Art Palestine International is a New York-based cultural organization dedicated to Palestinian contemporary art. We collaborate with museums, galleries, and non-profits to produce art exhibitions, events, and publications.

This blog is a research tool that allows us to chart our research and invite others along on the journey.

Content RSS

Wow! Three new museums planned for Palestinian art:

A Palestinian Museum, funded by The Welfare Association is being planned for a site on the Birzeit University campus. Planners expect to have 2500 square meters of it up in the year 2014 at a cost of 8 million US dollars. A jury has reduced its search to five architects–the winner to be announced shortly.

More about these two next month:

Um el Fahum – The Um el Fahum Museum of Contemporary Art
The Bethlehem Narrative Museum

No Room for Palestinian Artist

Dear friends and colleagues,

I need to inform you of a quite severe act of censorship which I have just experienced. I was recently nominated for the Lacoste Elysée Prize 2011 – awarded by the Musée de l’Elysée in Lausanne with a sponsorship from French clothing brand Lacoste.
Last week, Lacoste demanded that my nomination be revoked immediately, labelling my work ‘too pro-Palestinian’. As you can probably imagine, I was deeply troubled by this development.

I have attached a press release along with three photos from the project censored by Lacoste. Please feel free to circulate.

All the best,

Khalil Sakakini Cultural Center cordially invite you to the opening of the OPEN STUDIO exhibition

Monday 19 December 2011, 19:00 at Khalil Sakakini Cultural Center

Ramallah’s Art Scene Comes Home

Drive six miles north of Jerusalem and into the hills of the central West Bank and you’ll find the city of Ramallah, the de facto capital of the Palestinian National Authority and also an up-and-coming capital for contemporary art in the Middle East.

Ramallah is new to the international art scene, but interest in Palestinian art is hardly a recent phenomenon. Palestinian artists are regulars on the contemporary arts circuit, featured at the most important biennales, auction houses and museums worldwide: Venice and Art Basel, the Guggenheim and the Tate Modern, Sotheby’s and Christies. “Palestinian artists have always been included in our auctions,” says Ruba Asfahani, Director of Contemporary Arab and Iranian Art at Sotheby’s. “Artists from Palestine are an intrinsic part of the contemporary art scene in the Middle East.”

Take a closer look however, and it becomes clear that Palestine has been suffering from a serious cultural brain drain. Most Palestinian artists on the scene today are members of the diaspora. Those artists were born and raised in the West Bank and Gaza but left the territories for art school, fleeing Ramallah for cities like Cairo, Beirut, Damascus, Paris and New York. “In the last 10 to 12 years, Palestinian artists have become more and more well known, but the artistic scene within Palestine is weak,” says Mazen Qupty, a top collector of contemporary Palestinian art.

Thanks to Palestine’s tense political history, the visual arts in Palestine have long failed to gain the foothold they deserve. From 1967 until the signing to the Oslo Accords in 1993, when Palestinian cities were under military occupation, there were restrictions on arts and culture. For example, it was forbidden to paint images combining the four colors of the Palestinian flag, black, green, white, and red. “Painting a watermelon was not allowed,” explains Khaled Hourani, one of Palestine’s leading artists and former Director of Fine Arts for the Palestinian Ministry of Culture.

Even after 1993 and the end of military occupation, the visual arts stalled in the territories. With the constant threat of unrest, immediate security needs superseded cultural ones. And once the Oslo Accords collapsed and the Al-Aqsa Intifada broke out in 2000, it became even more difficult for the arts to flourish. “When institutions and buildings are being destroyed left and right, what do you do about art?” says Hourani.

But today something new is happening in the Palestinian art world: instead of fleeing, artists are flocking to Palestine, and this is where Ramallah comes in.

As the intifada dragged on into the early 2000s and violence escalated, Hourani had an idea to start an academy of fine arts in Ramallah. Watching Palestinian youth picking up rocks, he wanted to give them the chance to pick up cameras and canvases instead. “I wanted to invite people to participate in the process of art and ideas,” he says. “I wanted to make Ramallah and this academy a creative center for artists and students, from here and around the world.”

In 2007, Hourani, Qupty, and a core team of Palestine’s most important artists established the International Art Academy of Palestine in Ramallah. Deep within the city, the Academy is bringing a new generation of Palestinian artists – within the territories – into the international conversation on contemporary art. “They cannot live closed-off,” says Tina Sherwell, director of the Academy. “They must be part of something larger.”

Four years in the running, this is just what the Academy has done. It graduated its first class in June – awarding the first six bachelor’s degrees ever by an art academy in Palestine – and it is quickly making a name for itself.

Artists and thinkers from across the world have come to teach and lecture in Ramallah, including Salvoj Zizek and John Berger, American artists Hans Haacke and Coco Fusco, and Emily Jacir and Mona Hatoum, two of the most internationally successful Palestinian artists working today. And this fall alone, students and alumnae from Ramallah participated in two of the most important arts events of the season, the prestigious FIAC contemporary art fair in Paris and the 12th Istanbul Biennale.

The mission of the Academy, however, is two-fold. It’s not only about exposing young Palestinians to what’s happening in art worldwide, but also about how contemporary visual art can affect everyday life in Palestine – how art can be an agent of social and political change.

With this in mind, Hourani recently set off on another idea for the Academy: to bring Picasso to Palestine. “This is an extremely visual culture,” he says. “I wanted to see what would happen if I brought a piece of modernity – a masterpiece – to Ramallah.” If Palestinians could not cross the checkpoints to see modern art, then the idea was to bring the art to them. But getting a Picasso into Palestine, across the separation border and security fence, where chaos can erupt at any moment, seemed all but impossible. “Of course people thought I was joking,” Hourani says.

This past summer he proved them wrong. In partnership with the Van Abbemuseum in the Netherlands, and after two years of planning, the Academy exhibited the Picasso’s La Buste de Femme in Ramallah in July. It was the first contemporary masterpiece to come to the territories, and the crowds showed up.

“To see hundreds of people queued up to see Picasso, in Ramallah, from all across Palestine and the world, it was unbelievable!” Hourani says. “And for me, with all of this, it’s like I’m dropping a small stone into a silent lake, and watching the motion of the waves, the circles getting bigger and bigger and swirling around it. I’m watching the impact.”

Photos courtesy of the International Art Academy of Palestine

Blog from my recent trip

It was great being back in Palestine last week though I just missed seeing AL MA’MAL’s 2011 annual Jerusalem show, “On/Off Language.” I did manage, however, to catch up with several of the artists included in it.

YAZAN KHALILI produced a 46x32cm book, entitled “Love and other Landscapes”; BISAN ABU EISHEH put together an installation of boxes containing household objects found in the rubble of destroyed Palestinian homes. His piece is entitled: “Playing House” and was shown recently at the Istanbul Biennale. NOOR ABED expresses what it is to be a woman in the Middle East in installations of high heels and cosmetics.

Visiting the ART ACADEMY in Ramallah, all of a sudden a blooming new city, I was struck by AYED ARAFAH’s work describing his nostalgia for the sea–a powerful attraction to Ramallah residents who, restricted in their ability to go there, must depend on their Jerusalem friends to carry back small teacupfuls of ocean that they can smell and feel.

OMAYA SALMA‘s performances confuse and disturb her viewers’ everyday perceptions. One of her works shows a single eye peeking out from within her niqab.

BASHAR ALHROUB searches for identity in his new work .

OSAMA NAZZAL’s iconic road signs forbidding tanks, guns, and settlers are posted on roads and buildings throughout Ramallah.

Jack Persekian’s gallery AL MA’MAL showed strong works by HAZEM HARB-a Palestinian artist from Gaza living in Italy.

ABED AL JUBEH, Director of SAKAKINI Culture Center in Ramallah showed me colorful architectural models –re-imaging the Palestinian Parliament by students from the Department of Architecture at Birzeit University,

I also learned about AL-Maqdese‒an organization made up of lawyers whose mission is to defend and protect Palestinians’ rights in Jerusalem. I need to go back and find out more.

POET/PHILOSOPHER NAJWAN DARWISH took me to a very special chicken place in BEIT JALA—before rushing off to Paris to hear his poems read in French.

RANA BISHARA’S “Road Map for Peace” and ALEXANDRA HANDAL’s “Vanishing Point I,” a psychogeopgraphic map of the old al-Musrara neighborhood conveyed sorrow, nostalgia, and hope.

New exhibition at Birzeit Museum: BETWEEN EBAL and GERZIM

Najwan Darwish comments on the boycott among Palestinians inside Isreal

The Sensitive Case of Boycott among Palestinians Inside Israel

a needle in the binding

An installation of 200 books brought from The Nablus Library prisoners.

All talks will be held in Jerusalem at The Khalidi Library, Bab El-Silsilah Rd. Old City and in Ramallah at the International Academy of Art – Palestine, Aref al-Aref Building, behind the Arab Bank, al-Bireh using simultaneous transmission.

Thursday, 10/27/2011, 6:30pm
The Imprisoned Book: The experience of women political prisoners.
Speakers: Rula Abu Duhou, thinker and former political prisoner and Waleed al Hodali, Novelist and former political prisoner

Friday, 11/4/2011, 6:30pm
The Imprisoned Book: A comparative perspective
Speakers: Abid al Satter Qassem, thinker and former political prisoner and Hasan Obied, researcher and former political prisoner

Artists’ Talks Program at Birzeit University Museum

October 11 – November 14, 2011

Birzeit University Museum is hosting a series of artists’ talks, programmed in conjunction with the upcoming third edition of Cities Exhibition, Between Ebal and Gerzim, which brings Palestinian and international artists in dialogue about the local and global.

Juan Del Gado in conversation with
Yazid Anani
Monday 17th October
17:00 – 18:30
Al-Mahatta Gallery

Angelika Boeck in conversation with
Samar Martha
Tuesday 25th October
18:00 – 19:30
Franco German Cultural Center

Nasser Soumi in conversation with
Khaled Hourani
Monday 31st October
14:00 – 15:30
Franco German Cultural Center

Lucia Tkacova & Anita Mona in conversation with
Vera Tamari
Monday 14th November
17:00 – 18:30
Al-Mahatta Gallery


Al Ma’mal Presents Its New Exhibition “on/off Language”

Participating artists:

Artists: Basel Abbas and Ruanne Abou Rahme, Noor Abed, Bisan Abu Eisheh, Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Mounira Al Solh, Paul Chan, Beatrice Catanzaro, Gustavo Ciriaco and Andrea Sonnberger, Complaints Coral, Mette Edvardsen, Mona Hatoum, Bartolome Ferrando, Lan Hungh, Rania Khalil, Yazan Khalil, Los Torreznos, Maha Maamoun, Tom Molloy, Khalil Rabah, Julianna Smith, Sharif Waked, Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries.

October 24th, 2011 – November 2nd, 2011