An open letter of Black artists* and cultural workers in Switzerland to Swiss art institutions

Updated: Dec 28, 2021


In an open letter, more than 50 Black artists* and cultural workers who are professionally active in Switzerland call on Swiss art institutions and organizations to translate their symbolic gestures on social media against structural discrimination towards Black people into concrete commitments in their own institutions.

Open Letter

Switzerland, 9 June 2020

How will you be proactive in supporting Black artists and cultural workers in the future? How are you actively dismantling white supremacy and racial bias within the structure of your institution?

Dear cultural institutions, museums, art spaces, galleries and artist-run spaces in Switzerland,

In the wake of the brutal police killings of Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and David McAtee over the last weeks in the USA, we’ve observed a wave of outrage across the world. Last Tuesday, many institutions and individuals decided to post black squares or other comparable virtue-signalling content on their social media as a sign of solidarity. We would like to invite you to have deeper engagement with anti-racist practices so that the black square doesn’t become an act of performative activism. The aim would be to strengthen the relationship between Black artists and cultural workers with institutions here in Switzerland.

Although the outrage began as a public indignation against police brutality, and more broadly racism against Black people in the U.S., white supremacy is a global problem. It is one that we too face in Switzerland.

Within the last years, at least three Black men have been killed by the police in Lausanne and Bex: Mike Ben Peter, Lamine Fatty and Hervé Mandundu. None of their murderers have been convicted and therefore no justice has been awarded to these men or their families. One must also bring to light the fact that many assaults due to racial profiling by the police rarely end with the police being charged. The most prominent cases are those of Mohamed Wa Baile and Wilson A.

While these examples speak to some of the most extreme forms of racism, we must acknowledge that anti-Black racism is a direct derivative of white supremacy: an oppressive system of beliefs and discriminatory set of biases that is inherent in all structures of the Western World.

As Black artists and cultural workers who are professionally active in Switzerland, many of us have experienced racism and discriminations throughout our careers at the hands of art institutions and organisations of various scales. As a consequence of speaking out about these experiences, many of us have received threats and/or intimidation as a response. Some of us have spitefully had our professional reputations damaged. Much to our shock, these violent encounters have not decreased since diversity has become a common term and standard to strive for in recent years in the international contemporary art/cultural world.

Whether it be the police force or the art museum, there is seemingly no limit to the lengths and depths to which racism will go to perpetuate itself. It should therefore come hardly as a surprise that we are particularly frustrated and dismayed by seeing some of these same institutions now claiming anti-racist stances on social media.

We assume that in posting the black square or other comparable content, your desire was to signal outwardly that your institution does not align with racist practices. We will now pick you up on this: We hereby ask you to be truly accountable and take action beyond the stage of social media. We ask you to implement real, tangible change and to become section leaders when it comes to anti-racist practices in the arts and culture landscape of Switzerland.

We have compiled a set of questions to self-evaluate your practice of dismantling structural racism and white supremacy within your own structures. These can function as a guidance to bring light to which areas of your work that need more dedicated efforts. We urge you to take the time to truthfully respond to these questions and take all necessary steps towards being able to respond positively to each of these questions with immediate effect:

Programming, engagement with Black* artists & cultural workers:

  1. How many Black artists are represented in your galleries, collections and public programming, residency programmes and bursaries?

  2. How many Black artists and cultural workers do you invite to participate in public programming around topics that are not centered on white supremacy, racism, identity politics or other topics centered on Blackness?

  3. Are you remunerating all Black artists and cultural workers presented in your programme? Are they being equally remunerated for their work as their white counterparts?

  4. Do you benefit from free labor from Black artists and cultural workers in forms of recommendations for programming and public speaking, as educators or as advisors? What forms of compensation have you considered?

Staffing, organisational structure and governance:

  1. How many Black people are employed in your institution? How many of them are employed in curatorial teams, selection committees or other senior decision-making positions within your institution? How many of them are employed with permanent contracts?

  2. What are the political positions of the members in your boards, juries or other governing bodies? Are they sensitive towards Black artists’ and cultural workers’ lived realities? How many of them are Black?

  3. Does your ethical policy restrict you from accepting funding from private donors or organisations that engage in colonial, racist and white suppremacist practices or who are making any direct or indirect harm to Black populations?

  4. How are you ensuring that Black employees, artists and cultural workers have a safe space to voice discriminations they experienced while working in your institution? How have you actively and vocally supported someone who has experienced discriminations?

  5. Have you ever been called out for racism? What measures are in place to allow the person calling you out to feel safe? How do you publicly address and archive complaints? What forms of reparation have you provided?

*In all these questions we primarily mean Black artists and cultural workers based in or active in Switzerland. As a second step, you could ask yourself the same set of questions regarding international Black artists.

With these questions as a guidance for sustainable change, we encourage you to share your answers publicly as an example for best practice and transparency with your audiences, to set goals for improved practice and regularly monitor your commitment to being a fundamentally anti-racist organisaton.

Anti-Black Racism is just one of the oppressive and discriminating manifestations of white supremacy. Others include xenophobia and racism against non-Black People of Colour. Although our letter focuses on the issues related to anti-Black racism, we demand that similar steps are put into place to address bias against all those who suffer under white supremacy. We encourage you to also acknowledge the intersections of white supremacy with ableism, sexism, classism, homophobia and transphobia and to put all necessary measures in place to ensure the contemporary arts and culture in Switzerland will become sustainably more diverse and inclusive beyond outward-facing virtue-signaling.


Alfatih Adji Dieye Akosua Viktoria Adu-Sanyah Ananda Schmidt

Ann Kern

Ariane Mawaffo

Brandy Butler

Camille Luce Bibiwango Tomatala

Mark Damon Harvey

Cédric Djedje

Chienne de Garde

Daniska Tampise Klebo

Deborah Joyce Holman

Diane Keumo

Doreen Yomoah

Edwin Arsenio Ramirez Garcia

Emmanuel Mbessé

Evariste Maïga

Fatima Moumouni

Gemma Ushengewe

Ivan Larson

Ivy Monteiro

James Bantone

Jasmine Gregory

Jeremy Nedd

Jessy Razafimandimby

Joshua Amissah

Juline Michel

Kapi Kapinga Grab

Kayije Kagame

Legion Seven

Lucas Erin

Lynn Aineomugisha

Lynne Kouassi

Maïté Chéniere

Marc Asekhame

Marlène Lokosha

Marvin M’toumo

Marilyn Umurungi

Mathias Pfund

Mbene Mwambene

Meloe Gennai

Michelle Akanji

Manutcher Milani

Nayansaku Mufwankolo

Nina Emge

Noémi Michel

Olamiju Fajemisin

Rahel El-Maawi

Ramaya Tegegne

Robin Bervini

Ruth Noemi Bendel

Safi Martin Yé

Sherian Mohammed Forster

Soraya Lutangu (Bonaventure)

Tapiwa Svosve

Tayeb Kendouci

Tina Reden

Tisalie Mombu

Titilayo Adebayo

Tracy September

Yara Laurine Dulac Gisler

Yul Roy Tomatala

This letter has been sent to:

Atelier Mondial Basel

Ausstellungsraum Klingental Basel


Art Basel

Art Genève

Art-werk Geneva

Body Archive Projects Zürich

Bild Zürich

Cabaret Voltaire Zürich

Centre d’art contemporain Genève

Centre d’édition contemporaine Genève

CAN Centre d’art de Neuchâtel

Centre de la photographie Genève

Centre culturel suisse Paris

Christophe Guye Galerie Zürich

Dampfzentrale Bern

Dr Kuckuckslabrador Basel

Edition VFO Zürich

Engadin Art Talks

Fabienne Levy Lausanne

Fondation Beyeler Basel

Fondation L’Abri Genève

Fri Art Kunsthalle Fribourg

Galerie C Neuchâtel

Galerie Eva Presenhuber Zürich

Galerie Gregor Staiger Zürich

Galerie Maria Bernheim

Galerie Mezzanin Genève

Galerie Peter Kilchmann

Halle Nord Genève

Hamlet Love Zürich

Hauser & Wirth Zürich

Haus Konstruktiv Zürich

Institut Kunst Basel

Istituto Svizzero Milano Roma

Je Vous Propose Zürich

Karma International Zürich

Kein Museum Zürich

Klöntal Triennale

Kunsthalle Basel

Kunsthalle Zürich

Kunsthalle Winterthur

Kunsthaus Glarus

Kunsthaus Zürich

Kunsthaus Baselland

Kunstmuseum Basel

La Becque La Tour-de-Peilz

Les Créatives Genève

Lullin + Ferrari Gallery Zürich

Liste art fair Basel

Luzerner Theater

Mai 36 Galerie Zürich

Mamco Genève

Migros Museum Zürich

Mikro Zürich

Neverland Kunstland Creux du Van

One gee in fog Genève

Oncurating Space Zurich

Pasquart Biel/Bienne

Philipp Zollinger Galerie Zürich

Roehrs & Boetsch Stäfa Zürich

Sattelkammer Bern

Schauspielhaus Zürich

Smallville space Neuchâtel

Sonnenstube Lugano

Spoutnik Genève

Spiel Act

Südpol Luzern

Theater Neumarkt

Volta Art Fair Basel

Von Bartha Basel

Vitrine Gallery Basel

Whiteframe Basel

Wilde Gallery Basel

Xippas Galerie Genève

Zurich Art Weekend

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