Activists Disrupt Israeli Artist Michal Rovner’s Opening at Pace Gallery


Approximately 30 demonstrators disrupted the opening of Israeli artist Michal Rovner’s exhibition Pragim at Manhattan’s Pace Gallery tonight, March 7. Accusing the artist of ignoring the reality of Palestinians and decrying her use of poppies, a flower that carries special significance in Palestine, the activists led a silent performance and dispersed fabric petals inscribed with the names of Gazans killed by Israeli bombardments since Hamas’s October 7 attack.

The performance began around 6:35pm at Pace’s 540 West 25th Street location and was immediately met with resistance from security guards, who began removing the demonstrator’s red veils and asking them to leave while audiences expressed mixed reactions. Katherine Jackson, a local artist, told Hyperallergic that the action “added another dimension” to the exhibition, and another attendee, Ross Charmoli, observed that it “matched” the artwork.

But some visitors shouted profanities and “shame on you!” at the activists. One woman told the protesters that they were “uneducated” and urged them to “go to Gaza,” and a man asked why the petals didn’t include the names of “raped women and burned babies,” referencing claims of sexual violence and torture that are currently still under investigation by United Nations officials.

Some attendees rejected the intervention, shouting at the activists.

In addition to calling out Rovner’s “cultural appropriation” of the poppy flower, prominent fixtures in the artist’s work on display and the meaning behind the show’s title pragim (“poppies” in Hebrew), the activists scrutinized Rovner’s video installation “Signaling” (2023). The work, which features rows of waving individuals referencing the more than 100 Israeli hostages taken by Hamas, was publicly displayed in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem as well as Times Square in New York earlier this year. 

The fabric petals bore the names of Palestinians killed by Israeli bombardments in Gaza.

“Tonight, Pace again uplifts normalization — any project that invokes ‘Israel’ and Palestine without affirming the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people and naming the brutal conditions of occupation, apartheid, and settler colonialism under which they live,” read a flyer handed out by protesters. “Rendering 100 waving ‘Israelis’ and the Zionist dog whistle #BringThemHome, [“Signaling”] distorts the reality of occupation and necessity of resistance, ignoring millions of Palestinians under siege.”

When Pace shared footage of “Signaling” (2023) on its Instagram earlier this year, social media users pointed to the fact that the post failed to mention the death toll of Palestinians. The gallery later added a line to the caption acknowledging that “an earlier version of this post omitted the broader context of the ongoing conflict in Gaza and the horrific loss of life.” Over the past six months, Israeli forces have killed more than 30,228 Palestinians in Gaza and at least 382 Palestinians in the Occupied West Bank.

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Security guards began removing the demonstrator’s red veils fabric and asking them to leave.
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After they were escorted out of the gallery, activists held up a large sign accusing Pace Gallery of “artwash[ing] occupation.”

Pace staff escorted the demonstrators and attendees out of the gallery shortly after the action began and temporarily stopped allowing new visitors inside until 7pm. Outside, the activists continued to display a banner that read “Poppies Are Indigenous to Palestine / Pace Artwashes Occupation While ‘Israel’ Conducts Genocide” and hand out flyers to exhibition visitors.

A spokesperson for Pace Gallery told Hyperallergic, Our mission is guided first and foremost by our artists. Our role is to provide a platform for their ideas, to present their vantage points, and to amplify their work to our audiences.” Rovner declined to comment.

This is the second action at the contemporary art gallery in recent months. In January, individuals spray-painted Pace’s exterior with pro-Palestine messages and imitation blood spatters in January, resulting in the business’s temporary closure.





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