Mona Hatoum

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Mona Hatoum
Mona Hatoum at Fundació Joan Miró in Barcelona, 2011.jpg
Mona Hatoum at Barcelona's Fundació Joan Miró in 2011, when she was awarded the Prize Joan Miró
Born 1952
Beirut, Lebanon
Education Beirut University College
Awards Rolf Schock Prizes in Visual Arts (2008)
Premi Joan Miró (2011)

Mona Hatoum is a Lebanese-born Palestinian video artist and installation artist who lives in London, United Kingdom.

Early life[edit]

Mona Hatoum was born in 1952 in Beirut, Lebanon to Palestinian parents in 1952.[1] Although born in Lebanon, Hatoum does not identify as Lebanese. "Although I was born in Lebanon, my family is Palestinian. And like the majority of Palestinians who became exiles in Lebanon after 1948, they were never able to obtain Lebanese identity cards".[2] As she grew up, her family did not support her desire to pursue art. "When I was a teenager and we were discussing my future and I mentioned that I wanted to become an artist he (her father) categorically refused to send me to art school, because he said he wanted me to do something that will get me a real job, and that was the end of the conversation".[3] She continued to draw throughout her childhood, though, illustrating her work from poetry or science class. “I remember that I used to spend a lot of time actually perfecting these drawings, and I felt extremely encouraged when on one occasion for instance the teacher showed one of my drawings to the whole class and said this is a masterpiece. So I mean that's the, all the encouragement I got as a child towards you know becoming an artist.”[4]

Early career[edit]

In an attempt to settle with her mother, Hatoum attended the Beirut University College in Lebanon to study graphic design. She went to graphic arts school “as a compromise to be able to go to university and study some kind of career related to art, but obviously it wasn't art. It was a way of doing something that would get me a job as soon as I left university, and it was only a two year course so it meant that I could get out of my father's grip or whatever within two years, so I did two years of graphic design.”[4] After obtaining her degree, Hatoum began working with an advertising agency. Hatoum was displeased with the work she was producing while working in advertising. “I was like always on the wrong side of the fence...because I was always pointing out that the adverts were not honest...that they were claiming certain things about the products which were not there... I wasn't part of that conspiracy against the consumer if you gave me internal conflict to work in this kind of situation.”[4]

Exile and Education[edit]

During a visit to London in 1975, civil war broke out in Lebanon and Hatoum was forced into exile. She stayed in London, training at both the Byam Shaw School of Art and the Slade School of Fine Art (University College, London) between the years 1975 and 1981.


Mona Hatoum explores a variety of different subject matter via different theoretical frameworks. Her work can be interpreted as a description of the body, as a commentary on politics, and on gender and difference as she explores the dangers and confines of the domestic world.[5] Her work can also be interpreted through the concept of space as her sculpture and installation work depend on the viewer to inhabit the surrounding space to complete the effect. There are always multiple readings to her work.[5] "I wanted it to appeal to your senses first maybe or to somehow affect you in a bodily way and then the sort of connotations and concepts that are behind that work can come out of that original physical experience". [4] The physical responses that Hatoum desired in order to provoke psychological and emotional responses ensures unique and individual reactions from different viewers.[5]

Early work[edit]

Hatoum's early work consisted largely of performance pieces that used a direct physical confrontation with an audience to make a political point. She used this technique as a means of making a direct statement using her own body; the performances often referenced her background and the political situation in Palestine.[6] In her work, she addressed the vulnerability of the individual in relation to the violence inherent in institutional power structures. Her primary point of reference was the human body, sometimes using her own body.[7]

She says of her focus on the body: “I wanted to make I wanted it to appeal to your senses first maybe or to somehow affect you in a bodily way and then the sort of connotations and concepts that are behind that work can come out of that original physical experience. This is what I was aiming at in the work. I wanted it to be experienced through the body. In other words I want work to be both experienced sensually and intellectually rather than just one dimensionally if you like.” [8] One of her first major pieces, Measures of Distance, explores the themes topics of her early art. “I made a conscious decision to delve into the personal – however complex, confused, and contradictory the material I was dealing with was... Once I made the work I found that it spoke of the complexities of exile, displacement, the sense of loss and separation caused by war. In other words, it contextualized the image, or this person, “my mother,” within a social-political context.” [9]

Later work[edit]

In the late eighties, Hatoum abandoned performances as politically too direct and turned her attention instead to installations and objects, taking up some of the earlier ideas from her student days at the Slade School of Art in London.[10] "I don’t think art is the best place to be didactic; I don't think the language of visual art is the most suitable for presenting clear arguments, let alone for trying to convince, convert or teach".[11] From then on, she relied on the kind of interactivity that lets the spectator become involved in the aesthetic experience without the presence of the artist herself as performer making her the focus of attention.[12] "In the early performance work I was in a sense demonstrating or delivering a message to the viewer. With the installation work, I wanted to implicate the viewer in a phenomenological situation where the experience is more physical and direct. I wanted the visual aspect of the work to engage the viewer in a physical, sensual, maybe even emotional way; the associations and search for meaning come after that"[9] Her work from the 1990s onwards made the shift from making statements to asking questions. Much more is required of the viewer as performances were replaced by sculptures and installations that required a level of mental and physical interactivity with the viewer.[13]


"I was completely taken in by Minimal and Conceptual Art when I was on my first degree course. Going to University afterwards, which was my first encounter with a large bureaucratic institution, I became involved in analyzing power structures, first in relation to feminism, and then in wider terms as in the relationship between the Third World and the West. This led me to making confrontational issue-based performance works which were fuelled by anger and a sense of urgency. Later, when I got into the area of installation and object making, I wouldn't say I went back to a minimal aesthetic as such, it was more a kind of reductive approach".[9]


"When I went to London in 1975 for what was meant to be a brief visit, I got stranded there because the war broke out in Lebanon, and that [a] kind of dislocation. How that manifests itself in my work is as a sense of disjunction. For instance, in a work like Light Sentence, the movement of the light bulb causes the shadows of the wire mesh lockers to be in perpetual motion, which creates a very unsettling feeling. When you enter the space you have the impression that the whole room is swaying and you have the disturbing feeling that the ground is shifting under your feet. This is an environment in constant flux — no single point of view, no solid frame of reference. There is a sense of instability and restlessness in the work. This is the way in which the work is informed by my background".[9]

The Body[edit]

Many of Hatoum's early pieces situate the body as the locus of a network of concerns—political, feminist, and linguistic—thereby eliciting a highly visceral response.[14] "It was more a kind of reaction to this kind of feeling that people were so disembodied around me, people were just like walking intellects and not really giving any attention to the body and the fact that this is part of one's existence". [4]


The political possibilities for the uncanny visual motif are relevant to discussions of Hatoum's work, as the disruption achieved at a psychological level can have broad implications involving power, politics, or individual concerns.[13] The allusiveness attained by her work is not always referencing grand political events, or appealing to a generalized cultural consciousness, but instead to a seemingly unattainable threat that is only possible to address on an individual scale.[13]


Since 1983, Mona Hatoum has been displaying both her installations and her video performance art pieces on exhibitions around the world. She has been featured in individual exhibitions as recently as 2011 in White Cube in London.

Some of her other solo exhibitions to note include: Centre Pompidou, Paris (1994), Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago (1997), The New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York (1998), Castello di Rivoli, Turin (1999), Tate Britain, London (2000), Hamburger Kunsthalle, Kunstmuseum Bonn, Magasin 3, Stockholm (2004) and Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney (2005), Parasol Unit, London (2008), Darat Al Funun, Jordan (2008), Fondazione Querini Stampalia, Venice (2009) and Beirut Art Center (2010).

She has also participated in a number of recognized group exhibitions, including: The Turner Prize (1995), Venice Biennale (1995 and 2005), Biennale of Sydney (2006) and the Biennale of Montreal; Drone the automated image (2013). A solo exhibition entitled "Turbulence" is organised in 2014 by Mathaf Arab Museum of Modern Art in Doha.

Public Collections[edit]

  • The Palm Springs Art Museum, Palm Springs
  • Fundació Joan Miró, Barcelona
  • FRAC de Picardie, Amiens
  • Baltimore Museum of Art Kunstmuseum, Basel
  • Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
  • Arken Museum of Modern Art, Copenhagen
  • Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebaek, Denmark
  • Israel Museum, Jerusalem
  • Arts Council of Great Britain, London
  • The British Council, London
  • Tate Gallery, London
  • Los Angeles County Museum of Art
  • The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles
  • Minneapolis Institute of Arts
  • Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee
  • The Museum of Modern Art, New York
  • Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art, Oslo
  • The National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa
  • Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris
  • FNAC, Paris
  • Philadelphia Museum of Art Centro de Arte de Salamanca, Salamanca
  • San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
  • Centro Galego de Arte Contemporánea, Santiago de Compostela
  • Moderna Museet, Stockholm
  • Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art, Doha, Qatar
  • Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney
  • Art Museum, Arizona State University, Tempe
  • The Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto
  • The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC
  • Kunsthaus, Zürich


  • 2012
    • May till August 2012 Fundació Joan Miró, Barcelona
  • 2008
    • Honorary doctorate, American University of Beirut
    • Rolf Schock Prize, Stockholm
    • Bellagio Creative Artist Fellowship, London
  • 2004
    • Awarded the Roswitha Hoftmann prize
    • Awarded The Sonning Prize
  • 1998
    • Awarded title of Visiting Professor by Chelsea College of Art and Design and Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, London
  • 1997
    • Awarded Honorary Fellowship of the Dartington College of Arts, Devon, England
  • 1994-1995
    • Guest Professor at L'École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts, Paris
  • 1992- 1997
    • Part-time teaching post at Jan van Eyck Akademie, Maastricht
  • 1990-1993
    • Member of Artists' Film and Video Committee of the Arts Council of England
  • 1989-1992
    • Senior Research Fellow in Fine Art at Cardiff Institute of Higher Education, Cardiff
  • 1988
    • Video production residency at The Western Front Art Centre, Vancouver
  • 1986-1994
    • Visiting lecturer at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, London
  • 1986-1989
    • Member of the Management Committee of the London Video Access, London
  • 1987
    • Member of the Advisory Committee of Third Text (Third World Perspectives on Contemporary Art and Culture)
  • 1986-1987
    • Residency at Chisenhale Dance Space, London
  • 1986
    • Residency at 9.1.1., Contemporary Arts Centre, Seattle
  • 1984
    • Video production residency at The Western Front Art Centre, Vancouver


Michael Archer, Phaidon Archer, M. Brett, G. De Zegher, C. ed., Mona Hatoum, Phaidon, Oxford, 1997

John Tusa, BBC

Janine Antoni, BOMB


“I'm often asked the same question: What in your work comes from your own culture? As if I have a recipe and I can actually isolate the Arab ingredient, the woman ingredient, the Palestinian ingredient. People often expect tidy definitions of otherness, as if identity is something fixed and easily definable.” [9]

“I want the work in the first instance to have a strong formal presence, and through the physical experience to activate a psychological and emotional response. In a very general sense I want to create a situation where reality itself becomes a questionable point. Where one has to reassess their assumptions and their relationship to things around them. A kind of self-examination and an examination of the power structures that control us: Am I the jailed or the jailer? The oppressed or the oppressor? Or both. I want the work to complicate these positions and offer an ambiguity and ambivalence rather than concrete and sure answers.” [9]

“I want the meaning to be imbedded, so to speak, in the material that I'm using. I choose the material as an extension of the concept or sometimes in opposition to it, to create a contradictory and paradoxical situation of attraction/repulsion, fascination and revulsion. For instance, I intentionally used a very sensuous, translucent silicon rubber to make the Entrails Carpet. You want to walk all over it with bare feet. On the other hand, when you recognize the pattern on the surface of the carpet, you realize it’s something very repulsive, it looks like entrails splayed out all over the floor as if it's the aftermath of a massacre. There's a kind of attraction/repulsion operating here.” [9]




  • Mona Hatoum. (essays by Ingvild Goetz, Rainald Schumacher, Leo Lencsés), Edited by Ingvild Goetz, Rainald Schumacher, Larissa Michelberger, Language: German/English, Published: November 1, 2011 by Hatje Cantz.


  • Martínez, Chus. Le Grand Monde, ex. cat. Santander, Spain: Fundación Marcelino Botin Mona Hatoum. (essay by Catherine Grenier). Montreal: ABC Art Books Canada


  • Mona Hatoum: Interior Landscape. (essays by Chiara Bertola and Réda Bensmaïa), ex. cat. Milan: Charta


  • Mona Hatoum. (essays by Edward W. Said, Alix Ohlin, and Salwa Mikdadi, interview with Janini Antoni), ex. cat. Amman, Jordan: Darat al Funun - The Khalid ShomanFoundation
  • Mona Hatoum: Undercurrents (essays by Whitney Chadwick and Alix Ohlin), ex. cat. Ferrara: Gallerie d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea dei Commune di Ferrara
  • Mona Hatoum: Unhomely (essay by Kirsty Bell), ex. cat. Berlin: Galerie Max Hetzler Berlin and Holzwarth Publications


  • Mona Hatoum. (essay by Andrew Renton), London: Jay Jopling/White Cube


  • Mona Hatoum. (essays by Stephanie Snyder and Alix Ohlin), ex. cat. Portland, Oregon: The Reed Institute, Reed College


  • Mona Hatoum. (essays by Ursula Panhans-Bühler, Volker Adolphs, Nina Zimmer, Richard Julin and Elisabeth Millqvist, and Christoph Heinrich), Hamburg: Hamburger Kunsthalle


  • Mona Hatoum. Oaxaca: Museo de Arte Contemporàneo de Oaxaca


  • Mona Hatoum. (essays by Tamar Garb, interviews with Janine Antoni and Jo Glencross), Salamanca: Centro de Arte de Salamanca (CASA); Santiago de Compostela:

Centro Galego de Arte Contemporanea

  • Mona Hatoum. (essays by Francisco Reyes Palma and María Inés García Canal), Mexico City: Laboratorio Arte Alameda


  • Mona Hatoum: Domestic Disturbance. (interviews with Janine Antoni and Jo Glencross, essays by Louis Grachos, Laura Steward Heon, and Joseph C. Thompson), North Adams: MASS MoCA; Santa Fe, NM: SITE Santa Fe
  • Mona Hatoum. (essay by Cecilia Fajardo-Hill), Caracas: Sala Mendoza


  • Mona Hatoum (essay by Jean-Charles Masséra), Thiers, Reims, Anvers: Le Creux de l’Enfer, Le Collége, Muhka 6
  • Mona Hatoum: The Entire World as a Foreign Land (essay by Edward W. Said and Sheena Wagstaff), London: Tate Gallery Publishing Ltd.


  • Mona Hatoum (essay by Giorgio Verzotti), Milan: Charta 1998 Mona Hatoum (essays by Madeleine Schuppli and Briony Fer), Basel: Kunsthalle Basel 1997
  • Mona Hatoum (essays by Dan Cameron and Jessica Morgan), Chicago: The Museum of

Contemporary Art

  • Mona Hatoum (essays by Michael Archer, Guy Brett, Catherine de Zegher, Piero Manzoni, and Edward Said), London: Phaidon Press


  • Mona Hatoum (essay by Din Pieters), Amsterdam: De Appel


  • Mona Hatoum (essays by Jacinto Lageira, Desa Philippi, Nadia Tazi, and Christine van Assche), Paris: Centre Georges Pompidou


  • Mona Hatoum (essays by Guy Brett and Desa Philippi), Bristol: Arnolfini

Reviews and Articles[edit]


  • Mosley, Matthew. “In search of a map of a home: Mona Hatoum;s show ‘Witness’ takes the gallery-goer down the Beirut.” The Daily Star (June 16, 2010): 12
  • Zughni, Farrah. “Caution: Danger ahead: The delightful and deadly works of Mona Hatoum.” Now Lenbanon (June 26, 2010)
  • Mansoor, Jaleh. “A Spectral Universality: Mona Hatoum’s Biopolitics of Abstraction.” October Magazine (Summer 2010): 49-74
  • Griffin, Kevin. “Visceral Bodies shows our fleshy architecture.” Vancouver Sun (February 15, 2010): F5


  • Soueif, Ahdaf. “Reflect and Resist.” The Guardian (June 13, 2009) Vogel, Carol. “A More Serene Biennale.” The New York Times (June 8, 2009): C1-C2 Wilson-*Goldie, Kaelen. “Mona Hatoum.” Artforum (February 2009): 210


  • Wright, Karen. “I am not trying to illustrate my personal experience.” (interview) The Art Newspaper (July/August 2008): 34


  • Aukeman, Anastasia. “Mona Hatoum at Alexander and Bonin.” Art in America (March 2006): 146-7
  • Hall, Emily. “Mona Hatoum.” Artforum (February 2006): 210-211 King, Natalie. “15th Biennale of Sydney: Zones of Contact.” Art Monthly (July/August
  • Scharrer, Eva. “Critics’ Picks: Mona Hatoum at Max Hetzler.”
  • Spears, Dorothy. “Evidence if a Life Lived.” Art on Paper (January/February 2006): 64-69


  • Garrett, Craig. “Mona Hatoum,” Contemporary No. 74 (2005): 70-71
  • Holmes, Pernilla. “Making the Ordinary Anything But.” ARTnews (May 2005): 124-127
  • Tsai, *Eugene. “Mona Hatoum, Mobile Home.” Time Out: New York (November 24–30, 2005): 108


  • “Preview: Winter 2004.” Artforum (January 2004): 79
  • Frank, Peter. “Mona Hatoum, hair there and everywhere.” art on paper (May/June 2004): 40-41


  • Smith, Roberta. “When an Artist’s Eye Guides a Museum Show.” New York Times (December 12, 2003): E43


  • Beechey, James. “Stranger in a strange land.” Financial Times (May 11–12, 2002): VIII
  • Ohlin, Alix. “Home and Away: The Strange Surrealism of Mona Hatoum.” Art Papers Magazine (May/June 2002): 16-21


  • Lloyd, Ann Wilson. “From Nest to Nest, Creating on the Fly.” The New York Times (June 3, 2001): AR33, AR35


  • Halliburton, Rachel. “The appliance of science.” The Independent (London)(March 22, 2000): 10


  • Leydier, Richard. “Mona Hatoum.” Art Press (December 1999): 79-81


  • Antoni, Janine. interview “Mona Hatoum.” Bomb (Spring 1998): 54-61
  • Harper, Paula. “Visceral Geometry.” Art in America (September 1998): 106-111


  • Cotter, Holland. "Pangs of Exile and Lost Childhood." The New York Times (December 5, 1997): 31


  • Baker, Kenneth. "Reviews." Artnews (December 1996): 126 Shapira, Sarit. “East Jerusalem: Mona Hatoum.” Flash Art (October 1996): 121


  • Lind, Maria. "Mona Hatoums State of Emergency." Paletten (Göteborg) (April 1994): 8-11


  • Cameron, Dan. "Mona Hatoum." Artforum (April 1993): 92


  • Archer, Michael. "Mona Hatoum: Mario Flecha." Artforum (December 1992): 107-108


  • Philippi, Desa. "Mona Hatoum: The Witness Beside Herself." Parachute (Montréal) (April–June 1990): 10-15

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Riggs, Terry. "Mona Hatoum", Tate, Retrieved 24 December 2014.
  2. ^ Antoni, Janine (1998). "Mona Hatoum". BOMB. Retrieved 2014-10-13. 
  3. ^ Tusa, John. "Transcript of the John Tusa Interview with the Palestinian artist Mona Hatoum". BBC. Retrieved 2011-02-28. 
  4. ^ a b c d e Tusa, John. "Transcript of the John Tusa Interview with the Palestinian artist Mona Hatoum". BBC. BBC. Retrieved 2011-02-28. 
  5. ^ a b c Feminist Artists. "Mona Hatoum". Retrieved 2011-05-03. 
  6. ^ Female Artists. "Mona Hatoum". Retrieved 2011-05-03. 
  7. ^ Hamburger Kunsthalle. "Catalogue, "A major survey including new work ", 26 March – 31 May 2004". Retrieved 2011-06-03. 
  8. ^ Tusa, John. "Transcript of the John Tusa Interview with the Palestinian artist Mona Hatoum". Retrieved 2011-02-28. 
  9. ^ a b c d e f g Antoni, Janine (1998). "Mona Hatoum". BOMB. Retrieved 2011-06-03. 
  10. ^ Hamburger Kunsthalle et al, Hatje Cantz,. "Mona Hatoum, exhibition Catalogue". White Cube. Retrieved 2011-06-03. 
  11. ^ Archer, M. "Essays with Mona Hatoum". Interview. Phaidon. Retrieved 2011-06-03. 
  12. ^ Hamburger Kunsthalle et al. "Mona Hatoum, exhibition Catalogue,". Retrieved 2011-06-03. 
  13. ^ a b c Female Artists. "Mona Hatoum". Retrieved 2011-06-03. 
  14. ^ Ohlin, Alix. "Home and Away: The Strange Surrealism of Mona Hatoum". Retrieved 2011-06-03. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Michael Archer, Guy Brett, and Catherine M. De Zegher, eds., Mona Hatoum, Phaidon, Oxford, 1997

External links[edit]