Palestine's leading arts advocate Jack Persekian awarded the Order of Culture, Science and Arts
By Hanae Ko
On August 24, 2016, Palestinian curator Jack Persekian, founding director of al-Ma'mal Foundation for Contemporary Art in Jerusalem, was awarded the Palestine Order of Merit for Culture, Sciences and Arts by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. The award was presented in recognition of his contributions to the development of Palestinian arts and culture at home and abroad.
Born in 1962 in Jerusalem, Persekian is the founder and director of al-Ma'mal Foundation for Contemporary Art, a nonprofit organization based in Jerusalem. During his decades-long career, Persekian also founded and directed Anadiel Gallery, which was established in 1992 as the first independent art gallery in Palestine. He has also served as the founding director of the Sharjah Art Foundation, and artistic director of major international art festivals in the region such as the Sharjah Biennial, the Jerusalem Show and Qalandiya International.
The bestowment follows a recent controversy for Persekian, who, in November 2015, stepped down as director of the Palestinian Museum, the first of its kind to be dedicated to Palestinian history and culture—which opened earlier this year—and a project that he had led since 2012. An official statement by the museum's funder, the Palestine- and London-based al-Qattan Foundation, cited Persekian's departure as "a result of differences over planning and management issues.” Notably, when the museum opened in May, there were no artworks on display, as Persekian's intended inaugural show—which was to feature artistic interpretations of photographs and other personal mementos kept by exiled Palestinians from the homes they fled—was put on suspension.