Yet more letters to the reader

2015

The following painted crates were found in 2002 in various storage spaces in Rome. After extensive research, it was discovered that they’d been painted by Suha Traboulsi, a Palestinian artist who worked in the Lebanese Ministry of Culture.

 

Interviewed in 2012, Traboulsi stated that between 1952 and 1974, the Lebanese state acquired a number of major paintings by various Arab artists for its planned Museum of Modern Art (expected to open in May 1975). The museum never opened, but the collection remained in the Ministry of Culture’s central depots in Beirut.

Throughout the years, and unbeknownst to the public, various Lebanese political figures have time and again dipped into the collection and gifted paintings to themselves, their relatives, cronies, and regional and international masters.

As Chief Registrar of Public Collections, and helpless to intervene in the gifting swindle, Traboulsi painted a replica of each gifted painting on wooden crates. She subsequently shipped each painted crate to the countries where she thought the original paintings had unwillingly traveled in the hope that the painted crates would somehow attract the exiled paintings.

Time and negligence affected the original crates. In 2016, and at the urging of artist Walid Raad, Traboulsi agreed to restore some of the original crates. As for the original paintings, they have yet to be magnetized back into their crates.