Lacoste Elysee Prize Cancelled: Did The Brand Censor A Piece For Being 'Too Palestinian'?

12/21/2011 07:05 pm ET | Updated Dec 21, 2011

Lacoste is in hot water after the clothing giant reportedly objected to a contestant's artwork on the grounds that it was "too pro-Palestinian."

The contest, a $32,000 prize was to be awarded by The Elysee Museum in Lausanne, Switzerland to the entrant with the work that best exemplified the theme of "joie de vivre." But Jerusalem-born photographer Larissa Sansour claims she was told that Lacoste -- the prize's sponsor -- wouldn't admit her piece.

The museum initially tried to persuade Sansour to back out of the exhibition. After The Independent published an email sent by the museum to Sansour, the museum has released a statement that placed the blame more squarely on Lacoste's shoulders. "The private partner's wish to exclude Larissa Sansour, one of the competition candidates," it wrote, "is behind the Elysee Museum's decision."

Sansour's piece was inspired by Palestine's attempt to gain UN recognition. "Nation Estate" -- her project -- "envisions a Palestinian state rising from the ashes of the peace process." Sansour's past work has been exhibited at the Tate Modern. She says she was "shocked and saddened" by Lacoste's actions.

When she heard that the museum had decided to cancel the contest, however, she was overjoyed. In an interview with ARTINFO, the artist said she believes the museum had "decided against censorship."

"As a Palestinian artist," she added, "This is not the first time works of mine or shows I have been in have been exposed to politically-motivated pressure. I can only speculate as to Lacoste's reasons, but fearing bad press for coming out as pro-Palestinian seems a very likely interpretation."

For more details, head over to the Independent.

UPDATE: Lacoste has released a statement on the matter, claiming it took part in no wrongdoing and that the museum had agreed with all of its decisions. It reads, in part:

After receiving works from all entries, Lacoste and the Musee de l'Elysee felt the work at hand did not belong in the theme of “joie de vivre” (happiness), which had been the case for other applicants at previous steps in the selection process.

After agreeing with the Musee de l’Elysee, the decision was made known to Ms. Sansour and she was presented by the Musée de l’Elysée with an offer to hold an exhibition of her works in a different forum.

Lacoste can only be saddened by the current situation. The sole goal was to promote young photographers and provide them with an opportunity to increase their visibility.

In light of this situation and to avoid any misunderstanding, Lacoste has decided to cancel once and for all its participation in this event and its support to the Elysee Prize.

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