Born in Jerusalem in 1936, Samia Halaby is a leading Palestinian painter and scholar. After immigrating to the United States via Lebanon in 1951, she obtained a BS 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 teaching art at the university level, which culminated in a decade long position as the first full-time 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 institutions such 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, her works have become increasingly sought-after by collectors.
Although her exceptional painting style has changed dramatically over the years—from large canvases exploring the colour planes of geometric and helix formations to colourist 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 programme 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 Centre in 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 United States. 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.