Last Updated: Sat Jun 25, 2011 15:02 pm (KSA) 12:02 pm (GMT)

After a two-year journey, Picasso masterpiece finds its way to Palestine

Van Abbe museum's employees hang Pablo Picasso's "Buste de Femme" on a wall at the International Academy of Art Palestine in Ramallah. (File Photo)
Van Abbe museum's employees hang Pablo Picasso's "Buste de Femme" on a wall at the International Academy of Art Palestine in Ramallah. (File Photo)

They said it couldn’t be done but art knows no bounds.

On Friday, a Picasso masterpiece, Buste De Femme, valued at $7.1 million, went on show at a small art school in Ramallah—a feat that two years to accomplish, according to a report in the Guardian on Friday.

The cubist rendition of a woman’s deconstructed face is the first masterpiece to be exhibited in the Palestinian territories. Three people will be allowed to see it at a time to ensure the humidity levels in the purpose built room keep it safe.

The painting was housed in Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven, Netherlands which is where the director of the International Art Academy in Ramallah, Khaled Hourani, first saw it in 2008. He asked for it to be loaned.

“This started off as a crazy idea to bring a European masterpiece to a war-zone but I was only half-joking,” he told the Guardian.

However, the museum staff did not see it as a joke because it is not uncommon for international museums to loan each other works of art except that the occupied territory is not a state, nor its museum recognized.

That didn’t deter them, it just made things a little harder.

The museum’s curator, Remco De Blaaij, said, “Insurance was one of the first obstacles. One company declined but another responded with enthusiasm. The head of the company travelled to Ramallah to see how it would work and returned determined to help make it happen.”

The Guardian writes that the insurance company asked for the regular safeguards: three guards in close vicinity with other guards stand nearby, camera surveillance and a humidity-controlled room. They also asked the academy build a room within a room with a glass siding door.

With the insurance sorted, they moved onto their next hurdle: the deposit required by Israeli customs.

Israeli customs requires a 15 percent deposit of the value of an imported work to ensure that nothing is sold illegally.
Picasso’s Buste De Femme is estimated to be worth $7.1 million.

After negotiations, the Guardian reports customs waived the deposit.

Last week, the five-kilo painting, was safely placed in a 200-kilo crate in Amsterdam and began its journey to Ramallah, stopping in Tel Aviv before being escorted by the police to a checkpoint in Qalandia and then making its final journey to Ramallah.

After spending an entire day in Ramallah, the crate was opened, the painting unpacked, and hung.

Mr. Hourani said of the painting “Picasso remains inspirational because his work is related to war, peace and freedom.”

He hopes this is not the last masterpiece to be exhibited in the territory.

“We want this to become a normality but it is the last time I will do it. It has taken two years to bring one painting but the taboo has been broken and it will be easier for someone else to do it,” he said.

The painting will be on display at the museum for one month.

(Muna Khan, Editor of Al Arabiya English, can be reached at muna.khan@mbc.net)

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