Why The Artist’s Curse?

A NEW CURSE everyday at midday for the next 365 days.
This online project will result in a book containing 666 curses,
aimed for publication at the end of 2018. 

 

If you feel you are born as an artist, your curse will be a desire—a need—to remain true to your creative vision.

The first day of my Master’s program in Art Business at Sotheby’s Institute of Art in London, the lecturer wrote a few words on the board, and then turned around to read them aloud, slowly:

“If it doesn’t sell, it’s not art.” 

At that point, I was already in the fourteenth year of my art practice, with three degrees in art, having had eleven solos in Palestine, several international exhibitions, documentaries made on my work, TV features, and zero art sales. Apparently, what I did was not art.

It took me three months at university to start publishing texts on the art market, like “The Business of Looking.” Not long after, I made a sale of my artworks that covered not only my tuition at Sotheby’s, but also my stay in London for the year.

Since then, my work has been represented by commercial galleries in the U.S., Europe and the Middle East, acquired by known collectors, held in the British Museum and Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art, exhibited in art fairs, auctioned at Christie’s and Bonhams, and has been featured in many books, including a monograph published by the esteemed Hatje Cantz, as part of the Ellen Auerbach Award granted by the Akademie der Künste in Berlin.

In autumn of 2016, I published my memoir The Parachute Paradox. London’s Al-Araby Al-Jadeed stated the book represented “narrative storytelling of the life of the Jerusalemite artist and his experiences under Israeli occupation and proposes a subject that is unprecedented in Palestinian literature: the liberation of the self and the homeland through the liberation of the imagination.” The following spring, this memoir won three international prizes in the span of two weeks.

And yet, my studio has always struggled to make ends meet.

As an independent artist, I’ve been financing my large-scale projects for many years, given the urgency of their realization in our times, my working pace, and the difficulty of acquiring external funding. My studio has applied for grants, fellowships and prizes for 10 years with a success rate close to zero. I still operate in synergy with many galleries and institutions, joining forces to best allow my artworks to manifest themselves. But the art world has become too traditional for artists who navigate like I do. In 2017, my studio faces a financial challenge that could lead us to closure.

As always, I have no choice but to see this as a source of momentum and inspiration. In early July, I launched a crowdfunding campaign called “THE PATRONS,” which invites all creatives, all people, to become supporters of my studio. Its completion will result in a book of the same title, honoring all participants in my new model of patronage. The only text printed in its pages will be names—the names of those who supported the studio when it was most in need.

Many of the art world’s practitioners seem to work within the margins of a fictitious protocol or manuscript, adhering to its rules. But there is no such thing. In the creative life, the codes, the letters of such a manuscript, are printed in the imagination—they can always change. The Artist’s Curse aims to reignite the imagination, illuminating its role in the process of creative practice and operation within the art world.

Adjust, adapt, or die.

This evolution should not affect one’s creative life. But many artists are pressured by the art world to the extent that they bend their vision, never adapting, kept close to death. History tells us that only a few manage to remain always true to themselves and their art. I don’t know if I’m born or made, but what choice do I have other than to continue observing the world, and in the course of doing so, continue to resist.

38 Days of Re-collection
38 Days of Re-Collection. B&W white film negatives. Generated from digital images of an Israeli-occupied Palestinian house. Printed with b&w photo emulsion spread on color paint fragments collected from Jerusalem’s Old City house walls. 2014.  UNIQUE.