Indiana University Cancels Palestinian Artist’s Retrospective

Thursday, January 11, 2024
Indiana University Cancels Palestinian Artist’s Retrospective

The Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art at Indiana University was set to open the first American retrospective of Samia Halaby, a Palestinian-American abstract painter and Indiana University alumna (MFA 1963), IU tenured faculty (1969-72), and the first woman professor Yale School of Art (1972-82). The show “Samia Halaby: Centers of Energy” was scheduled to open on February 10th 2024, and run until June 9th 2024.

The exhibition had been planned by the museum for more than three years and included a substantial catalog, as well as a sister exhibition at Halaby's other alma mater, Michigan State University's Broad Art Museum, to open in late 2024. The IU show included significant early paintings and prints from the museum's collection and more than twenty artworks loaned from public collections, private collectors, and the artist herself.

On December 20th 2023, Halaby was informed by the museum's leadership in a two-sentence letter that the exhibition was canceled out of “safety concerns,” despite no evidence of threats to the artwork or the campus. We understand the decision rested with President Whitten and we know she has the power to reverse it.

After privately appealing the decision to IU President Pamela Whitten and receiving no response, the artist and her supporters have gone public to ask for support to reinstate the exhibition.

The University community—including students, faculty, staff, and alumni as well as the wider Bloomington and Indiana region—have been deprived of an important exhibition of contemporary art and first-rate cultural experience. With the show canceled at the eleventh hour, the museum walls will lay bare for more than six months.

Furthermore, the abrupt and unmerited cancellation of the exhibition directly contravenes Indiana University's stated mission "to provide broad access to undergraduate and graduate education for students throughout Indiana, the United States, and the world, as well as outstanding academic and cultural programs." It also goes against the stated values of "full diversity" and "a strong commitment to academic freedom" included in the mission statement.

In the absence of any response from the administration, it is apparent that the University is canceling the show to distance itself from the cause of Palestinian freedom. For 50 years, Samia has been an outspoken and principled activist for the dignity, freedom, and self-determination of the Palestinian people. Rather than using this moment to show solidarity with a marginalized artist, Indiana University administration has chosen to silence the 87-year-old Palestinian artist.


Stephanie Cime

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Image of the Day

Anna Melnykova, "Palace of Labor (palats praci), architector I. Pretro, 1916", shot with analog Canon camera, 35 mm Fuji film in March 2022.

Anna Melnykova, "Palace of Labor (palats praci), architector I. Pretro, 1916", shot with analog Canon camera, 35 mm Fuji film in March 2022.


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