The first-ever Israeli art exhibition in the United Arab Emirates is facing backlash from supporters of the BDS movement against Israel.
“Abyss of Bliss” is open from the end of March until May 20 at the Oblong Contemporary Art Gallery in Dubai. It features the work of three Israeli artists: Ariela Wertheimer, Keren Shpilsher and 18-year-old photographer Yinon Gal-On. The theme centers on “the concept of water” with 10 percent of the proceeds to be donated to the humanitarian organization Emirates Red Crescent.
The gallery said in a press release that the exhibit was organized to celebrate “the occasion of the peace agreement between the UAE and Israel,” signed last year as part of the Abraham Accords.
In a statement in Arabic, the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) called on the general public to avoid the show, arguing that art is being used to normalize “colonialism and repression.”
The statement added: “The Israeli and Emirati regimes have been employing sports, art and academics in disguising their security and military alliance, which brings nothing but destruction and oppression to the nations of the region.”
In response, Oblong’s co-founder Paola Marucci told the publication Hyperallergic: “We didn’t want to offend anyone by opening the first Israeli artists’ exhibition in Dubai. For us, artists are all the same: The only difference between the artists is their artistic expression, not their nationality. I personally believe that art has a universal language. Art and culture are elements that create bridges and not walls, as said several times by Santo Padre Karol Wojtyla [Pope John Paul II].”