Steve Sabella, born 1975 in Jerusalem, Palestine, is a Berlin-based artist and author of the award-winning memoir The Parachute Paradox. His first monograph Steve Sabella. Photography 1997-2014 was published by Hatje Cantz in collaboration with the Akademie der Künste, Berlin (2014), with texts by Hubertus von Amelunxen and a foreword by Kamal Boullata.
In 1997, Sabella earned a three-year art photography degree at the Musrara School of Photography in Jerusalem. He then received a BA in Visual Studies at Empire State College of the State University of New York in 2007. Through a Chevening Scholarship he earned an MA in photographic studies at the University of Westminster, London, graduating in 2008 with a Caparo Award of Distinction. The next year, through a Saïd Foundation Scholarship, he earned his second MA in art business at Sotheby’s Institute of Art, London. In 2008, Sabella received the Ellen Auerbach Award from the Akademie der Künste in Berlin.
From the late 1990s through 2007 Sabella exhibited extensively throughout Palestine, including eleven solo shows, and internationally. The year 2014 saw Sabella staging four solo exhibitions that marked a shift in his practice. Returning to considerations of the theory of the image, he divorced a personal narrative from his artworks, allowing them to speak for themselves. No longer were these only autobiographical images, but rather visual palimpsests permitting multiple and divergent readings. The exhibition titles themselves articulated this progression succinctly: Fragments at Berloni Gallery, London; Layers at Contemporary Art Platform, Kuwait; Archaeology of the Future at the International Center for Photography Scavi Scaligeri in collaboration with Boxart Gallery, Verona; and Independence, at Meem Gallery in Dubai.
His dual solo with Rebecca Raue at the Bumiller Collection in Berlin, titled Fragments From Our Beautiful Future (2017), continued this investigation into time and place as layered, non-linear phenomena. Kerber Verlag published an accompanying volume for the show, with textual contributions by T.J. Demos, Ella Shohat, and Hubertus von Amelunxen, among others.
Group exhibitions include the First Biennial of Photographers of the Contemporary Arab World at the The Arab World Institute (IMA) and the Maison Européenne de la Photographie, Paris (2015); Nel Mezzo del Mezzo at the Museo Riso, Palermo (2015); View From Inside at the FotoFest Biennial, Houston (2014); and Keep Your Eye on the Wall at Les Rencontres d’Arles, Arles (2013).
Sabella was one of the commissioned artists for the exhibition Recreational Purpose at the Bahrain National Museum, in Manama (2014), as well as for Told, Untold, Retold, the inaugural exhibition of Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art, in Doha (2009). Here, he presented the critical installation Settlement––Six Israelis & One Palestinian. Two years prior, Sabella was also commissioned for Neighbors in Dialogue––Istanbul Collection at the Ars Aevi Museum of Contemporary Art in Sarajevo (2007).
His work is held in the collections of the British Museum, London; Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art, Doha; Contemporary Art Platform, Kuwait; Ars Aevi Museum of Contemporary Art, Sarajevo; Barjeel Art Foundation, Sharjah; Dr. Ramzi Dalloul Museum Collection, Beirut; Salsali Private Museum, Dubai; Bahrain National Museum, and in several private collections.
Sabella has given art talks and presentations at various institutions, including the University of Cambridge; Turin University; the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), London; University of East London; Accademia Albertina di Belle Arti di Torino, Turin; Contemporary Art Platform, Kuwait; University of Rostock; Akademie der Künste, Berlin; British Museum; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas; and the Institute for Cultural Enquiry (ICI), Berlin.
Among the several TV documentaries and short films on Sabella’s work are Deutsche Welle’s Guest & Story by Samah Altaweel (2015); In the Darkroom with Steve Sabella by Nadia J. Kabalan (2014); Arts InSight: Who is Steve Sabella? produced by Ernie Manouse (2014); Artist of the Month featured on IkonoTV (2013); Artist of the Month featured on IkonoMENASA (2011); Europe Through Their Eyes by Ma’an TV Productions (2010); and Jerusalem in Exile and Kan Yama Kan—two episodes in the documentary project Beyond Blue & Gray by Eyes Infinite Films (2005 and 2006). He also appeared as an invited speaker at TEDx Marrakech (2012).
Sabella has published numerous essays, including “Hostage,” published by Phaidon in From Galilee to Negev by Stephen Shore (2014), and “Archaeology of the Future” (2014). He was a regular contributor to Contemporary Practices Art Journal, which published essays such as “The Colonization of the Imagination” (2012), “The Business of Looking” (2011), “Reconsidering the Value of Palestinian Art & Its Journey to the Art Market” (Part 1, 2010; Part 2, 2011), “‘Valued’ in the ‘West’ Sold in the ‘East’” (2010), and “Is the United Arab Emirates Constructing its Art History? The Mechanisms that Confer Value to Art” (2009).
Published in limited edition by Kerber Verlag (September 2016) The Parachute Paradox follows Steve’s upbringing in occupied Palestine, his search for liberation from within, and the development of his art practice as a resistance to the colonized imagination. Moving beyond a narrative of exile, Sabella writes on the poetic state of nomadism, human conditions, commonalities transcending culture and nationality, and advocates for global citizenship. The Parachute Paradox won first prize in the best memoir category of the 2017 Eric Hoffer Award and the 2016 Nautilus Book Awards. The book was also a finalist for 2017 The International Book Awards.