Steve Sabella Monograph

Hatje Cantz and Akademie der Künste | Berlin

Text by Hubertus von Amelunxen and foreword by Kamal Boullata

Design by Onlab



Kamal Boullata

"By penetrating into the interstices between image and language, painting and photography, poetry and prose, Hubertus von Amelunxen allows his reader to see what at first glance appears to be untranslatable to the eye. It is through his philosophical vision of photography that we can begin to trace the roots of originality in Sabella’s work. Inspired by its contemplation, he presents us here with a personal ode to contemporary photography. Von Amelunxen’s essay is as enlightening to read as Sabella’s photographic images are a dream to discover."

download the foreword

Author, curator, member of the Akademie der Künste in Berlin | President of the European Graduate School in Saas Fee, Switzerland.

Hubertus von Amelunxen

“These images contain only what was not before and what now corresponds to a becoming that is not based on its past. The structural dismantling of the photographic gaze begun in the In Exile cycle has an inherent hopelessness that takes Steve Sabella not away from photography but toward abstraction through a formal idiom of his own. His images develop into arabesques, intertwining counterpoints, structural images, fabrics interwoven with deductions from the passings of time, planes on which a shattered reality is laid.” 

The book is divided into sixteen visual journeys, chronicling the artist’s trademark “mental images” replicated from memories of an artist living under occupation, exile and liberation, offering up a rich pattern of abstractions. Quotations from celebrated Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish are sprinkled throughout the book, providing a palpable link between past and present.Of particular interest is Sabella’s progress from witness to exile to freedom and, finally, independence. According to von Amelunxen, Sabella’s artwork speaks directly to modern-day concerns, such as displacement and migration.

Lisa Pollman Art Radar

This 208-page hardback cover is Steve Sabella’s first monograph, which looks at the Palestinian artist’s work over the last two decades. The cover is a detail of a work from 2014 entitled Sinopia. “I wanted the text on the cover to be as discreet as possible, because I wanted the work to speak for itself.”

Canvas Art Magazine Dubai

Interspersed with the collections of Sabella’s photographs are the sections of an extended essay by von Amelunxen. He offers often illuminating readings of Sabella’s art, and places the work into context — both biographical and in relation to Palestinian art and literature. Citing the likes of poet Mahmoud Darwish, intellectual Edward Said and Boullata, as well as philosophers Walter Benjamin and Jacques Derrida, von Amelunxen draws out some of the themes suggested by Sabella’s visual explorations. Coming from a very established position in the European art hierarchy, von Amelunxen’s text is a fine example of how, while fully acknowledging the politics that affect the positioning of any Palestinian artist, Palestinian creativity still stands up to the most rigorous examinations of art criticism.

Sarah Irving | The Harrowed Hands of Palestine Electronic Intifada

"The monograph surveys Sabella’s astonishingly rich body of work, whose formal diversity shatters the illusion of a monolithic Palestinian experience just as its abstractions speak of the shared realities of oppression and resistance."

Kate Steinmann Prefix Photo

Journal of Palestine Studies

Dorothea Schöne

"Von Amelunxen provides a sophisticated perspective, and yet his is a gaze of an outsider from a different culture. By comparing Western and Middle Eastern scholarship and theoretical frameworks for artistic practice, he nevertheless builds a profound framework for possible perceptions, analysis, and understandings of Sabella’s work: After the Last Sky (part 1), Disentanglement (part 2), Cut (part 3), Palimpsest (part 4), Translation (part 5), and Counterpoint (part 6) provide six different angles from which the work can and/or could be seen and analyzed. In each discourse, writings by Martin Heidegger are as much taken into consideration as those of Mahmud Darwish, René Descartes as much as al-Hasan Ibn al-Haytham, Edward Said as much as Achille Bonito Oliva or Vilèm Flusser."


Book launch + Film Screening

The Photographers' Gallery | London

"Steve Sabella is considered one of the most thriving artists from Palestine today. The 15-minute-documentary gives an insider view of the artist's practice, in which photographic technique and material experiments become a necessary tool of introspection and visual investigation of the past. In dark, fluid and deliberate images, personal narratives come to light in the darkroom - the womb that brings images and imaginations to life."

Download the press release

In The Darkroom With Steve Sabella

“When you are in the darkroom, you don’t speak with anyone. The only thing you speak with is … art.”


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