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Israel's modern Arab art museum opens to glow of love

Visitors look at artworks at the opening of the ErotiCAM_Secret Room II exhibition, censored by the Italian culture ministry at the Casoria Contemporary Art Museum near Naples on November 28, 2013
Mario Laporta (AFP/File)
Founders of project in Arab-Israeli town of Sakhnin say it aims to promote 'peace and dialogue'

Israel's first museum of Arab contemporary art opened on Wednesday with a mission to promote peace and with one exhibit literally featuring the glow of love.

Founders of the Arab Museum of Contemporary Art, a joint project in cooperation with the mayor of northern Arab-Israeli town of Sakhnin, said it aims to promote "peace and dialogue" in the troubled region.

An old Arab-style building nestled among greenery in Sakhnin in the Galilee region, which has a mixed Jewish and Arab population, houses the exhibits.

The opening exhibition, Hiwar (dialogue in Arabic), featured 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," co-director 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."

Fainaru and co-director Avital Bar-Shay worked closely with Arab Sakhnin mayor Mazen Ghanayem to open the museum, which they say will emphasize multiculturalism.

"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," Ghanayem said.

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

Bar-Shay and Fainaru said last year that construction of the museum was stepped up in order to reduce the tensions between Jews and Arabs following Operation Protective Edge in Gaza last summer.

“During the military operation, the atmosphere in Sakhnin was tense, and there were demonstrations,” Fainaru said. “But now, people are waiting for something different, cheering and positive in Sakhnin too. That’s the significance of opening the museum. We come as Jews and cooperate with the people who live here, and seek to create artistic cooperation between Jews and Arabs.

“This is a kind of marriage, since both sides want it. The museum is an opportunity for Jews and Arabs to meet. That is the goal. Every exhibition or thought creates a meeting between both sides, and this creates dialogue. Art is the meeting platform. All the decisions are made jointly, which is not always taken for granted and is not always easy.”

(With AFP)


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