Michael Baers: An Oral History of Picasso in Palestine
An online publication by Haus der Kulturen der Welt within the framework of Berlin Documentary Forum
Conceptualized and drawn by Michael Baers
In 2010, artist Michael Baers learned of Khaled Hourani’s plan to bring Picasso’s 1943 painting Buste de femme to Ramallah for an exhibition at the International Academy of Art, Palestine. The twoyear effort of coordinating the loan from the Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven and staging the exhibition in 2011 was hindered by the conditions imposed by the Israeli occupation, necessitating intricate negotiations with shippers, insurers, bureaucrats, and politicians.
While the story is already well known, having attracted a great deal of press and recorded in the 2012 documentary Picasso in Palestine by Hourani and filmmaker Rashid Masharawi, Baers’ graphic novel , An Oral History of Picasso in Palestine, suggests that there is more to tell. The result of extensive research, this work retells the story of Picasso in Palestine by exploring the history of the project’s gestation and its relevance to the broad set of issues which comprise Israel’s occupation of the West Bank. While it might appear a digression to discuss how the formal declaration of the State of Israel took place in a museum, Baers notes: “Without the notional link between the State of Israel and artistic modernism, there would be a weaker argument for bringing Picasso to presentday Ramallah.” An Oral History of Picasso in Palestine offers a sophisticated metacommentary that charts the intersections of modernism, occupation, statehood, and security, using the graphic novel form to demonstrate that narrativization need not entail a reduction of complexity.