In a nod to the world’s hottest storytelling platform – Pecha Kucha or “show and tell” – Selections has asked a number of artists and designers to talk about a specific project through imagery and an economy of words. The result is a simple yet engaging and visually captivating tale that sheds light upon the work whilst providing insights into the life and personal thoughts of each featured artist and designer. Passion and knowledge all wrapped into one.
Born in Nablus, Palestine, Rami El-Nimer developed a passion for collecting art at a very young age, most notably to preserve the Palestinian oral and visual memory. His collection embraces a multi-faceted identity, rooted in Palestine, harking back to a time when borders were open and the cultural exchange of art and ideas was unimpeded. His collection has grown to become a commemoration of resilience against a modern erasure of memory and the distortion of identity.
For more than 40 years, his private collection has been in constant growth, and he wanted to share the artworks with a larger audience and allow the public to explore this collection through his vision. He believes that art is for everyone, and this is where the role of Dar El-Nimer began. El-Nimer founded Dar El-Nimer for Arts and Culture as a result of his passion for the arts and to encourage a constructive discussion around the collection’s items and to re-imagine a more inclusive and coherent cultural narrative for the region.
He drew inspiration from the Islamic Art Museum in Berlin, where the exhaustive art collection is showcased with sensibility and historical precision, as well as artist Mona Hatoum. who is amongst El-Nimer’s favourite artists. While she excelled as an internationally acclaimed contemporary artist, Hatoum has produced works that always reflect her strong connection to her Palestinian heritage.
El-Nimer wanted to create a platform on which he would be able to present his collection and also start a broader conversation around arts and culture. He didn’t want to limit this space to visual arts but to tackle different domains of humanities, history, cinema, music and more. He wanted this centre of dialogue to be accessible by everyone in the country, regardless of age, gender or background. Most importantly, clear and straightforward communication was a crucial objective of this project: a simple yet concise language that is used by all the foundation’s outlets.
Dar El-Nimer aims to continue promoting art in the region and focusing on local and regional partnerships. We want to tackle more challenging topics through our exhibitions, workshops and various public programmes. We have an upcoming exhibition entitled On Earth as it is in Heaven: Icons from Jerusalem, which will showcase productions of the Jerusalem School of Icons, the indigenous art movement which was established in the holy city. Another upcoming project is an exhibition organised in collaboration with Koç University Reseach Center for Anatolian Civilizations (ANAMED).
Some of the biggest challenges we currently face involve purchasing and the volatile market and uncertainties. As for the work we do at Dar El-Nimer, our priority is to keep the mission and vision clear and to let our work, in everything we do, reflect the objectives and goals of Dar El-Nimer.
The El-Nimer Collection has been over 40 years in the making. It is a continuously growing collection of items selected for both aesthetic and historical value. The collection sheds light on the rich and complex evolution of the socio-political history of the region through its artistic and cultural productions. It includes pieces spanning around 10 centuries of civilisation and hailing from the vast lands that have carried, or interacted with the legacy of Islamic culture.
“THE EL-NIMER COLLECTION HAS BEEN OVER 40 YEARS IN
THE MAKING. IT IS A CONTINUOUSLY GROWING
COLLECTION OF ITEMS SELECTED FOR BOTH AESTHETIC
AND HISTORICAL VALUE”
The collection is primarily built on my taste and on choosing works in ways to form meaningful groupings in the collection. The goal is to separate specific works of art and assemble them in such a way, to advance the public’s understanding of art in particular and its evolution. The collection’s highlights include manuscripts, numismatics, ceramics, glass, arms and armour, textiles, photographs, postcards, maps, icons, mother-of-pearl, Orientalist, modern and contemporary paintings.
Dar El-Nimer presents thematic exhibitions curated from the private collection of the founder. The collection is displayed publicly through exhibitions that are accompanied by a catalogue. Midad: The Public and Intimate Lives of Arabic Calligraphy, curated by Rachel Dedman, was the first exhibition from the El-Nimer Collection in 2017. Our upcoming exhibition, On Earth as it is in Heaven, is also curated from the El-Nimer Collection.
Dar El-Nimer is a platform that invites audiences to explore the El-Nimer Collection through seminars, exhibitions and catalogues since the collection is so diverse. It also gives a very general glimpse on Palestine through paintings, coins, works on paper, pottery and a vast array of both Christian and Islamic art items.
At The Seams
Upon its opening in 2016, Dar El-Nimer hosted the very first satellite exhibition of the Palestinian Museum entitled At The Seams in June of the same year, inaugurating an active collaboration with a partner institution and providing a platform for arts and culture from Palestine and beyond.
Beirut Postcard – Courtesy of the El-Nimer Collection
The El-Nimer Collection’s highlights include manuscripts, numismatics, ceramics, glass, arms and armour, textiles, photographs, contemporary paintings, maps, icons, mother of- pearl, Orientalist, modern and historical postcards like the one displayed here of Beirut’s Martyrs’ Square.
Challenges of Identity
In April 2019, Dar El-Nimer and the Institute for Palestine Studies had the honour to host Nabil Anani, Sliman Mansour, Tayseer Barakat and Vera Tamari in Beirut for a talk and group exhibition. The artists are four of the founding members of the modern art movement in Palestine as well as members of the League of Palestinian Artists.
Dar El-Nimer offers a wide range of spaces for cultural performances to include auctions, storytelling, film screenings, panel discussions, workshops for all ages, book signings etc. This photo was taken during a street organ workshop with Saudaá Group in 2018.
In association with Magnum Photos, Dar El-Nimer presented in September of 2018 Josef Koudelka: The Wall/Beirut, an exhibition displaying two of the Czech photographer’s extensive photo series. The Wall consists of a landscape of panoramic reproductions of the Apartheid Wall, which Koudelka photographed during his several trips to Palestine between 2008 and 2012, while Beirut documents the war-devastated city centre aat the end of the Lebanese Civil War in 1991.
The inaugural exhibition of the El-Nimer Collection, Midād presented over 75 pieces from the eighth to the 20th centuries, alongside five new commissions from contemporary artists. The exhibition investigated the ways in which Arabic calligraphy has throughout history mirrored notions of the public and private, the political and personal, the performative and poetic, as well as the literary environments of its time.
Among the highlights of past exhibitions at Dar El-Nimer is Larissa Sansour’s Sci-Fi Trilogy, presented in 2018. Using the language of sci-fi and glossy production, Sansour’s trilogy presented a dystopian vision of a Middle East on the brink of the apocalypse. The three films were shown alongside related installations as well as sculptural and photographic works.
Mona Hatoum – Courtesy of the El- Nimer Collection
This work of Mona Hatoum, entitled Birds of Feathers II (Newlyn), was exhibited at Dar El-Nimer during the Keyword: Palestine exhibition and auction in support of the Institute for Palestine Studies in 2018, and is now part of the El- Nimer Collection.
Thief of Baghdad
Thief of Baghdad was a 2019 Dar El-Nimer exhibition that explored the vibrant aesthetics of posters produced in the West between the 1910s and the 1990s, as well as the perception of Arabs in Western cinema through films such as A Thousand and One Nights, Sinbad, Cleopatra, Aladdin, Scheherazade to name a few. This exhibition, which was curated from the collection of Abboudi Abou Jaoudé, attracted a large audience of different age groups and backgrounds and tackled different themes of nostalgia, Orientalism, representation and pop
culture in Lebanon.
Dar El-Nimer for Arts and Culture is located in the once-called Villa Salem, a charming building from the 1930s, built by French architect, archaeologist and antique expert Lucien Cavro (1905-1978), who worked in Lebanon and Syria during the French Mandate. It is one of the first buildings in Beirut to use Le Corbusier’s “domino effect,” lending itself perfectly to renovation.
All courtesy of Dar El-Nimer for Arts and Culture (unless otherwise stated)
A VERSION OF THIS ARTICLE APPEARED IN PRINT IN SELECTIONS, SHOW & TELL #51 PAGES 94-97.