Yana Peel, the Serpentine Galleries’ CEO has resigned from her role, after three years, following a concerted lobbying campaign against her husband’s recent investment in NSO, a surveillance technology company.
Ms Peel’s husband owns the investment company Novalpina Capital Management International, which is known to have invested in the controversial tech firm NSO. In the past, Amnesty International has criticised NSO’s use of surveillance technology.
The work of the Serpentine cannot be allowed to be undermined by misguided personal attacks on my family and me – YP
In a statement, from the Serpentine Galleries Issued: 18 June 2019 at 09:30 the following was said.
It is with a mix of gratitude and regret that the Board of Trustees of the Serpentine Galleries has accepted the resignation of CEO Yana Peel. Since taking on the role in 2016, Yana has done an exemplary job furthering the mission, visibility, and financial standing of the Serpentine, increasing support and donations, overseeing ground-breaking exhibitions, and expanding the Serpentine’s programme internationally year over year.
During Yana’s tenure as CEO, the Serpentine grew reserves, significantly increased support by increasing total income and established an international donor programme in Asia. Together with Artistic Director Hans Ulrich Obrist and the Serpentine team, Yana contributed to the expansion of the Serpentine’s diverse programmes including projects from artists and architects including Grayson Perry, Christo and Jeanne-Claude, Arthur Jafa, Rose Wylie, Tomma Abts, Francis Kéré and Frida Escobedo. She also expanded the Serpentine’s programming internationally, as well as commissioning the first international Pavilion in Beijing and touring exhibitions to Milan, Miami, Paris, Berlin, Chicago, New York and Hong Kong.
Yana leaves the Serpentine Galleries deeply grounded in its mission to provide both established and emerging artists with a dynamic platform to showcase their work, and well-positioned to thrive. While we have every confidence in the Serpentine’s ability to continue to serve artists, visitors, and supporters in the future, she will be sorely missed. The arts sector will be poorer without her immeasurable contributions to our cultural lives.
Peel said in her statement: “The work of the Serpentine… cannot be allowed to be undermined by misguided personal attacks on my family and me. These attacks are based upon inaccurate media reports now subject to legal complaints.
“I have decided I am better able to continue my work in supporting the arts, the advancement of human rights and freedom of expression by moving away from my current role.” She added, “There is a place for these debates, but they should be constructive, fair and factual – not based upon toxic personal attacks.”
Ms Peel is listed on company records as an indirect owner of Novalpina. Novalpina began funding NSO Group Technologies earlier this year. NSO has previously been accused of selling spyware called Pegasus to agencies which use it to monitor human rights activists.
However, the group insists that law enforcement agencies have used its products in the battle against terrorism and more extensive criminal behaviour.
According to its website, NSO Group “provides the tools that support official authorities to lawfully address the most critical issues in today’s world. Governments use our products to prevent terrorism, break up criminal operations, find missing persons, and assist search and rescue teams.”
Following an exchange of letters with human rights organisation Amnesty, Novalpina issued a statement last week announcing “a new framework” to “bring NSO Group in full alignment with UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights”.
It continued: “Novalpina and NSO will do whatever necessary to ensure NSO’s technology is used only for its intended lawful purpose – the prevention of harm to our fundamental human rights to life, liberty and security from acts of terrorism and serious crime.”
The Serpentine said it was “with a mix of gratitude and regret that the board of trustees of the Serpentine Galleries has accepted the resignation of CEO Yana Peel.
Photo: © PC Robinson Artlyst 2019