Thanks to a series of carefully curated exhibitions at major institutions throughout London this summer, the British capital is as good a place as any from which to assess the recent past and potential future for contemporary culture in the Arab and wider Muslim world.
While the Design Museum is hosting a show dedicated to the work of the Tunisian couturier Azzedine Alaia, the work of the eight shortlisted finalists for the fifth Jameel Prize can be seen on display at the Victoria and Albert Museum.
At the other end of Exhibition Road a 20-metre-tall pyramid, The London Mastaba, floats improbably on the Serpentine, the star exhibit in a show that chronicles Christo’s unrequited, four-decade-long love affair with Abu Dhabi, where the 83-year-old artist still hopes to build the largest sculpture in the world.
At the other end of the scale, a display of newly acquired and very mundane objects – a milk bottle, magazines, cigarette packages, a banknote and a vinyl record – strikes just the right note at the British Museum. They are used alongside a video installation by the artist Maha Maamoun in her exhibition The Past is Present: becoming Egyptian in the 20th Century to investigate the interplay between ancient heritage and modern Egyptian identities.
And yet it is another modestly-sized show that also aims to bring something of Cairo to London that takes the prize for the exhibition with the best sense of timing.
Staged at The Mosaic Rooms, What do you mean, here we are? commemorates the 20th anniversary of Cairo’s famous Townhouse Gallery and is also part of a series of exhibitions mounted to celebrate The Mosaic Rooms’ tenth anniversary.
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