Palestinian Museum's inaugural show focuses on contested city of Jerusalem


The Palestinian Museum. Photo: Iwan Baan © The Palestinian Museum
The Palestinian Museum will open its inaugural exhibition this weekend focusing on the holy city of Jerusalem, a city that both Israel and Palestine claim as their capital. The wide-ranging, overtly political show will focus on the realities of living in Jerusalem as well as the idea that despite being seen as the original global city, it also serves an example of how globalisation has failed worldwide. The museum in Birzeit, in Palestines West Bank, opened in May last year without an exhibition, due to a last-minute change of director and the cancellation of its planned show.
Jerusalem Lives (Tahya Al Quds) (27 August 15 December), will be a participatory show that aims to focus on the living aspect of the city and support its people, says Reem Fadda, the curator of the exhibition and the former curator of Middle Eastern art for the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi. Split into four chapters, it includes a central display of contemporary works and audiovisual materials by artists such as Rula Halawani and Simone Bitton, looking at the cultural, political, economic and ideological aspects of Jerusalem. What is going on and why are these exclusionary policies being accepted? How are peopleartists, organisations and civil societyworking against it? And how can we build together in doing something? are central questions, she says. The display also includes around 60 images selected from an open call on Facebook inviting people to send in photographs of themselves at landmarks in Jerusalems Old City. The idea is to show that this city is for everyone, Fadda says.

The second chapter includes around 20 large-scale commissions in the museums extensive gardens, based on ideas about land, openness and non-exclusion, created by leading artists including Oscar Murillo and Simone Bitton and Palestinian artists such as Mona Hatoum, Emily Jacir and Khaled Jarrar. This will be the first time that we see something of this grand scale within Palestine itself, Fadda says. The third part is offsite, with the museum supporting events and programmes at other Palestinian institutions, and the fourth chapter is a special edition of The Jerusalem Quarterly journal, which will act as a catalogue for the show, based on the lives of some the most important people from the city.
The show opens amidst ever-escalating tensions in the city. In July, fatal clashes erupted in the Old City over increased Israeli security at the Al-Aqsa mosque following an armed attack on two Israeli police officers. The Israeli government is also in the process of redefining the municipal borders of the city and, internationally, Donald Trump has made supporting Israels plans to move its official capital from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem part of his presidential campaign promises. I accepted the exhibition as I understand the urgency of dealing with the topic of Jerusalem. It is important to stand against such problematic and exclusionary policies culturally, Fadda says. This show is meant to demonstrate that this museum is about peopleits about connections, vitality and agency.

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