According to documents on the United States Securities and Exchange Commission’s website, Yana Peel, the CEO of the Serpentine Galleries in London, is a minority owner of the investment company Novalpina Capital LLP, which has a majority stake in the controversial Israeli tech firm NSO Group. The Guardian first reported on Peel’s alleged link to NSO on Friday.
Amnesty International has been among the most notable human rights groups to raise concerns about NSO Group’s services. In a report issued by the organization in August of last year, Amnesty International alleged that NSO Group was relying on a spyware technology called Pegasus to target dissidents in Saudi Arabia and the surrounding region. In May of this year, NSO Group said that it would investigate “credible allegations of misuse.”
According to a document on the SEC’s website from February 2018, Peel owns “25 percent to 50 percent” of Novalpina Capital LLP. A release put out on Friday by Novalpina says that the company acquired a majority stake in NSO Group on February 14.
The Guardian report came as a surprise to some in the United Kingdom, where Peel is known for advocating for activist-oriented art by such figures as Ai Weiwei. She has previously also said that the Serpentine should act as a “safe space for unsafe ideas.”
Reached by ARTnews, a Serpentine representative said that the museum could not comment and that the Guardian article was “under legal challenge.”
In the recent months, connections between the Serpentine and the Sackler family, which has also come under fire for its business dealings, have been addressed by artists. Earlier this year, at a press conference for her exhibition at the Serpentine Sackler Gallery (one of two art spaces run by the Serpentine Galleries), Hito Steyerl called on the museum to address its ties to the Sacklers, whose pharmaceutical comapny Purdue Pharma has been widely accused of inciting the opioid crisis through the production of the drug OxyContin. In response, the Serpentine said it had “no future plans to accept funding from the Sacklers.”
Update 6/15/19, 4:00 p.m.: This article has been updated to clarify Peel’s alleged link to NSO. Peel is a minority owner of Novalpina, which has a majority stake in NSO. The post has been amended to reflect this.
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