Culture trumps politics with modern Arab art show in Iran

 Tehran Museum’s The Sea Suspended seeks to bridge boundaries

Marguerite Nakhla, Scene dans le parc (around 1940s). Image courtesy of the Barjeel Art Foundation

Modern art by Arab artists will take over the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art (TMoCA) this November. The Sea Suspended: Arab Modernism from the Barjeel Collection (8 November to 23 December) will include around 40 works made between the 1940s and the 1990s from across the Arab world. The works are drawn from the extensive collection of the Barjeel Art Foundation, which is based in Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates. It will be the first time a show of modern Arab art has taken place in Iran, according to the foundation.

Shakir Hassan, Jala Aidun (Evacuation, We Will Return) (1983). Image: Courtesy of the Barjeel Art Foundation

Given the political tensions in the region, the exhibition marks a significant moment of cultural diplomacy between Tehran and Sharjah. “Art is important in that it allows experiences to be shared, even across the boundaries of language or culture,” said the director of TMoCA, Majid Mollanorouzi, in a statement. “This is of even more importance when we work together with organisations from the region.”

The title of the show, The Sea Suspended, is taken from a poem by the Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish. “The image of a temporarily suspended sea as a way to bridge everyday boundaries that are difficult to cross seemed appropriate,” said Karim Sultan, a curator at the Barjeel Art Foundation. A publication on the exhibition containing discussions on the similarities and distinctions between Arab and Iranian modern art will be released during Art Dubai in March 2017.

The exhibition is the result of extended negotiations between a small network of individuals and galleries working between Iran and other countries in the region. Discussions began between the Barjeel Art Foundation and Sanaz Askari, the Iranian founder of The Mine Gallery in Dubai. She put the foundation in touch with Ehsan Rasoulof, the founder of Mohsen Gallery, who had recently exhibited contemporary Arab artists in Tehran. Together they helped facilitate the exhibition at TMoCA.

Kadhim Hayder, Fatigued Ten Horses Converse with Nothing (The Martyr’s Epic) (1965). Image: Courtesy of the Barjeel Art Foundation

The Sea Suspended is the latest in a growing number of international shows exploring 20th-century Arab art. They include the Imperfect Chronology series at the Whitechapel Gallery, London, The Short Century at Sharjah Art Museum, and the travelling exhibition Baby Elephants Die Alone: Rupture, War and Surrealism in Egypt, which is set to open at the Georges Pompidou Centre, Paris, on 28 September. “The growing popularity of contemporary Arab art in the last 15 years has fuelled an interest in the modern period so as to give historical context to new works,” Sultan says.

Originally posted on The Art Newspaper.



Palestinian Museum’s first satellite show opens in Beirut

1970s Dress from At the Seams. Photo: Christian Moussa for The Palestinian Museum. Courtesy of Dar El-Nimer for Arts and Culture.

The Palestinian Museum’s first satellite show is opened on 25 May at Dar El-Nimer for Arts and Culture, a new art space in Beirut.

At the Seams: a Political History of Palestinian Embroidery (until 30 July) reveals the activist side of fashion in Palestine. The exhibition presents more than 50 garments from the extensive Widad Kawar and Malak al-Husseini Abdulrahim collections of Arab dress. The dresses are accompanied by a number of photographs, posters and paintings, some of which are from the El-Nimer collection, as well as video interviews documenting the craft.

Abdulrahman al-Muzzayen, Salam, 1978. Oil on canvas. 82.5 x 62.5cm. From the collection of Rula Alami. Photo: Christian Moussa for The Palestinian Museum. Courtesy of Dar El-Nimer for Arts and Culture.

Also on display will be a number of rarely exhibited ‘intifada dresses’. These are a style of dress specifically designed to promote the First Intifada in the late 1980s and early 1990s. They include nationalist motifs including the flag and map of Palestine.

Installation view of the Intifada dresses from At the Seams. Photo: Christian Moussa for The Palestinian Museum. Courtesy of Dar El-Nimer for Arts and Culture.

The exhibition’s curator Rachel Dedman travelled across Palestine, Lebanon and Jordan to research the show, meeting and interviewing over 50 male and female embroiderers. A new publication, launching in Beirut on 15 June, will include her original research into the history of embroidery-producing organisations from 1925 to 2015.

At the Seams is the first exhibition at Dar El-Nimer, which opened on 11 May in west Beirut. Its founder, Rami El-Nimer, says that the foundation’s collaboration with the Palestinian Museum was “a symbolic gesture” and part of its mission to recognise Palestinian heritage and community.

Contemporary Embroidery from At the Seams. Photo: Christian Moussa for The Palestinian Museum. Courtesy of Dar El-Nimer for Arts and Culture.

Dar El-Nimer will offer its space for a variety of cultural events and exhibitions but will also draw from its own collection of Islamic art and Orientalist painting as well as Modern and contemporary art from the Middle East.

Midad: a Journey Through the Arabic Script is the first show from El-Nimer’s collection of around 2,500 items. It will open in January 2017 and is currently being researched by Alain George, an Islamic art historian and University of Edinburgh professor.

The Palestinian Museum is in the town of Birzeit, north of Jerusalem. Inaugurated on 18 May, the $30m museum has 3,500 sq. m of exhibition and educational space, and focuses on the history and culture of Palestine from 1750 to the present.


Originally posted on The Art Newspaper.