Samia Halaby in her studio, August 2016.Photo by Lbalbalba11122 via Wikimedia Commons
By Camillo Barone January 12, 2024
More than 5,000 people have signed a petition urging Indiana University to reconsider its decision to cancel an exhibition of a prominent Palestinian artist’s work.
The state university’s Bloomington campus recently scrapped plans for a retrospective of paintings by Samia Halabywho was born in Jerusalem, raised in the Midwest and whose work hangs in the permanent collections of the Guggenheim, the National Gallery of Art and the Art Institute of Chicago.
The university said in a statement that it had canceled the exhibit, which was set to open Feb. 10, “due to concerns about guaranteeing the integrity of the exhibit for its duration,” but has not elaborated on the nature of these concerns.
Supporters of Halaby, 87, charge that the university is shunning her for speaking out against Israel’s campaign in Gaza. Her Instagram posts include accusations that Israel is committing genocide.
The petition, organized by Madison Gordon, Halaby’s grandniece and a trustee of her foundation, accuses the university of failing to uphold its commitment to academic freedom and of undermining Palestinians.
It “is apparent that the University is canceling the show to distance itself from the cause of Palestinian freedom,” the petition reads. “For 50 years, Samia has been an outspoken and principled activist for the dignity, freedom, and self-determination of the Palestinian people.”
Plans at the university’s Eskenazi Museum of Art to host Samia Halaby: Centers of Energy had begun three years ago and included a sister exhibition at Michigan State, which is still slated to mount the retrospective at its Broad Art Museum later this year.
The controversy over Halaby, who spent a decade on the faculty of the Yale School of Art, follows last month’s suspension of an Indiana University professor after the Palestine Solidarity Committee, a student organization which he advised, hosted an unauthorized event.
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