Blog Post

“There are so many amazing artists on the ground that really systems" - Aline Khoury on Emerging Contemporary Art in Palestine

November 2021

On Wednesday, November 17, James Snyder, Senior Fellow at the Middle East Initiative and Executive Chairman of the Jerusalem Foundation, Inc., hosted Aline Khoury for a conversation about contemporary Palestinian art and its significance in the context of regional and international art movements. Khoury is Managing Director of Dar Yusuf Nasri Jacir for Art and Research in Bethlehem and she collaborates with several arts and cultural organizations across Palestine.

Snyder asked Khoury why she decided to return to Palestine after her education abroad, unlike many in her generation. She explained that she wanted to engage with her own community, devote time to important artistic endeavors, and understand what she had learned within the context of her homeland and its struggles. “There are so many amazing artists and creatives on the ground that really needed some sort of support systems around them,” she said, “so it was a choice and I was very conscious of it.” 

Khoury began her work at al-Ma’mal Foundation in East Jerusalem, working closely with local and international artists to create a vibrant social space in the Old City. Spaces of this sort were especially important as the Second Intifada had led to a “big decline in the cultural and social life” of East Jerusalem. She was aware of some outlets for meaningful cultural exchange, such as popular coffeehouses, but believed that the local community, rich with talent and passion, lacked sufficient space to mobilize and grow. 

After seeing the need for “infrastructure to support artists in their early careers” and realizing her desire to produce art again, Khoury made the move to Dar Jacir. She was inspired by its artist-led model and mission to, as Snyder described, “use creative expression to explore the challenges of place and time.” These challenges pervade the lives of many like Khoury who experience the myriad challenges of traveling between Jerusalem, her native city, and Bethlehem, a journey which is restricted by permit requirements and tedious time delays. This reality means that the two cities, only 10 kilometers apart, have incredibly different environments, a theme which Khoury explores in her work.

Snyder and Khoury also discussed the emerging partnerships within the Palestinian art community, locally and abroad. They noted the recently built Palestinian Museum—the role and mission of which is the subject of an ongoing dialogue—that has connected artists in Palestine with the Palestinian diaspora and “put … the Palestinian art scene … more on the map.”  

They also mentioned examples of increasing international recognition for Palestinian art, such as Larissa Sansour’s recent exhibition in the Venice Biennale's Danish Pavilion and an upcoming exhibition from Basel Abbas and Ruanne Abou-Rahme at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. For Khoury, these are indications that Palestinians’ “talent, skill, stories, [and] narratives,” which remain central to the preservation of Palestine’s identity, are now being viewed and appreciated by a global audience.

Watch the recording of this event here

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: “There are so many amazing artists on the ground that really systems" - Aline Khoury on Emerging Contemporary Art in Palestine.” MEI Minute, November 2021,