Tapestry of Sabra and Shatila massacres could hang next to Picasso’s Guernica

Palestinian art collector has commissioned a wall hanging based on Iraqi artist Dia al-Azzawi’s drawing, which is now in the Tate

A giant tapestry depicting the massacres at Sabra and Shatila in Lebanon in 1982 may go on display alongside Picasso’s Guernica in the Reina Sofía museum in Madrid.

Ramzi Dalloul, a Palestinian businessman and collector of Arab art, has commissioned the Royal Tapestry Factory in Madrid to transform Iraqi artist Dia al-Azzawi’s drawing of the atrocity into a 21-sq.-m wall hanging.

Dalloul said that a dozen weavers are working on the project. On a visit to the 300-year-old factory when work on the tapestry started, the Spanish culture minister asked Dalloul if the finished piece could be displayed alongside Picasso’s Guernica. Dalloul says: “Of course, we accepted [the invitation].” The tapestry is expected to be completed in about a year.

Al-Azzawi made his original ink-and-crayon drawing in response to the slaughter of hundreds of Palestinians by Lebanese Christian militia groups in areas under control of the Israeli military. He completed the large work in 1983. Two years ago, the Tate in London bought Al-Azzawi’s original drawing. The work is now on loan for an exhibition of the artist’s work at the Mathaf Arab Museum of Modern Art and the Qatar Museums Gallery Al Riwaq in Doha (until 16 April 2017).

The Tate has collaborated with Dalloul on the tapestry project, the collector’s son Basel says. The gallery enabled technicians employed by Ramzi Dalloul to take “extensive high-resolution photographs of every quadrant of the drawing, then [the tapestry factory] used those as guides,” he adds. Al-Azzawi has also been involved in the project.

Dalloul commissioned the tapestry for display in a new museum he intends to build in Lebanon for his collection.