This year’s edition of the Venice Biennale, the world’s biggest art show, will be particularly special as it hosts the first-ever Palestinian art exhibition. Titled ‘From Palestine with Art’, the exhibition is the first official collateral event at the fair, and is being presented by the Palestine Museum US. The four-year-old institution, helmed by founder and executive director Faisal Saleh is also the first one dedicated to Palestinian art in the Western Hemisphere. “We are very proud of this achievement of bringing Palestine to the summit of the art world and keeping it on the world stage for the next seven months,” shares Saleh with Vogue Arabia. “We have worked very hard and invested a lot of resources to get here and are gratified that Palestine is taking its rightful place (as an official collateral) among 80 of the world’s nations and hundreds of international artists at La Biennale di Venezia.”
The power of art to spread a message will not go unutilized by the exhibition, which will enlist 19 Palestinian artists living in Palestine and also around the world, to represent wide diversity in geography, demographics, and artistic language. “From Palestine With Art proudly shows international art world works by Palestinian artists practicing today, looking to the present and future, showing the enduring beauty of Palestine and earning their deserved place in the global art arena,” explains Nancy Nesvet, head curator of Palestine Museum US and exhibition curator.
Artworks included in the exhibition range from installations and sculptures to paintings and photography, such as portraits of nine Palestinians prominent in the arts and literature world, and a floor-length historic map of Palestine. It will also feature a live olive tree hung with keys from Palestinian refugees’ homes that signify the right of return, as well as an audio program recorded with Palestinian oral histories and a continuous stream of Palestinian music. Explaining the exhibit’s aim, Saleh says, “Palestinian art is the most effective way to tell the Palestinian story to the world. We hope to show the world that, despite living in exile and under the most difficult conditions under occupation, Palestinian artists are able to excel and produce inspiring works of art that celebrate the beauty of Palestine, the strength of its people, and its rich cultural heritage.”
The opening day of the exhibit is also expected to see a moving performance by Jordanian soprano and founder of the Amman Opera Festival, Zeina Barhoum. “Zeina is a talented young musician and has a beautiful voice whether she is singing operatic themes or Palestinian songs,” says Saleh of inviting the award-winning artist. “We feel she is the right performer for this historic event.”
We caught up with Barhoum via email to find out more about her performance.
How did it feel when you were invited by the Palestinian Museum US to perform at the opening?
Pride and joy. As a singer and visual artist, representing heritage and history through art is always a real privilege. It’s an honor to be a part of the very first showcase for the Museum in Venice alongside prominent and well-renowned artists from the Palestinian diaspora.
What can viewers expect from your performance?
A musical journey that will hopefully set the tone for the exhibition’s opening. A melange of musical pieces. Palestinian medleys, popular heartwarming classics, and opera arias accompanied on piano by Mohammed Sidiq, The Amman National Music Conservatory Director and Orchestra Conductor. Can I say, ‘From Palestine with Music’?
What are your thoughts on the Palestine Museum US exhibition?
The Palestine Museum’s From Palestine with Art Exhibition at the Venice Biennale embodies a culmination of efforts from their previously curated numerous exhibitions featuring Palestinian artists over the years since its inauguration in the US. I think it will be a beautiful educational journey of visual arts depicting Palestine’s history and heritage adorned through the eyes and hands of wonderful artists. A book was also printed by the museum, especially for the exhibition. Excited to see it all materialize and take off on the day of the opening!
What’s next for you?
I am embarking on a new journey. Since I’ve started writing my own music, I’ve been finding it hard to stop, and am loving it. It’s invigorating in every way. I am also writing a big musical project that is on the way in collaboration with Jordan Tourism Board that I am unable to disclose just yet. It will be in motion towards the end of May—can’t wait to share! Followed by two shows in June. Last but not least, I will be releasing my own music, my first pop single with an EP album to follow, titled Wings of Love, that I started writing during the pandemic with a message of love and togetherness.
Shortly after my return, I will be performing in a concert by The Jordan Tourism Board titled Salome celebrating the history of the true story, its protagonist, and where it all originated, Mukawir in Jordan. I will be performing music by Jordanian composer Haytham Sukkariah.
From Palestine with Art at the Venice Biennale 2022 will run from April 23-November 27 at Palazzo Mora in Venice.