Born in Jerusalem in 1936, Samia Halaby is a leading Palestinian painter and scholar. After immigrating to the US via Lebanon in 1951, she obtained a Bachelor of Science in Design from the University of Cincinnati in 1959 and a Master of Fine Arts from Indiana University in 1963. Shortly after, she began an extensive career in teaching art at the university level throughout the US, which culminated in a decade long position as the first fulltime female associate professor at the world-renowned Yale School of Art in New Haven, Connecticut. Although based in New York, Halaby has also worked in the Arab world, teaching at such institutions as Birzeit University in the West Bank and Darat al-Funun in Amman, Jordan.
Since 1970, she has held countless solo exhibitions, both in the US and abroad and has been featured in a number of groundbreaking group exhibitions of Arab art throughout the US and Europe. With recent blockbuster sales of her paintings at auction, she has become increasingly sought after by collectors.
Although her exceptional painting style has changed dramatically over the years—from large canvases exploring the color planes of geometric and helix formations to colorist assemblages that speak of movement and nature—she has continued to push the boundaries of art for over fifty years. As such, she is recognized as a major innovator of the school of abstraction in contemporary Arab art. Halaby’s vivid canvases have been hailed by a number of international publications including The New York Times and Art in America. Forever on the cutting-edge of art, in 1983, she created a computer program for kinetic paintings, resulting in several audio-visual presentations, including a tour of Syria, Palestine and Jordan and a performance accompanied by live musicians at New York’s Lincoln Center (1998).
Halaby’s work is housed in several museum collections worldwide, most notably the Jordan National Gallery of Fine Arts, The British Museum, the Guggenheim Museum, The Art Institute of Chicago, and The Detroit Institute of Art. As an art historian, she has been instrumental in curating several exhibitions in the US. In 2002 her many years of scholarship led to the publishing of Liberation Art of Palestine, one of the few English-language books on contemporary Palestinian art available today.