The World’s 100 Most Powerful Arab Women
Mon 03 Mar 2014 03:25 AM
Samia Halaby

Samia Halaby

Industry: Arts and entertainment

Designation: Artist

Country: US (Palestine)

Born in 1936, Samia Halaby is perhaps the Arab world’s most distinguished and longest serving female artist.

Halaby began her career in the 1960s, and her work is housed in private and public collections all around the world. She has been based in New York since the 1970s, and the American city and her home country of Palestine both figure strongly in her work.

Born in Jerusalem, Halaby was forced to leave her home town in 1948 during the Nakba. She moved to the US with her family, and studied design at the University of Cincinnati and painting at Indiana University.

She would go on to teach at some of the world’s most prestigious art institutions, such as The Cooper Union, Bir Zeit University in the West Bank and the University of Michigan. She was also the first female art professor to teach at the Yale School of Art, in 1972.

Halaby has said she draws her inspiration from “the advanced art of revolutionary periods from all over the world”, and her style has evolved due to influences from Abstract Impressionism, Cubism, Futurism and the Mexican Mural Movement.

She has been described as the ‘master of abstraction’.

But despite her success in the US, Halaby recently said that she did not feel entirely accepted in New York. Her activism and nationality have created problems, particularly among dealers and galleries in the city, despite the fact that her works have been shown in institutions such as the Guggenheim and the Art Institute of Chicago.

As a result, she has refocused on the Arab world, showcasing her work in many of the region’s biggest cities.

“I think my work is liked equally by Arabs as it is by Europeans, Asians, and Americans,” she told Harper’s Bazaar recently. “Each group sees it in terms of their own cultural experience.”