“White Paper” on the Sanctions against Russian artists and their work with a focus on their impact on artistic freedom and other fundamental rights.

Carré Noir (1923 – 1930), Kazimir Malevich. Wikimedia Commons.

21 December 2022, Paris, France: In a “White Paper” launched today Avant-Garde Lawyers (AGL) called upon cultural institutions and cultural event organisers to respect the rights of Russian artists and to show leadership in defending the universal right to freedom of artistic expression without discrimination.

The intensity of suffering and devastation inflicted in the Russia-Ukraine war has brought together communities across the globe in an effort to publicly condemn the use of violence by Russia. In this context, in the field of arts and culture, a pattern has emerged in which national institutions, international festivals, exhibitions, competitions and orchestras have presented Russian artists with peremptory termination statements informing them of the unilateral revocation of their engagements on account of their nationality. While many stated that their intention was not to penalise individual artists, this is precisely what the exclusions have factually achieved. 

The White Paper provides cultural institutions with information and analysis on the matter, highlighting concerns relating to the legality of these actions through the lens of fundamental rights as guaranteed under international law. It also provides recommendations on how they can avoid recourse to such damaging measures in the future. 

AGL Director Andra Matei: “This is an important discussion that must be kickstarted to avoid the further targeting of Russian artists by actions taken to condemn the Russian government. Additionally, this conversation is essential to ensure that exclusionary measures targeting art and culture do not become the norm in times of geopolitical conflict, which will serve as a massive blow to artistic freedom at a global level. Art must be championed as a universal value to be created, shared and enjoyed without borders and the rights of artists must be respected and protected at all times.”

About Us: Avant-Garde Lawyers (AGL) is an international non-governmental organisation that protects the right of artists to imagine and create freely. To fulfil our mission, we curate a global network of law and art experts committed to providing specialised pro-bono support to artists in situations of increased vulnerability. 

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