The fake child artists of Gaza

September 17, 2011

I have a degree in art from Carnegie Mellon University. Some of this work looks like a Pro Palestinian video that I saw online done in the style of a child and animated. Here is one example. Children’s work tends to be a common motif. My analysis is that some work is authentic and some is not. I’d be willing to bet that some of the more advanced and complex designs are the work of genuine artist savants. I would also bet that some of the forced primitive crayon work is fake. Whatever it is… it is all conjecture and certainly exploitative to not give credit to the kids.

(Reposted from EOZ)
From HuffPo:

Bowing to pressure from the Bay Area’s Jewish community, Oakland’s Museum of Children’s Art has decided to cancel its planned exhibition of drawings by Palestinian children documenting their experiences during the 2008-2009 Israeli invasion of the Gaza Strip.

Organized by the Middle East Children’s Alliance, “A Child’s View of Gaza” was supposed to run from September 24th through mid-November; however, the public reaction against displaying the pictures convinced the museum’s board of directors to halt its plan.

The San Francisco Chronicle reports:

It had become a distraction to the main objective of bringing arts education to all children, said museum board member Randolph Bell.

“We were getting calls from constituents that were concerned about the situation,” Bell said.

“We don’t have any political stake in this thing. It just became apparent that we needed to rethink this.”

“We understand all too well the enormous pressure that the museum came under. But who wins?” asked Middle East Children’s Alliance president Barbara Lubin in a press release. “The museum doesn’t win. MECA doesn’t win. The people of the Bay Area don’t win. Our basic constitutional freedom of speech loses. The children in Gaza lose.”

Pictures from the exhibit, which were culled from art therapy sessions at a number of Gaza children’s centers, show images like a bomb painted with American and Israeli flags crashing into a street filled with dead bodies, helicopters destroying a city and a boot decorated with a Star of David stomping on a Palestinian flag.

Well, we wouldn’t want to be considered censors, so let’s look at the artwork that is available online. Here is every one I could find.

Now, let’s compare these to those from a similar story from 2002.

A display of pictures in a State Street coffee house drawn by Palestinian children has stirred commotion among the UW-Madison community.

The 4-day pictures display that began Sunday, entitled \Innocence Under Siege: Palestinian Children’s Perspectives of the World Around Them,” is presented by the Palestinian Humanities and Arts Now, a Chicago-based group, in conjunction with Al-Awda, the Palestinian Right to Return Coalition. The pictures were along the wall at Espresso Royale Caffe, 650 State St., until last evening.

Images were drawn by middle school aged Palestinian children and focus predominantly on violence in the Middle East. One picture, for example, shows a woman cradling the bloody body of a man, probably her husband, with a person holding a gun in the background. Other pictures show Israeli tanks and Palestinian towns and children surrendering.

“Our organization put the pictures up because they present a reality and experiences that are completely silenced in the United States media,” said UW-Madison senior Sarah Kaiksow, co-chair of the UW-Madison chapter of Al-Awda. “I feel like for any true peace to be negotiated between any two parties in any conflict, the reality of what those people are facing needs to be negotiated.”

But members of Madison’s Jewish community, including those of UW-Madison’s Hillel, say they are offended by some of the artwork, including pictures on which a child wrote things like “Death for Israel,” “From North to South it’s only Palestine” and “Bloodshed is the language of Israel.” That particular picture was drawn by an eighth-grader.

I am not an art expert, but the second set of pictures from 2002 look like they were actually done by grade-schoolers – and the newer ones look like they were done by adults trying to draw in a childish style.

The symbolism, the coloring and the motifs seem, at the very least, to have been heavily prompted by adults. Kids don’t come up with this stuff on their own.

(MORE AT EOZ… I don’t agree with all the opinions however so I excerpted the post)

Moreover, what do child artists do immediately after they finish their work? They sign them. I cannot find one signature in the new set of images, although each of the older ones have them.

Even more interesting, one would think that a children’s art exhibit showing such precocious examples of drawing would want to publicize the names of the artists – and elaborate on their own personal stories from which sprung such eloquence and experience. The artist’s story is often more compelling than the art. But, for some bizarre reason,  we are deprived of this information. Could it be that the organizers don’t want the children to be interviewed?

Ultimately, it is up to the exhibitors to prove the authenticity of provenance of the works. Identify these young savants.
And if this is a hoax, well, what museum would want to be associated with something like that?

The Middle East Children’s Alliance is trying to pressure MOCHA to change their mind and show these questionable pieces. You may want to contact the museum and support their decision, and also ask them the provenance of the drawings.

Something else came to mind in thinking about the EOZ post. Children have a tendency to mimic commercial art. There is rarely pure child art these days unless a positioned culture is engineered. I noticed that one of your observations is that one of the children is obviously trying to draw like the hate mongering cartoonist Latuff. This is probably the most real and authentic example of child art in the bunch. Art teachers like to scold children for drawing what they see on TV or in the media, but for a child the most natural thing is to do exactly that. The work that actually looks childlike in my opinion are more likely to be forgeries. This contradicts some of EOZ observations… but he is right on one thing. Why didn’t they give the kids credit for their work? It is exploitative.