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Sharjah Art Foundation: ‘What is not’ presents Khalil Al Rabah’s most complete work – News

The exhibition brings together the artist’s most significant works from the 1990s to the present day

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Published: Wed 20 Apr 2022, 03:31 PM

Last update: Wed 20 Apr 2022, 03:32 PM

Are you an art lover who loves history and humor? If so, then ‘What’s Not’ is for you. The most complete presentation of Khalil Rabah’s work, “What is not”, is on display until July 4 at the Sharjah Art Foundation.

Organized by Hoor Al Qasimi, director of the Sharjah Art Foundation, the exhibition brings together the artist’s most significant works from the 1990s to the present day.

The exhibition presents an overview of his current projects and major developments in their development. They include the Palestinian Museum of Natural History and Humanity, Riwaq Biennale (RB), Scale Models and Collaborations: by in form, a new work commissioned by the Sharjah Art Foundation.

‘What Is Not’ focuses on a selection of significant ongoing and evolving works by the artist created since the 1990s. Emerging from his deep involvement and training in architecture, Rabah’s work is draws on different methodologies to address themes of displacement, memory and identity to examine the relationship between humans and their environment as well as the nature of the overall human condition.

With an approach that informs much of his practice, the artist has continually researched, revisited, revised and reimagined a body of work that questions the relationship between art and cultural institutions, and their ability to create meaningful content. , especially in the context of long-lasting states of emergency and displacement.

“The ongoing investigations and research that inform Khalil Rabah’s work offer alternative histories and narratives that, while rooted in the artist’s deeply personal experiences in Palestine, are of fundamental relevance to broader examinations. broad roles and responsibilities of cultural institutions taking place in the world today,” says Hoor Al Qasimi.

“It has been gratifying to work again with the artist who over the years has made important contributions to our programs, including his commissions for Sharjah Biennials 10 and 13, elements of which are represented in this current investigation.”

A major new work, Collaborations: by in form (2010-present) commissioned by the Sharjah Art Foundation for this exhibition, conceptualizes a collaboration between two of the artist’s long-term projects – the Palestinian Museum of Natural History and of Humanity (1995-2025) and the Riwaq Biennial (since 2006), both also featured in the exhibition.

This new project is a three-storey structure representing Rabah’s unfinished house in Ramallah. It includes an installation of five geometric floor islands, constructed of unglazed tiles, each representing the plan of a room in a traditional domestic space. Hanging from the gallery ceiling, a selection of hand-embroidered rugs represent the site plans of village houses, colored with the dyes of the flora that once surrounded them.


The Palestinian Museum of Natural History and Humanity is a major ongoing project that took root in 1995, was formalized in 2003, and is presented in this exhibition in nine thematic divisions.

This cross-platform inquiry into the museumification of Palestinian geography and history traces alternative lineages from material culture to identity-making, and addresses the systematized erasure of the Palestinian narrative. The presentation to the Foundation includes projects that led to the creation of the museum or were prompted by it.

More importantly, it also presents the reimagining of taxonomic activities that originate in traditional categorizations of natural history. Thus, the Earth and Solar System, Anthropology, Geology and Paleontology and Botanical Departments evolve into the Lowest Point on Earth Memorial Park (2017), Acampamento Villa Nova Palestina (2017), Sculpture Garden Gaza Zoo (2017-2021) and Area C Golden Fields (1994-2017) respectively.

Rabah has created a section for this exhibition, the third edition of the 5th Riwaq Biennial. The third edition is a conjured number because there is no second edition of RB5: it is intended to create value through the illusion of a historical past. This section brings together major works created by the artist for or about the biennial since 2006, representing a critical inquiry into the nature of biennials, including the function and usefulness of the biennial and whether its role has functioned in congruence with the architectural conservation and rehabilitation efforts.

Scale Models exemplifies the artist’s method of depicting institutions by combining archival research, artifacts, and artwork across mediums. For his 10 commission of the Sharjah Biennial Art Exhibition: Readymade Representations 1954–2009 (2011), Rabah initiated what is now an ongoing project where photorealistic paintings documenting the history of Palestinian exhibitions provoke a multi-dimensional reading of international events of the art world. In this new solo exhibition at the Foundation, the work appears again under the title Art Exhibition: Readymade representations 2010–2014 (2022) comprising over 50 paintings from two series accompanied by single-channel video. It includes paintings documenting the reception of his 2011 project in Sharjah, installed in a small gallery where the work is visible through a showcase-like window from outside the building.

Alongside this installation is a video work with footage taken during Rabah’s presentation of these same paintings at the 2013 Thessaloniki Biennale, documenting biennial audiences in Greece viewing the public paintings at Sharjah Biennale 10, while that the original paintings are visible in the background.

In addition to his commission for Sharjah Beinnial 10, Rabah’s involvement with the Sharjah Art Foundation included presentations at the March 2012 meeting, followed by a residency in 2014, participation in the group exhibition The Time is out of Joint in 2016, and a new commission for the Sharjah Biennale 13 Palestine After Palestine: New Sites for the Palestinian Museum of Natural History and Humanity