The dramatic turn of events that took place around the 2012 exhibition Printemps des Arts at the Palais Abdelliya in La Marsa, a suburb of Tunis, marked a significant moment in the history of fine art in Tunisia. The exhibition provoked a national debate: protests and threats were directed towards participating artists from religious fundamentalists. The affair was regrettable and scandalous. It presented a certain rupture or divide between Tunisia's artistic community and religious law's continued dominance over local society. Of course, it is easy to criticize the violent response against certain artworks on show in this exhibition that were considered blasphemous, but the events surrounding the exhibition also had the potential to inscribe contemporary art within public debate and to bring to light the work of artists who are often overlooked and recognized only among a small number of amateurs and specialists. Yet, it is surprising that no critical dialogue (aesthetic or anthropological) has taken place in Tunisia around the exhibition itself and the work it contained, though there have been attempts.
Farah Makni Hendaoui, 28 August 2013