Mayor of Ramat Gan's Intervention in Artistic Content
On December 26, 2021, ACRI and the artist David Reeb filed a petition in the Tel Aviv District Court, demanding the annulment of a decision made by the Mayor of Ramat Gan, Carmel Shama-Hacohen, to remove the artist's work from an exhibition at the Ramat Gan Museum of Israeli Art. The court was also asked to order the mayor to refrain from interfering in the content of works displayed in cultural institutions that receive funding from or are owned by the municipality. The petitioners further asked the court to issue a temporary injunction order, which would prohibit the removal of David Reeb's works, until a decision is made regarding the petition.
The petition was filed after Shama-Hacohen posted two posts on his Facebook page, according to which Reeb’s work “Jerusalem” degrades a national symbol, and then ordered it to be taken off display. The petition alleges that the mayor’s decision entails improper political intervention in the artistic content displayed in the museum. The petition notes that in light of the many threats to cultural institutions’ freedom of expression in recent years, whether by local authorities or other elected officials, it is of critical importance to establish clear boundaries and limit politicians’ involvement in determining cultural institutions’ artistic agendas.
A day after the petition was filed, the Tel Aviv District Court issued a temporary injunction prohibiting the work from being taken off display, and scheduled a hearing for December 29, 2021, yet by that time it had already been taken down. That evening the museum’s board convened, heard the mayor’s position, and decided to approve the decision to remove the work by a majority opinion.
On December 30, 2021, the Court rejected the petition, ruling that the museum’s board had the authority to decide to remove the work, and that while the mayor had influenced the decision, his wrongful involvement in the decision had not been proved. At the same time, the ruling emphasized that there was just cause to file the petition at the time, and that it was an important petition, as the mayor had in fact acted illegally. The court made it unequivocally clear that the mayor does not have the authority to order the removal of works of art or to interfere with the contents of the exhibitions on display at the museum.
Administrative petition 56535-12-21
Attorney: Dan Yakir
For further information (Hebrew)