Musée de l’Elysée suspends Prize in wake of censorship of Palestinian artist

Ahram Online, Thursday 22 Dec 2011

In response to Lacoste, French fashion brand, censoring Palestinian artist Larissa Sansour, the Musée de l’Elysée suspends Lacoste Elysée Prize 2011

Photo from an exhibition of works by Larissa Sansour: Ex-Terrestrial, Kulturhuset, Stockholm. 23 October 2010 - 13 February 2011. (

Introduced in 2010 to support young photographers, the prestigious €25,000 Lacoste Elysée Prize is awarded by the Swiss Musée de l’Elysée in Lausanne Switzerland, with sponsorship from Lacoste, the clothing brand.

The Musée de l’Elysée has decided to suspend the organisation of the Lacoste Elysée Prize 2011 in response to the decision of the organizers to exclude the work of Palestinian artist Larissa Sansour.

Sansour was among eight finalists shortlisted for the 2011 prize

Eight nominees for the 2011 prize were selected to take part in the contest, and asked to produce three photographs on the theme la joie de vivre.

With the help of a grant of €4,000, each nominee had “carte blanche” to interpret the theme how they saw fit, whether directly or indirectly. The nominees were free to make a submission based upon their existing work or as an entirely new project.

An expert jury was scheduled to meet at the end of January 2012 to select the winner of the Lacoste Elysée Prize 2011.

Larissa Sansour was among the eight artists shortlisted for the 2011 prize. In December 2011, sponsor Lacoste demanded that Sansour’s nomination be revoked. Lacoste stated their refusal to support Sansour’s work, describing it as “too pro-Palestinian.”

In November 2011, three photos from Sansour’s ‘Nation Estate’ project were accepted, and she was congratulated by the prize administrators for her work and professionalism. Sansour’s name was subsequently included in all literature relating to the prize and on the website as an official nominee. Her name has since been removed, however, and her project was withdrawn from an upcoming issue of contemporary art magazine ArtReview introducing the nominated artists.

Sansour was asked to approve a statement saying that she voluntarily withdrew her nomination “in order to pursue other opportunities.” Sansour refused to agree to such a statement.

Sansour says, “I am very sad and shocked by this development. This year Palestine was officially admitted to UNESCO, yet we are still being silenced. As a politically involved artist I am no stranger to opposition, but never before have I been censored by the very same people who nominated me in the first place. Lacoste’s prejudice and censorship puts a major dent in the idea of corporate involvement in the arts. It is deeply worrying.”

Sansour’s multimedia project 'Nation Estate' was “conceived in the wake of the Palestinian bid for UN membership. Nation Estate depicts a science fiction-style Palestinian state in the form of a single skyscraper housing the entire Palestinian population. Inside this new Nation Estate, the residents have recreated their lost cities on separate floors: Jerusalem on 3, Ramallah on 4, Sansour’s own hometown of Bethlehem on 5, etc.

Sansour’s shortlisted work, ‘Nation Estate,’ conceived in the wake of the Palestinian bid for UN membership, is a multimedia science fiction project that imagines a future Palestinian state in the form of a skyscraper. The single skyscraper houses the entire Palestinian population, with residents recreating their lost cities on separate floors.

Sansour from Bethlehem is a prominent Palestinian artist and filmmaker. Her most recent film, ‘A Space Exodus,’ was nominated for the short-film category at the Dubai International Film Festival

The Musée de l’Elysée has announced its suspension of the 2011 Prize and has offered to exhibit ‘Nation Estate’ outside the framework of the prize and Lacoste’s sponsorship.

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