Artforum's Editor-in-Chief Gets Fired After a Pro-Palestinian Open Letter

Over the weekend, fellow editors of Artforum resigned following the publication's decision to terminate their Editor in Chief of six years, David Velasco.

The decision to fire Velasco came after an open letter was published on October 19th, 2023, in support of Palestine, calling for an immediate ceasefire and end to civilian harm. A statement released by Artforum claims that the controversial letter was shared without the knowledge of the editorial team’s senior members, and since “widely misinterpreted as a statement from the magazine.”

Artforum was founded in 1962 and has been a global pioneer in providing provocative perspectives, critical reviews, and acclaimed tastes in contemporary art.

Velasco, who was appointed as Editor-in-Chief in 2017, has come to be the face of contention since the letter was published. The letter calls for Palestinian liberation, an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, and solidarity for humanitarian aid, in wake of the staggering casualties that have befallen the Gaza Strip. Continued refusal of electricity, running water, or shelter from the IOF’s unrelenting airstrikes has claimed the lives of more than 8,000 Gazans and displaced more than fifty-percent of the population.

Opening with “The following letter reflects the views of the undersigned individual parties and was not composed, directed, or initiated by Artforum or its staff”, the stance was blasted for its failure to mention the October 7th Hamas attacks on Israel.

A day after the letter was made public, art dealers Dominique Lévy, Brett Grovy, and Amalia Dayan responded to the open letter stating they “condemn the open letter for its one-sided view” and that “we are distressed by the open letter recently posted on Artforum, which does not acknowledge the ongoing mass hostage emergency, the historical context, and the atrocities committed in Israel on October 7, 2023-- the bloodiest day in Jewish history since the Holocaust.”

The open letter was updated on October 23rd to reflect the drawbacks voiced,stating “We would like to repeat that we reject ‘violence against all civilians, regardless of their identity'’ ' and condemning Hamas's actions and hostage situation.

An additional statement from Artforum’s publishers was released on the 26th from Danielle McConnell and Kate Koza.

They voice the inconsistency of the letter’s view with the company's advocacy goals and editorial process. The criticality needed in this geopolitical crisis would have required it to go through proper editorial processes. If this was done, they declare it would have been “presented as a news item with the relevant context” to keep it “uniformly theirs.” The publishers clarified that they did not think the original letter made it evident it was written outside of the magazine and now they are taking responsibility. McConnell and Koza further advocate for their and the rest of Artforum’s stance in condemning both Hamas and the destruction in Gaza.

Velasco was removed as Editor-in-Chief the same day the publisher’s statement was posted. “I have no regrets. I’m disappointed that a magazine that has always stood for freedom of speech and the voices of artists has bent to outside pressure,” Velasco told the Times.

The rapid response to the open letter on ethnic cleansing in real-time begs the question of how will the art world work to continue bringing people of all identities together in the future. All those involved realize the power of art and its political abilities to cultivate change.