Kamal Boullata was a Palestinian artist, writer and art historian. Graduating with a diploma in fine art, from the Accademia di Belle Arti, Rome in 1965, he went on to pursue further studies at the Corcoran School of Art, Washington, DC, from 1968 – 71, where he received an MFA. Over the last four decades he lived in the USA (1968-1992), Morocco (1993-1996), and France (1997-20120. He died in Berlin in 2019, a city in which he had lived since 2012.
Primarily working in silkscreen, much of Boullata’s work used Kufic script, an early form of Arabic calligraphy to create colourful, geometric compositions on paper. Evoking his childhood, spent in Jerusalem, much of Boullata’s work explores themes of identity and exile by drawing from the rich decoration of the Dome of the Rock as well as the distinctive embroidery of his native Palestine.
Boullata received numerous awards and research grants during his lifetime, including the Fulbright Senior Scholar Fellowship to research Islamic art in Morocco, in 1993 and 1994, and the Ford Foundation Research Grant, New York, to research the origins of painting in Palestine (1740 – 1940), in 2001. The artist’s pioneering studies on Palestinian art were the subject of three publications and his writings on classical and contemporary Arab art and culture and were published in numerous catalogues, anthologies and academic journals.
The artist’s solo exhibitions included, Addolcendo, Meem Gallery, Dubai, 2017; ‘... And There Was Light’, Berloni Gallery, London, 2015; Bilqis, Wiensowski & Harbord, Berlin, 2013; Mare Nostrum, Musée du Château Dufresne, Montreal, 2002. Group exhibitions include, The Sea Suspended, Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art, Tehran, 2016; Imperfect Chronology: Arab Art from the Modern to the Contemporary. Debating Modernism II, Whitechapel Gallery, London, 2016; Adventures of the Black Square: Abstract Art and Society 1915-2015, Whitechapel Gallery, London, 2015; Tariqah, Barjeel Art Foundation, Sharjah, 2014; Modernité plurielle. Art arabe contemporain, Institut du Monde Arabe, Paris, 2008; Word Into Art: Artists of the Modern Middle East, British Museum, London, 2006.
Boullata’s paintings, silkscreens, and livres d’artiste were exhibited in Europe, the US, France, and the Middle East. His work can be found in many private and public collections including the British Museum, London; Institut du Monde Arabe, Paris; New York Public Library, New York; Barjeel Art Foundation, Sharjah; Khalid Shoman Foundation, Amman; Alhambra Islamic Museum, Granada; Sharjah Art Museum, Sharjah; Bibliothèque Louis Notari, Monaco and Mathaf and the Museum of Modern Arab Art, Doha.