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Beyond the Veil Exhibition,
Venice 2019

Iris Elhanani, Doron Polak

Beyond the Veil is an international art project with the participation of 100 women from five continents and includes visual artists, authors, poets and social activists. The exhibition portrays art on veils and scarfs each symbolizing characteristic customs and cultural motifs that represent the background of each artist.

The covering of the body by women and the customs that are connected to it, are a representative and controversial factor in formal traditions and religions. Today, in Western Europe for example, the debate around allowing the use of extreme clothes that cover the body is in the public eye. Many works of art in all media, including film, video, plastic art, poetry and literature all deal with this issue.  

The liberal Saudi poet Halima Muzaffah wrote that the Islamic extremists use the covering of women as a political symbol rather than a religious one in order to achieve their goals and stand against racism and strengthen their bond to Islam. Among the extreme factions of ultra-orthodox Judaism, it is customary to use veils or shawls to cover the whole body. Lately, a fundamental argument has just been abandoned as to the behavior of orthodox women in Jerusalem who cover their entire body, even their head, in black. Christianity is represented by the gowns of the holy nuns that cover every part of their body for reasons of modesty and holiness. In Third World tribes, such as those found in Africa, India or Afghanistan, women cover their bodies with a long coil of cloth that is decorated with rich shapes and vibrant colors.

The covering of the body – despite it representing a patriarchal demand for a woman’s modesty on the one hand, is a cultural sign of individual female identity on the other.

The initiative for the current exhibition, held during these stormy political times, came as a result of a conversation with young women leaders from the Arab world who met in Jordan during the "YaLa's Organization conference for young Middle Eastern journalists. The Israeli art producer Iris Elhanani, who took part in the meeting, was inspired to create an art project expressing women's vision Beyond the Veil. During a meeting with the curator Doron Polak (the representative in Israel of the Artists' Museum), it was decided to include this project  under the auspices of the Artists' Museum "Markers" project — an ongoing large-scale exhibition held during every Venice Art Biennale for over 20 years.  

All of the art veils were folded and sent by mail to the Artists' Museum. They will begin as an exhibition in Venice in honor of the 59th Biennale under the auspices of two art spaces: ARTLIFE for the World Gallery (Cannaregio) and The Saturnia Art Hotel (near San Marco Square). Additional sponsors and partners had  join, among them  IBDAA – the Arab artists' organization, Art & Society by UNESCO, the Future Memory Association –Paris, Fusion Art Museum in NYC, Artists' Museum in Lodz, Poland.

As stated, the aim of the exhibition is to use the art veil as a symbol of equality and freedom and to allow women from across the globe to lift their voices and express out loud their views beyond the Veil on the use of clothes to cover their entire body. The uniqueness of the exhibition lies in its representation of women from Africa, Asia, South America, Europe and from our area — Israel and Palestine.

After Venice, the exhibition will be shown in Poland, Israel, France and the United States.

Guests Curators
Ahamad Matani, IBBDA
Simonetta Gorreri, ARTLIFE Gallery, Venice, Italy
Gali Weiss, Unfolding Projects, Australia and Afghanistan
Joyce Yahouda, Joyce Yehuda Gallery, Montreal, Canada
Marianna Serandrei, Hotel Saturnia, Venice

Project Partners
Margalit Berriet, Future Memory Gallery Paris in partnership with Art & Society
Adam Klimczak, Artists Museum, Lodz, Poland
Shalom Neuman, Fusion Art Museum, NYC

Special thanks
Mr. Zvi Yemini, Chairman of Shenkar, College of Engineering, Design and Art

Design team
Graphic design: Anat Negev
Web design: Yuli Serfaty

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