No Israeli Artists in London Photo Exhibit on Middle East

Exhibit on photography will include works by various Arab artists, but none by Israelis.

An exhibit of contemporary Middle Eastern photography at London's Victoria and Albert Museum will include works by various Arab artists, including two Palestinians, but no Israelis.

The exhibit, drawn from the Art Fund Collection of Middle Eastern Photography at the V&A and the British Museum and set to open in four months, will display photographs from Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Iran and Lebanon. In response to a question by Haaretz about whether Israeli artists would be included in the collection, the Victoria and Albert Museum responded: "To date the collection includes the works of two Palestinian artists, Raeda Saadeh and Taysir Batniji."

The museum representative did not reply directly when asked whether Israeli art is being boycotted in the collection. However, both museums emphasized that Israeli artists and designers are included in their permanent collections.

"The collection will continue to expand and develop over time but I can't confirm yet whether more Palestinian or Israeli artists will be added to the collection at this point," the representative said.

Raeda Saadeh was born in Umm al-Fahm and lives and works in Jerusalem. She does photographic self portraits that draw inspiration from folklore or mythical literature, or from familiar works of art. For example, she is photographed as Penelope from "The Odyssey," knitting on a ruined landscape of demolished buildings. Saadeh represented Israel along with Nurit Sharett, Ruti Sela and Maayan Amir in the biennale in Sydney in 2006. Last March she presented a solo exhibition in the Rose Issa Projects in London.

The multidisciplinary artist Taysir Batniji, a native of Gaza, tries to convey the atmosphere in the Gaza Strip in his works, whether in interior shots of miserable-looking rooms, photographs of the Gazan coast and of the Rafah Crossing during the second intifada, or through portraits. His works have been displayed at the biennale in Havana and in Venice in 2003, among other places.

The spokeswoman for the Ministry of Culture and Sport said that the matter is unfortunate, but that the British museums have the freedom of choice.

The V&A has been given additional support from the Art Fund to acquire a third phase of new acquisitions for the exhibition and collection. This third phase is currently being processed and includes work from the Israeli artist Tal Shochat.