New York museums to refuse Saudi funds for Middle East art programs

New York museums to refuse Saudi funds for Middle East art programs
© Getty Images

Two museums in New York that were set to use Saudi money for upcoming programs and seminars on Middle Eastern art now say that they will seek alternative funding in the wake of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi's disappearance and alleged killing.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Brooklyn Museum on Thursday said that funding from the Saudi government for two upcoming programs as part of a year-long “Arab Art & Education Initiative” organized by a UK-based arts initiative will not be used, The New York Times reported Thursday.


A three-month exhibit on Syrian refugees and their stories that opened last Saturday at the Brooklyn Museum will not use any funding from the Saudi government “in light of recent events and in harmony with the international community’s concerns,” the museum told the Times.

An invite-only seminar on curation of Middle Eastern art at the Met will be funded by the museum itself, according to a letter to participants from the museum's CEO, after the museum previously stated it had accepted less than $20,000 for the event.

“While this conversation and a subsequent public colloquium were to be supported by external funds, in light of recent developments we have decided that the Museum will itself fund this event," Daniel Weiss, the Met's president and CEO, wrote in a letter to participants that was shared with The Hill.

"It is our pleasure to host this small invitation-only scholarly seminar on how encyclopedic museums collect and exhibit modern art from the Middle East. This in an important conversation and core to our work as a global institution at The Met, as it is for each of the participants," Weiss added.

Saudi Arabia has become the center of much scrutiny following Khashoggi's disappearance earlier this month upon visiting the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

The Saudi government has so far publicly denied any involvement in Khashoggi's disappearance, but is reportedly planning to admit that the journalist died during an interrogation.

President TrumpDonald TrumpOmar, Muslim Democrats decry Islamophobia amid death threats On The Money — Powell pivots as inflation rises Trump cheers CNN's Cuomo suspension MORE appeared to defend the Saudi royal family in statements this week, comparing the issue to accusations of sexual assault against Supreme Court Justice Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughPence calls for Roe v. Wade to be sent to 'ash heap of history' ahead of abortion ruling Supreme Court to hear landmark abortion case this week Roe redux: Is 'viability' still viable as a constitutional doctrine? MORE and suggesting that Khashoggi's reported death could have been carried out by "rogue killers."

The administration on Thursday offered its first rebuke of Saudi Arabia over Khashoggi's disappearance and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said he would pull out of a high-profile investment summit in Riyadh.

That announcement came shortly after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Saudi Arabia would have “a few more days” to complete an investigation into the disappearance.


This article was updated to correctly note that the exhibits were organized by a U.K. arts initiative that took funding from the Saudi government and other sources.