Picasso in Palestine - A modern icon to be exhibited in Ramallah

Pablo Picasso, Buste de femme, 1943. Collection Van Abbemuseum. Photo Peter Cox
Preparing Buste de Femme for its trip to Ramallah. Photo: Perry van Duijnhoven
Preparing Buste de Femme for its trip to Ramallah. Photo: Perry van Duijnhoven
Preparing Buste de Femme for its trip to Ramallah. Photo: Perry van Duijnhoven

Picasso in Palestine A modern icon to be exhibited in Ramallah

24/06/2011 - 20/07/2011
Curators: Remco de Blaaij, Charles Esche, Khaled Hourani, Fatima Abdulkarim, Galit Eilat
Artist: Pablo Picasso


On Friday 24 June a special exhibition opens at the International Academy of Art Palestine (IAAP). As an artistic conception of artistic director Khaled Hourani, for the very first time an original painting by Pablo Picasso will be on show in Ramallah. The work Buste de Femme (1943) is one of the most iconic works from the collection of the Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven and has been exhibited throughout the world in the past 50 years. On the basis of a loan request made to the museum by the International Art Academy Palestine (IAAP) in September 2010 and following extensive research, the work will travel to Palestine in June 2011. It will be exhibited in a specially constructed room inside the IAAP from 24 June to 22 July.

Pablo Picasso, Buste de Femme

The portrait Buste de Femme (1943) by Pablo Picasso was chosen by students of the Academy. The work is one of the most outspoken examples of Picasso's expressionistic period. A period in which he spoke out in response to the Spanish Civil War. Perhaps through his work we are able to talk about and imagine conditions in relation to cultural rights and struggles in other places and times too. 

Opening and Picasso Talks

The exhibition Picasso in Palestine opens on Friday 24 June 2011 at 18:00 (local time). See the <media 3827 - download>invitation</media>. On 25 and 26 June, the IAAP will host the Picasso Talks, a special <media 3828 - download>programme</media> in which international speakers are invited to respond to the artistic, political and social implications surrounding the Picasso exhibition and process of taking it to Ramallah. These talks will provide deeper reflection on the background, motivations and implications of this project and further cultural exchange between European and Middle-Eastern institutions in general. The programme is organised in collaboration with Al-Ma’mal Foundation for Contemporary Art (Jerusalem), Outset Contemporary Art Fund UK, the Van Abbemuseum, BirZeit University’s Ethnographic and Art Museum, A.M Qattan Foundation, Khalil Sakakini Cultural Center, the Palestinian Art Court (AlHoash), and Sabreen Association for Artistic Development.

Documentary and publication

One of the key elements of the project is to collect and document all the experiences involved in the process of preparation, insurance, shipping and display of the painting in Ramallah.  Internationally acclaimed film director Rashid Masharawi is making a behind-the-scenes documentary of the process, with the working title Picasso’s Journey. This film will be widely distributed in 2012.
Belgian art magazine A Prior will publish an issue dedicated to this project in October 2011, in which international artists, writers and curators will reflect on the project. The magazine will be in English and Arabic.

On 22 June a 3 page article was published in the German newspaper Die Zeit. <media 3841 - download>Click here for the article.</media>

Van Abbemuseum and IAAP

The negotiations to realise the art project Picasso in Palestine have been a complex endeavour as a seemingly simple request has reset the legal, artistic and official procedures for international art movements. Beginning as a regular loan agreement between a museum and an academy, Picasso in Palestine not only academically questions the issues at stake in the relations between art, politics and geography, but also lives them in the act of travel.

Charles Esche, director of the Van Abbemuseum, says: Picasso in Palestine is part of a wider development in which a typical modern art collection tries to come to terms with the social and cultural changes taking place around us. One of the most pertinent questions is how a European art museum plays a meaningful role in helping to understand our global condition with all its internal contradictions. I believe we are also extending the potential of the collection through this action. Our Picasso will be changed by its journey to Ramallah, it will take on extra meaning and the story will remain a part of the history of the painting from this moment on. It feels like we are constructing new histories with such a project as well as preserving old ones.”

Khaled Hourani, arts director IAAP: Picasso in Palestine is an art project that aims to probe mechanisms, procedures, obstacles and requirements in getting a painting of this kind to Palestine. By doing so it sheds light on the contemporary reality of Palestine and gives the art project the power of the impossible. Picasso in Palestine is about institutions in different locations, the value and funding of art and on human relations and the media. The adventure starts when the art work leaves for Palestine but does not necessarily end when it safely arrives back home.”


Picasso in Palestine is made possible by contributions from the DOEN Foundation (Stichting DOEN) and the Mondriaan Foundation.

Nina Tellegen, CEO of the DOEN Foundation is an enthusiastic supporter of the project: “Picasso in Palestine sheds light on new ways of exhibiting art, the new role of museums and the meaning of art in different contexts. Besides that and more important it shows that such an exhibition is doable, even in a complex situation like Palestine. That’s what the DOEN Foundation stands for.”

The Mondriaan Foundation feels the Van Abbemuseum consequently questions the functioning of the museum in our contemporary society: “Never before these questions into the (im)possibilities of loans to risk areas were asked, let alone that the experiment was actually undertaken. The Van Abbemuseum dares to do this and via well chosen media partners it provides the context and depth as well as public accountability.”

Picasso in Palestine consists of :



  • Stichting Doen