met, Unfurling a Large Quilt Across Museum’s Stairs” by Tessa Solomon was published on 03/25/2024 by