June 29, 2018

New Cultural Hub to Open in the West Bank

RAMALLAH, PALESTINE—A new 82,000 square-foot arts space will serve as the permanent home of the A.M. Qattan Foundation, which was established in London by the late Palestinian philanthropist Abdel Mohsin Al-Qattan in 1993, Aimee Dawson of the Art Newspaper reports. Now chaired by his son, Omar Al-Qattan, the foundation first began building the cultural center in 2012, but the constraints of working in the Israeli-occupied territory stalled the project.

“The biggest challenge, apart from money and obviously the Israeli occupation, is human resources,” Al-Qattan told the Art Newspaper. “It is virtually impossible to get a work permit for somebody who doesn’t have Palestinian or Israeli identification.”

The venue will be twice the size of the Palestinian Museum, which opened in May 2016, and will boast of artist studios, exhibition spaces, classrooms, and administrative offices, as well as a library, theater, and a restaurant. While the space will officially open on Thursday, June 28, the foundation had to reduce its programming since most of its employees won’t be able to arrive in Ramallah until the fall.

Al-Qattan originally envisioned the foundation as operating out of a network of different venues—to reflect the fragmented nature of Palestine—but his father pushed for the organization to have a permanent space. “My father said that we needed a landmark—something for people to refer to, almost as a symbol.”

However, because of the escalating violence between Palestine and Israel—at least sixty Palestinians were killed by Israeli troops during border demonstrations last month—collectors may be uneasy about lending works to the center. Al-Qattan also admitted that the foundation has not yet decided whether to display its own holdings in the space. He said, “We function in an environment where you have to be very careful about owning something that is easily destroyed or stolen.”

An exhibition titled “Subcontracted Nations,” will inaugurate the venue. Curated by Yazid Anani, the foundation’s director of public programming, the group show will explore the meaning of a nation state and will feature work by more than sixty artists and collectives, including Khaled Jarrar, Larissa Sansour, and Naeem Mohaiemen.

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