Israel’s first Arab modern art museum opens in Galilee

With a first exhibition titled ‘Dialogue,’ the new institution seeks to foster coexistence and ‘develop art in the area’

Nesting egrets and other works of art at the entrance to AMOCAH, Sakhnin's new art museum (Jessica Steinberg/Times of Israel)
Nesting egrets and other works of art at the entrance to AMOCAH, Sakhnin's new art museum (Jessica Steinberg/Times of Israel)

Israel’s first Arab museum of modern art had its official opening in the Galilee city of Sakhnin this week.

AMOCAH, the Arab Museum of Contemporary Art and Heritage, opened Wednesday with a ceremony attended by Sakhnin Mayor Mazen Gnaim and Nechama Rivlin, the wife of President Reuven Rivlin.

An old Arab-style building nestled among greenery houses the exhibits.

The museum is a joint project of Sakhnin, a predominantly Arab city, and Jewish-Israeli sculptor Belu Simion Fainaru. Founders have said the museum’s mission is to promote peace and dialogue.

Read: Sporting new art museum, Sakhnin looks beyond soccer

The opening exhibition is called “Hiwar,” which is Arabic for “dialogue.”

The exhibition features works from paintings to sculptures to video art, by dozens of local and internationally acclaimed artists.

A painting by Afghan-German Jeanno Gaussi entitled “Moghul Dream” displayed a historical-style south Asian landscape.

Outside, another work, a set of traffic lights connected to an electrical supply, read “Love” when switched to green.

“We found Sakhnin to be a suitable place for the museum, it being right in the heart of Galilee,” codirector Belu-Simion Fainaru told AFP.

“We’re involving artists from the region, and setting it up here will develop art in the area and will put contemporary art within reach of the masses, Arab and Jewish alike.”

Mayor Gnaim said “the aim of establishing the museum was for the world to get to know our artists — and there are so many here — and so that art in the region could develop and stimulate cultural and economic movement.”

“Art knows no boundaries, and transcends international borders, is removed from politics and brings people together in hope of peace,” he said.

“This museum, which blends the work of Jews and Arabs, is a revolutionary museum. It is a museum which urges ‘coming together,’ Nechama Rivlin said at the ceremony, according to the Office of the President. “It is a museum which challenges the artists who live in their own private spaces, and calls on them to meet with other artists, from other places, with different associations. A new partnership and cooperation will be created here, which does not distinguish between Arab or Jew.”

The museum was scheduled to open last fall but was delayed, first because of the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza and later because of other Arab-Jewish tensions.

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