DUBAI: This week in Dubai, a crowd of art enthusiasts attended the opening of “On This Land,” a pop-up exhibition that pays tribute to Palestinian history, heritage, and culture. On view until Nov. 26 at Concrete in the city’s arts hub Alserkal Avenue, the show is a collaborative effort between Sharjah’s Barjeel Art Foundation, Dubai’s Alserkal Arts Foundation, and The Palestinian Museum in Birzeit, in the West Bank.
It features more than 100 artworks — varying from paintings to sculptures — and includes massive floor-to-ceiling panels, showcasing more than 60 black-and-white archival images of Gaza. Everything was put together in a matter of just two-and-a-half weeks.
“Although it’s only for eight days, we hope that this exhibition can offer a space for people to come and reflect on Palestine’s beauty and art,” Barjeel Art Foundation’s founder, the Emirati art collector Sultan Sooud Al-Qassemi, told Arab News at the event. “It is a reaction to the events in Gaza but it also builds on a legacy of dedication to Palestine that institutions in the UAE hold. We’ve been collecting Palestinian art for 22 years.”
The artworks hail from the extensive collection of the Barjeel Art Foundation, an active organization that is known for championing modern and contemporary Arab creativity. The exhibition’s title is derived from a verse by the late, prominent Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish, who once penned: “We have on this land that which makes life worth living.”
Going back to the 1940s, a number of the displayed works were made by notable Palestinian artists such as Sliman Mansour, Samia Halaby, Kamal Boullata, and Mona Hatoum, among others. But there is more — the show also includes Palestine-inspired images created by artists from Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE.
“It shows the solidarity that artists from across the Arab world showed towards Palestine,” said Al-Qassemi. Mounted on a high grid-like metallic structure, the hanging of the artworks leaves a lasting impression on the viewer. The works delve into a variety of themes, such as motherhood, martyrdom, resistance, politics and war, architecture, and landscapes.
Al-Qassemi was amazed by the positive turn-out on opening night, attended by more than 1,800 people. Among the attendees were Dubai Culture officials, students, family relatives of showcased artists, and members of the general public. “Even though we only announced this exhibition a few days ago, people were literally waiting outside,” said Al-Qassemi. “We opened the door at 5:58 p.m., two minutes before the opening, and people flooded in.”