Artist Hazem Harb Provides a 'Museum View' of Palestine in The UAE

Published October 22nd, 2021 - 02:44 GMT
Sharjah (AFP)

‘Hazem Harb. Temporary Museum. For Palestine’, a solo exhibition featuring new works by contemporary Palestinian artist Hazem Harb, opened on Wednesday and will run until February 10 2022.

The opening ceremony was attended by a number of prominent figures from the United Arab Emirates, notably Sheikha Latifa bint Maktoum, Founder and Director of Tashkeel, Marwan bin Jassim al-Sarkal, Executive Chairman of Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq), Sheikha Nawar Al Qasimi, Director of Sharjah Art Foundation, Abdelmonem Alserkal, Founder of Alserkal Avenue, and Ahmed al-Qaseer, Executive COO of the Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq) and a number of artists from across the UAE.

The opening of the exhibition, the Emirati state news agency WAM reported, was announced by the Maraya Art Centre, a non-profit creative initiative by Shurooq, which  supports emerging artists in the region.

Harb’s attempts to capture the essence of the legacy of his home country, Palestine, takes the form of archival materials including ancient maps, family photographs and paintings and are displayed in vitrines, lending it a distinct museological aesthetic.

Using collage-based techniques that incorporate photography and mixed media on a grand scale, the Dubai-based artist pieces together a temporary museum that showcases the fragmentariness of Palestine’s history.

Over the past years, Harb had been collecting rare antique memorabilia related to Palestine on international online auctions, some dating as far back as to 1779. Amongst his acquisitions are ancient maps of Palestine and Phoenicia, books of historical trade routes, family photographs and even artworks depicting the Holy Land by Orientalist painters such as David Roberts (1796 – 1864), a contemporary of J M W Turner.

Placed in an installation-based exhibition setting, Harb invites the viewer to reflect on Palestine with the hope of establishing a permanent museum of his possessions for everybody to access in future.

The exhibition, which offers and immersive experience, showcases enlarged historical black and white photographs of the Holy Land as backdrops for visitors to step inside, as if they are walking within three dimensional remnants of a bygone era.

Alongside these, existing works by Harb are placed in dialogue with a new large-scale installation made from olive oil containers, shining light on the importance of Palestine’s natural resources.

While it presents the artist’s deep reflection on his roots entrenched between the past, present and the future, the exhibition also touches upon themes such as diaspora, the practice of archiving and a nostalgic yearning for lost histories.

“A museum is a place that holds objects intended to inform and spread knowledge about various subjects. A museum is also ever-changing, a space that constantly evolves. As I turned 40, I took this time to reflect on my career and the work produced throughout,” Harb said.

“I wanted to have a space to share all my findings, every book, map, photograph and object that I have collected over the past few years. I immersed myself in extensive research since 2012. I wanted to freeze moments in time, showcasing all the evidence to celebrate a culture, a temporary story for a permanent history,” he added.

Cima Azzam, Maraya Art Centre Curator, noted that the exhibition “marks a turning point in the artist’s career so far. Known for his collage-based approach, Hazem Harb is now enabling viewers to literally walk into an immersive exhibition design portraying the past that he has carefully examined with strong academic rigour and meticulous research.”

“The exhibition reflects on how history is narrated by institutions and individuals and offers audiences food for thought. He is delving into the history of Palestine and inviting the viewer to listen to Palestinian stories,” she said.

The exhibition is accompanied by an illustrated catalogue featuring an interview with Harb by exhibition curator Cima Azzam, an essay by Laura Beaney, Director of Communications at Tabari Artspace as well as an autobiographical account of Harb, written to mark his 40th birthday last year.

Maraya Art Centre has also released films on the artist and scheduled an engaging public programme comprising workshops, studio tours, and tours on the exhibition.

This article has been adapted from its original source.

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