The Custodian: Preserving Palestinian Art: The Dalloul Art Foundation’s Pivotal Role by George Al-Ama

This article appeared in The Custodian Issue #66 that was dedicated to the Dalloul Art Foundation and its custodian Basel Dalloul in which we covered the foundation’s mission, influence and importance in championing and safeguarding Arab art for generations to come.

Jabra Ibrahim Jabra, Untitled, 1947. 68 x 46.5 cm DAF Beirut

George Al Ama: Today, the Dalloul Art Foundation possesses the most significant collection of Palestinian art in terms of both quantity and importance. This collection represents a substantial portion of the finest artworks ever produced in this field. The work of the notable artist Toufic Johariya is limited to six known pieces worldwide, with one of them part of the Dalloul Art Foundation’s collection. Similarly, artist Asim Abou Shakra has created a total of 88 artworks, and the Dalloul Art Foundation possesses 10 of them. Therefore, the mere fact that these artworks are in DAF’s custody holds great importance. Additionally, DAF possesses five artworks by Jabra Ibrahim Jabra, along with over 50, without exaggeration, by Abdelrahman Al Muzayen. Who wouldn’t dream of owning an oil painting by Abdelrahman Al Muzayen? There are also 43 by Abed Abdi, not to mention Sliman Anis Mansour’s iconic 1973 piece – Jamal Al Mahamel III (The Camel/Carrier of Hardships), the most significant work in the history of Palestinian artists. Furthermore, DAF’s Samia Halaby acquisitions are unique and unmatched. In essence, DAF owns a substantial part of our visual art history.

Abed Abdi, 96 x 130 cm, 1985, حطام زورق, DAF Beirut.

The Late Dr. Ramzi Dalloul was both a father figure and a friend to me. He introduced me to his love for collecting Modern and Contemporary Arab art and shared his dream of creating a museum. This marked the beginning of my journey with the Dalloul Art Foundation. I was also fortunate to meet Dr. Ramzi’s late wife, Saeda Husseini Dalloul, in their London home. Subsequently, I started working as an advisor to Dr. Ramzi, with a focus on Modern and Contemporary Palestinian art.

Abdelrahman Al Muzayen, Untitled, 2013. 100 x 75 cm DAF Beirut

My own involvement in the art world is dedicated to funding the ongoing collection and preservation efforts I initiated 22 years ago, all in pursuit of safeguarding Palestinian material culture in its entirety. The Centre for Cultural Heritage Preservation specialises in restoring Palestine’s architectural heritage, while Dar El Sabbagh, a diaspora research centre, showcases contemporary Palestinian art in an 19th-century building. A permanent display of Abdul Rahman Katanani’s work is a unique feature. Our centres attract diaspora visitors and locals, offering the only permanent collection of 115 artworks in Bethlehem.

Embroidery, among the most distinctive elements of Palestinian material culture, has left an indelible mark on the Palestinian art scene and movement since its inception. Palestinian artists draw significant inspiration from it, and its contemporary resonance is evident in the works of prominent figures like Mona Hatoum and Samia Taktak Zaru. The influence of embroidery on Palestinian contemporary art extends beyond individual artists to collections such as those of the Dalloul Art Foundation, and my own.

With Dr. Basel taking the reins, the foundation not only continues the work initiated by Dr. Ramzi but also introduces a fresh perspective. Basel’s unique style is contemporary and aligns with the sensibilities of younger Arabs in their 30s and 40s. This greatly enhances the foundation’s relevance and significance. Basel meticulously upholds the legacy and, in actuality, has become even more dedicated. When I heard the news about the decision to sell certain pieces from DAF’s collection, it brought me great joy. I think he should refine his collection. It is essential to concentrate on selling or disposing of repetitive artworks and focusing on fresh endeavours and the missing components of the extensive digital collection puzzle. I genuinely believe in his mission and would be more than willing to stand by his side and support him in any way I can.

Abdul Rahman Katanani, Untitled, 2015. 400 x 200 cm DAF Beirut

About Georges Al-Ama

George Al-Ama

Mr. George Al-Ama is a researcher, academic, and collector of Palestinian material culture and art. Founder of Dar Al Sabagh Diaspora Studies and Research Centre, Head of the Culture Unit at the Center for Cultural Heritage Preservation, Member of the Scientific Committee of Terra Sancta Museums, Advisor for Bank of Palestine Group, and a lecturer at Dar Al-Kalima University and Birzeit University, the honorary consul of Chile to the State of Palestine.

Caption featured image: Abdelrahman Al Muzayen
Untitled, 2014. 100 x 75 cm DAF Beirut

 

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