AMCA mourns the passing of Kamal Boullata (1942-2019), Palestinian artist, writer, and mentor | AMCA | Association for Modern + Contemporary Art of the Arab World, Iran + Turkey

AMCA mourns the passing of Kamal Boullata (1942-2019), Palestinian artist, writer, and mentor

AMCA expresses its deepest condolences on the passing of Palestinian artist and writer, Kamal Boullata. Born in Jerusalem in 1942, Boullata spent his childhood studying the art of icon painting under Khalil al Halabi (1889-1964). He furthered his training at the Accademia di Belle Arti in Rome (1961-65) and the Corcoran Gallery School of Art in Washington, DC (1968-71). Forced into exile in 1967, Boullata remained steadfast in his dedication to his homeland through both his art and his writing. Living the majority of his life in exile in Lebanon, Morocco, France, the United States, and, most recently, Berlin, Germany, Boullata once said that writing is a way for him to go home. 

Kamal Boullata

Boullata will be remembered for a beautiful breadth of compelling works. In the seventies and eighties, he incorporated Arabic Kufic calligraphy into color saturated, hard-edge geometric abstractions in silk screen prints. His later works moved away from calligraphy and he began exploring the geometry of the square, a reference to both western modernism and Islamic tradition. Repeatedly dissecting the square, Boullata created layered compositions infused with transparent colors.   

A passionate voice for Palestine, Boullata has published extensively on modern and contemporary art of the Arab world, including the authoritative book, Palestinian Art: From 1850 to the Present (Saqi, 2009). He and his wife, Lily Farhoud, always encouraged young scholars in the field, welcoming students in their home, sharing resources, and offering critical feedback. He was instrumental in developing the framework for the publication, Modern Art in the Arab World: Primary Documents (Museum of Modern Art, 2018), taking much time and effort to write extensive comments when he was unable to attend an advisors’ meeting in Amman, Jordan. A symposium, book launch, and exhibition of his work is scheduled for the end of January 2020 at the West Court Gallery, Jesus College in Cambridge. Two books by Boullata are due to be published this fall; There Where You Are Not (Hirmer Verlag) focuses on Boullata’s writings on art and Uninterrupted Fugue (Hirmer Verlag) is about his own works. Boullata’s continual dedication to Palestine and the field of modern and contemporary Arab art will serve as an inspiration to us all. 

Boullata died at his home in Berlin. He was 77 years old. Boullata wished to be buried in Jerusalem, but if permission is not granted by the Israeli Authorities, he will be buried in Berlin. 

A dear friend and mentor to many of us at AMCA. We will miss him dearly.

Kamal Boullata. Nur ‘ala Nur. 1982. Single page screenprint on detached album folio. Collection of the British Museum.