Steve Sabella is an established artist and author. Born in Jerusalem and based in Berlin since 2010, Sabella's work is a powerful expression of his life and experiences. Widely recognized for his bold artwork, he is able to explore themes of identity and displacement, exile, the effects of colonization, liberation, and the human condition in a unique way, celebrating the resilience of the human spirit.
In 2023, as part of their 25th-anniversary celebration, Smart published "Always Unconventional," featuring Sabella and a commissioned essay on art as a great tool for liberation.
Sabella has developed a distinct style of art that has earned him numerous awards and accolades. His thought-provoking artwork has been featured in galleries, museums, and publications worldwide.
His art highlights the importance of human rights, shared histories, and collective memory and imagination, emphasizing the need for dialogue and mutual understanding. His images invite viewers to think critically and consider art's role in fostering change. Steve Sabella's art questions oppressive structures and systems. He believes imagination is a powerful tool for change and can help expand our understanding of the world and ourselves. He uses his art to create new narratives that challenge conventional views, providing alternate perspectives on complex topics. He also explores through art possibilities for the future, envisioning different ways of living and being in the world.
Creating an impressive body of work over the past three decades, he is best known for his politically charged works while creating a captivating aesthetic experience. Sabella's early works served as an expression of his search for liberation using a variety of mediums, including photography, video art, and photo installation. Since the 2000s, Sabella has incorporated narrative elements into his works, as well as symbols and metaphors, with some representing the Palestinian struggle for independence, exploring the intricate relationship between the occupier and the occupied, between the Palestinian people and their history.
In 2008, Sabella received the Ellen Auerbach Award by nomination from the Akademie der Künste in Berlin, leading to a monograph covering twenty years of his art published by Hatje Cantz (Berlin, 2014) with texts by Hubertus von Amelunxen, president of the European Graduate School in Switzerland, and a foreword by artist and art historian Kamal Boullata who described Sabella's work as a dream to discover.
Overall, Sabella's work is characterized by its visual impact, vibrant colours, dynamic shapes, bold textures, and abstract forms, which he uses to create a sense of energy and movement. His work conveys a sense of emotion and atmosphere, and his photographs often feel like a scene from a painting. He often combines representational elements with abstract shapes, creating an image that is both recognizable and mysterious. Sabella's photographic works often feature collaged scenes incorporating surreal imagery to create a unique and otherworldly visual language.
Through his art, Sabella has captured the beauty and complexity of the human experience. When asked to describe himself, he sees himself as a mediator, communicating through the language of light.
Sabella's research focuses on the genealogy and archaeology of the image. He is the author of the award-winning memoir The Parachute Paradox, published by Kerber Verlag (2016), tackling the colonization of the imagination. The book won the 2017 Eric Hoffer Award and the 2016 Nautilus Book Awards for best memoir. Sabella is also the author of The Artist's Curse | On Being An Artist Navigating The Art Market and The Art World.
Sabella studied three years art photography at the Jerusalem School of Photography Musrara (1994-1997). He received a BA in Visual Studies from the State University of New York in 2007. Through a Chevening Scholarship in 2008, he earned a master's degree in Photographic Studies at the University of Westminster, London, graduating with a Caparo Award of Distinction, granted to the highest achieving scholar in the art university. In 2009, through a Saïd Foundation scholarship, Sabella earned his second master's in Art Business at Sotheby's Institute of Art, London.
Sabella's art is in the British Museum collection in London. MATHAF, The Arab Museum of Modern Art in Doha, where he was one of the 23 artists commissioned for its inauguration in 2010. The Arab World Institute in Paris has twenty artworks in its permanent collection. Bahrain National Museum upon a commission to interpret the country visually. Ars Aevi Museum of Contemporary Art in Sarajevo, Claude & France Lemand, Dalloul Art Foundation, Salsali Private Museum in Dubai, Barjeel Art Foundation in Sharjah, and the Contemporary Art Platform in Kuwait, among other prominent private collections.
Sabella exhibited with curators Sam Bardaouil and Till Fellrath, directors of Hamburger Banhof Museum in Berlin, in Told, Untold, Retold for the opening of MATHAF. With Bartomeu Mari, Marco Bazzini, and Christine Macel, curators of the 2017 Venice Biennale in Nel Mezzo del Mezzo at Museo Riso in Palermo. With Karin Adrian Von Roque in View from Inside at FotoFest Biennale in Houston. With Venetia Porter, in Contemporary Art of the Middle East and North Africa at The British Museum in London.
Sabella's many solo exhibitions include a major retrospective at the International Center for Photography Scavi Scaligeri Museum in Verona (2014), Archaeology of the Future.
DW | Guess & Story
Samah Altaweel In Arabic with English subtitles
Author, curator, member of the Akademie der Künste in Berlin | Former President of the European Graduate School in Saas Fee, Switzerland.
Hubertus Von Amelunxen
"His art is an art of understanding; it is poetic and suppresses neither expulsion nor salvation. It keeps to the path and forms a bridge—it is the bridge."
Contemporary Practices Art Journal
"From 1997 on, the images, series and projects of Steve Sabella are periscopes drowned in the invisible of human condition, the uncanny and the search for a meaning; an “exile” that starts as physical and contingent and ends becoming mental, a category of the soul that needs an answer, or a series of answers from each one of us; answers that change – evolve during a lifetime. So, Sabella raised the horizon to his own eyelevel: From a contingent one to a universal one, escaping every rhetoric, though not losing his identity as an artist, but on the contrary, conquering it."
"Born in Jerusalem, Steve Sabella is a photographer whose portfolio depicts the challenges and struggles of the human condition in familiar yet abstract forms. As a Palestinian visual artist who has lived both under occupation and in exile, Sabella’s work brings into focus a sharp and sometimes uncomfortable view of contemporary life in the 21st century in a way that begs reflection by the viewer."