Paris show of Palestinian 'martyrs' sparks protests
An exhibition of works by Ahlam Shibli at the Jeu de Paume is proving controversial; gallery denies accusations that it condones terrorism
By Gareth Harris. Web only
Published online: 21 June 2013
After receiving “numerous messages of protest” about the show, the Jeu de Paume contemporary art gallery in Paris has issued a strongly worded statement defending its current exhibition of works by the Palestinian artist Ahlam Shibli (“Phantom Home”, until 1 September). The controversy centres on a new series of images entitled “Death”, which explores how dead or imprisoned Palestinians—called “martyrs” by the artist—are presented in public and private spaces, from home settings to city streets.
According to the French newspaper Le Monde, the representative council of Jewish organisations in France, known as Crif, says that the exhibition is an “apology for terrorism”, and has subsequently raised the issue with the French minister of culture, Aurélie Filipetti. On its website, Crif reiterates that “it abhors both the artist’s, and the Jeu de Paume’s, decision to present terrorists guilty of murder as martyrs”.
The gallery press statement says: “The Jeu de Paume strongly denies accusations that it either condones or is complicit in terrorism.” Shibli adds: “I am not a militant… My work is to show, not to denounce or judge.” The show also includes five other photography series by the artist on the theme of “home”, focusing, for instance, on children raised in Polish orphanages.
The Barcelona-based International Committee for Museums and Collections of Modern Art, known as Cimam, has voiced support for Marta Gili, the director of Jeu de Paume. The organisation released a statement saying: “Art institutions are for freedom, respect and debate; never for repression, violence nor censorship.”
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