Picasso in Palestine for the Very First Time: An Interview with Khaled Hourani
by Nancy Rosenbaum, producer
This summer, for the first time, an original painting by Pablo Picasso was exhibited in the West Bank city of Ramallah. What’s the big deal, right? Museums and galleries loan each other works of art all the time. But in Israel and the West Bank, where politics, borders, and security concerns rule the day, organizing a public exhibition of Picasso’s $7.1 million "Buste de Femme" turned out to be no easy feat. Who would insure the painting? How could its physical security be guaranteed? How would it be transported across military checkpoints?
For the last two years, Khaled Hourani has been doggedly figuring out answers to those questions together with the Van Abbemuseum in Holland. Hourani is arts director at the International Academy of Art Palestine (IAAP) in Ramallah where the “Buste de Femme” was on display. The Van Abbemuseum holds Picasso’s painting in its collection. Theirs is a story of a cross-cultural team triumphing over bureaucratic hurdles.
The Van Abbemuseum sent us over one hundred pictures documenting the painting’s careful voyage from Holland to Ramallah. The photographs tell their own story with the “Buste de Femme” as a silent, cipher-like protagonist. The painting is a magnet for attention and inspection and yet it also seems a little lonely and plaintive as it winds its way through customs and checkpoints into the IAAP’s exhibition room.
We reached out to Hourani to learn why he wanted to exhibit a single Picasso painting in Ramallah, and how the experience of working on this project affected him personally. Here’s his answers to my questions via email:
There are several reasons for this choice. The students of the Art Academy were at the center of the selection process from its early stages. The students voted in full consensus for Picasso as an artist and for the chosen painting in particular.
The Academy conducted a thorough research in Palestine about “who is the most popular international artist in our region?” The answer was Picasso. I recall asking my mother about the most well-known artist or painting she favored. Her answer was Picasso as an artist, and “Mona Lisa” as her favorite painting.
I had other personal reasons for selecting Picasso. His name was carved in the memory of my childhood in the early stages of my upbringing. When I was a child and used to paint, my teachers nicknamed me “Picasso.” Later in my life, when I started working, the name Picasso accompanied me. In our culture it is very popular to give a nickname to someone after a well-known figure; and, for me, Picasso became my nickname.
Images of NYC’s Religious Diversity
Colleen Scheck, Producer
The Brooklyn Public Library is currently featuring "Diversity of Devotion" — a photo documentary project depicting 27 religions practiced within the five boroughs of New York City. Stephanie Keith, whose photos we featured in a narrated slideshow for our program "Living Vodou", is one of the 36 contributing photographers.
The project “…was conceived as a response to global religious tensions which intensified in the wake of 9/11. Professional and amateur photographers from around the world volunteered to explore New York City’s richly variegated spiritual life and discover how diversity in belief and practice enriches our own individual experience… Our project aims to remind us all how fortunate we are to live in a city where myriad beliefs coexist in peace and tolerance; we can connect to others and share comfort, sadness, hope and joy as we walk our unique spiritual paths.”
Here’s a few examples of photos from the Brooklyn exhibit:
Chinese Yeshiva Student (photo: Jenny Jozwiak)
Woman Singing Praise (photo: Melanie Einzig)
Imam Bayran at Masjid Taqwa (photo: Omar Mullick)
Spiritual Healing (photo:Tammy Meadows)