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From The Arab Exhibition to National Art Exhibitions
This paper takes up the turbulent transitional period ending Mandate tutorial control of Palestinians and Lebanese (1933-1943) from the angle of “art exhibitions.” The years preceding the Great Revolt (1936) of Palestinians against British occupiers and Zionist clientele followed a reprisal of “Arab Exhibitions” (a phenomenon dating to at least 1907), in the already-contested city of Jerusalem. How did such massive, coordinated, and galvanizing events morph into “Modern Art in Lebanon” in Jerusalem, at Bezlalel/The Palestinian Museum and a (planned) “Palestinian” equivalent in Lebanon (featuring Zionist artists), a mere decade later? While the Mandate-organized Beirut Industrial Fair in 1921 only tangentially exhibited fine art (primarily paintings and sculptures), in line with Jerusalem's successive "Arab Exhibitions," the later exhibitions showed solely paintings. What conceptual differences did colonizers introduce in the name of the "national art exhibition"? For example, how are we to understand the Mandate authorities' fear of displaying "second-order arts," especially in light of new research on overlaps between iconography, photography, and ceramics, for example? And exactly how and why did these displays of late-colonial majesty fail miserably? Finally, might these transformations illuminate today’s artistic activism, on the one hand, and polarization between audiences for MENA art and politics on the other? Research for this paper takes its grounding in British Imperial and French Overseas archives of administrative correspondence, artists’ papers, exhibition guestbook entries, and specific artworks exchanged. The paper aims to understand politics as a part of artistic endeavor and art as a part of the production of political formations that still cannot stand on their own two feet.
Art/Art History
Political Science
Geographic Area
The Levant
Sub Area