Lacoste has refuted claims that the work of Palestinian artist Larissa Sansour was removed from the shortlist for the Lacoste Elsee prize based on her work being too “pro-Palestinian” as she has claimed.
Lacoste told Index that the work was removed from the shortlist “because it didn’t correspond to the theme of the 2011 edition” which was “joie de vivre” and said that they “regret the political interpretation” of their decision.
Soren Lind, husband and assistant of Sansour, denied that this was the case and said Sansour had received “nothing but praise” for her work.
Nominees for the prize were told in an email that even though the museum was teaming up with Lacoste, it was not an “advertising campaign” and gave the nominees “total artistic freedom” in interpreting the theme. Lind said that the artists were told that they “didn’t have to take [the theme] literally.”
The question of violating the rules was new to Lind. According to him, “nothing in communications prior had anything saying that she doesn’t meet the requirements.” Messages exchanged between Musée de l’Elysée and Sansour also contradict the reasoning offered by Lacoste. In a message notifying Sansour of her removal from the list, a representative from the museum said that “the decision was taken by Lacoste” and that the museum had defended her work.
Lind also mentioned that the director of the museum, Sam Stourdzé, told him in a phone conversation that while the “piece is not anti-Israeli, he still felt it was too political.”
Steering clear of political themes has been a point of conflict in the past, Lind said. One of last year’s finalists, Camila Rodrigo Grana also created debate with her work, which showed a bootleg vendor in Lima selling counterfeit Lacoste polo shirts, which also could be interpreted politically. Lind said that although concerns were voiced, the committee “ended up allowing the project” rather than pulling her from the nomination list.
Lind pointed out that officials were censoring artists and “expecting them to be compliant.” The museum, which has offered to display Sansour’s work separately, attempted to convince her to sign a statement stating that she “decided to pursue other opportunities.”
Index has also attempted to contact the Musée de l’Elysée, but has not yet had a response.