The first Palestinian museum has been a project more than 20 years in the making. Originally conceived as a memorial to mark the 50th anniversary of the Nakba, or catastrophe, as Palestinians call their displacement in 1948, when the Palestinian Museum opened in May 2016 near Birzeit in the West Bank, it had evolved to celebrate Palestinian culture in general, reports Joe Dyke for AFP.
However, until now, the museum—which reportedly cost about $28 million to make, funded 95 percent by Palestinians—has been empty. While an exhibition on Palestinian refugees had been planned for the 2016 opening, a disagreement between the museum’s board and its director caused the inaugural show to be canceled, leaving officials to inaugurate simply the building itself, James Glanz and Rami Nazzal reported for the New York Times at the time.
Now, more than a year after the building's inauguration, the museum has debuted its first exhibit, reports Hili Perlson for artnet News. Titled "Jerusalem Lives," it's a collection of works from nearly 50 Palestinian and international artists, focusing on how the ancient Middle Eastern city has developed from the perspective of the Palestinian people.
"The exhibition attempts to examine the city of Jerusalem as a case study metaphorically representing globalization and its failures, and find answers to inspire a better future," the Palestinian Museum writes in its description of the free exhibit, which runs through mid-December.
In four sections, the exhibit uses a variety of mediums to look at Jerusalem's history, political status and daily life, writes Aimee Dawson for The Art Newspaper, including audiovisual works, outdoor sculptures and even images curated through Facebook of people posing with Jerusalem landmarks.
The exhibit's central area is meant to remind visitors of Jerusalem's center with a bustling congestion of sounds and videos, writes Nick Leech for the UAE edition of The National. The space shows contemporary pieces like "Present Tense" by artist Mona Hatoum; composed of 2,400 blocks of olive-oil soap from the West Bank and red beads, it serves as a commentary on the 1993 Oslo peace accords. Also on view, "Directions" a window installation by artist Mohammed Kazem, which lists the coordinates of places he's not allowed to visit because of his United Arab Emirates nationality.
Outside of the walls of the museum, the exhibit includes public programs and events at other Palestinian institutions, reports Dawson, and the museum is also behind a special issue of the journal Jerusalem Quarterly, which serves as a catalogue for the show.