On 6 February 2024, it was reported by the Guardian that the Barbican cancelled a lecture by Pankaj Mishra, organized by the London Review of Books, after it learned that Mishra would be discussing the ongoing genocide in Gaza.

On 12 February 2024, the Barbican opened a major new exhibition, Unravel: The Power and Politics of Textiles in Art

As lenders to the exhibition, which explicitly aligns itself with values of “resistance,” “protest,” “solidarity,” and “liberation,” we were disturbed and alarmed by the Barbican’s late-stage cancellation of the lecture, particularly in the context of its already long history of documented racism and repression. Just last year, the co-founder of Bethlehem-based Radio Alhara was invited to deliver a talk but told to “avoid talking about free Palestine… to safeguard the audience.”

We sought to engage the Barbican in a dialogue, asking for transparency and accountability to explain the internal processes that led to the decision to cancel the LRB lecture, but it has only been able to provide the purposefully vague, amorphous language commonly deployed by institutions to shut down any discussion on Palestine, rendering decisions like this cancellation incontestable. 

We believe this cancellation can only be classified as the Barbican’s censorship of the LRB and Pankaj Mishra.


“…we knew that Pankaj Mishra's lecture – titled ‘The Shoah after Gaza’ – would need dedicated and thoughtful care given the importance of the topic… we lost the opportunity to properly consider how to hold the events with care, or to do the preparation they would need.”

Press release: A message from the Barbican, 14 February 2024

This is how the Barbican defends its censorship. No one buys it.

We reject the Barbican cloaking its violent suppression of speech with the gloopy language of “care.” We reject our public arts institutions behaving with impunity. We reject their normalized lack of transparency and accountability. We demand they do better.

The implications for artistic freedom at the Barbican, and the precedent this sets for further suppression of speech in cultural spaces across the UK, are dangerous and frightening. The vagueness of this language guarantees that any artwork, performance or public conversation at the Barbican can be arbitrarily shut down for its “sensitive” subject matter, or because not enough “care” can be provided. 

We refuse to accept this.

In protest of the Barbican’s blatant act of censorship and repression, we have made the decision to withdraw our loans of two quilts by Loretta Pettway from the exhibition. It is a gesture enacted in the spirit of Unravel’s curatorial framework, and of the artists included in the exhibition, many of whom were compelled to weave and sew and stitch and make as a response to repressive regimes and systems of power.

We invite you to read our full correspondence with the Barbican, and encourage you to write to them yourself and make your own protest known: feedback@barbican.org.uk. Ask them why they chose to censor the LRB and Pankaj Mishra; ask them who exactly made that decision.

It is incumbent on all of us to stand up to institutional violence, and demand transparency and accountability in its wake. We care deeply about the Barbican as an open space for ideas that directly speak to the world around us. Let the Barbican know we see what they are doing.

We will never accept censorship, repression and racism within its walls.

Free Palestine.

Lorenzo Legarda Leviste and Fahad Mayet