A new (art) history of the Middle East?


On September 8, an exhibition billed as “the broadest single overview of Arab art to be shown in the UK to date” opened at the Whitechapel Gallery in London.

Kamal Boullata La Ana Illa Ana (There Is No ‘I’ But ‘I’) 1983 Silkscreen 60 x 40 cm Image Courtesy of Meem Gallery / Barjeel Art Foundation, Sharjah
Kamal Boullata
La Ana Illa Ana (There Is No ‘I’ But ‘I’) 1983 Silkscreen 60 x 40 cm
Image Courtesy of Meem Gallery / Barjeel Art Foundation, Sharjah

By the time it finishes in 2017, more than 100 works from Sheikh Sultan Sooud Al Qassemi’s Sharjah-based Barjeel Art Foundation will have featured in Imperfect Chronology: Arab Art from the Modern to the Contemporary in a series of four separate chronological exhibitions that will chart the development of Arab art and aesthetics from their 20th-century origins to the present.

The show’s curator, Omar Kholeif, has described the exhibition as an attempt to outline “a possible trajectory of recent Arab art” at a “time of hyperactivity across the Arab art world”, which in plain English amounts to an ambitious statement of intent.

The Cairo-born and London-based Kholeif is uniquely qualified to make such statements, being both a product of and participant in the “hyperactivity” he describes.

In 2014, the Dubai-based Canvas Magazine named Kholeif, who also acts as a senior editor at Ibraaz, a website and biannual online publication dedicated to the visual culture of North Africa and the Middle East, as one of the 50 most powerful people in the Middle Eastern art world, and since then his stock has only risen.

For the rest of this article, please see The National

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