What is Contemporary Arab art? “No Comment”

Waiting is Forbidden by Mona Hatoum

Waiting is Forbidden by Mona Hatoum

In interview with The New York Times in 2009, Emily Jacir (winner of  Venice Biennales golden lion prize) answered ‘ NO Comment’ to a question asking her to confirms her birthplace, Jacir’s point of origin has been variously Traces to ( West Bank, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and the united states)

In doing so, Jacir enables the body of the Diasporas artist to challenge both art histories’ trusty analytical category of the nation state and the contemporary art world’s capitalist need to localize artists and their production.

There is no doubt that in the twenty –first century the world is hypes up about contemporary art from the region geopolitical designated as the Middle East. How politically or economically designated as the Middle East how politically or economically minded has the motivation behind this recognition been is debatable .as is the nature of this recognition .

The Haus der Kulturen der Wekt in Berlin, DisORIENTation: contemporary arab art from the Middke East, curated by Jack Persekian, said:

Tarek Al Ghoussein

Tarek Al Ghoussein

“The new generation of artists and intellectuals in the Middle East are breaking the mould in creative circle. They reject all attempts to categorize them collectively and are as critical of the western conception of the orient as they are of the social conditions encountered in the region. The new area is political, one which reflects on moral values and to dominate religious and political code. Arab artists and intellectuals ponder intensively over how to dismantle the west’s image of the orient; meanwhile the stereotypical conception prevalent in the west live on.”

This statement provides a good general description of how the few examples of Arab art that reach the west are presented and perceived. Nevertheless, a Quiche review of Arab art of the twentieth century revels the it has always been political and engaged with the dynamic forces of its time, local; and global. In spite of the visual production of the Middle East or the Arab world, there is a fundamental lack of knowledge of what preceded that contemporary art production.

 Arwa Abouon

Arwa Abouon

What is Arab art?

How should its production be analyzed, evaluated, critiqued?

How should we write and talk about it, and in what context does it fit?

This confusion stems from many years of refusing to acknowledge that the Arab world had contemporary art-and at the heart of this problem laid the issue of Orientalism and euro-American centrism.



A modern vision ?

Learning form and imitation of western art was a necessary step for Arad artists in renewing their creativity, it was a means rather than an end. Arab artist’s rapidly moved on from this stage in search of an art that could represent their identities and new national consciousness. In this way they arrived at a nonrepresentational art with roots in their own heritage through which they could attempt intellectual and casual reconciliations of their present and past.


Nevertheless, the main problematic in Arab modern art, since the second half of the twentieth century, has been in hoe to



define its ‘arabness’: how could Arab artists produce an art that

would be fundamentally Arabic? (Curiously, it’s not asked of, say, contemporary American or French art)

War in the Middle East has been, without doubt, the foremost driver of world interests in modern and contemporary Arab art during the last two decades-particularly if these works fitted within the framework of globalization.

New effects?

–         NGOs and the public sphere

Tarek Al Ghoussein

Tarek Al Ghoussein

–          Collecting and exhibiting Arab contemporary art in European museums (British,…ets)

–          The new geographies Diaspora and contemporary Arab art.(Iraqi artists in Amman,…ets)

–          Globalization and war

–          New vernacular design language

2005– Abu Dhabi authority for culture and heritage established

–          First Moroccan pavilion in Venice.

–          Alexandria  contemporary arts forum founded

Adel Abdin

Adel Abdin

–          First Riwaq Biennale for Art and architecture in Ramallah

2006– Abu Dhabi announces plans for modern art museum of Saadiyat island (expected completion dates: Louvre by       2012 and Guggenheim by 2013)

–          Chrisies’s auction house hold first auction of modern and contemporary Arab art, Dubai

–          International academy of  Palestine established in Ramallah

–          Qatar announcers plan for Arab museum for Modern art

2007 – First Lebanese pavilion in Venice Biennale

Arwa Abouon

Arwa Abouon

–          Emily Jacir(Palestine) wins Venice Biennales golden lion prize

–          Christie’s auction house holds first auction of modern and contemporary Arab and Iranian art, London

–          First annual art Dubai fair

–          Museum of modern and contemporary art established in Algiers

2008 – Sotheby’s auction house holds first auction of modern and contemporary Arab and Iranian art, Dubai.

–          al-Mahatta Gallery established in Ramallah

–          Beirut Art Center established in Beirut

–          Dubai Culture and Arts authority established

–          Museum of Islamic art opens in Doha, Qatar.

2009 – Sotheby’s auction house holds first auction of modern and contemporary Arab and Iranian art, Doha, Qatar.

–          Bahrain international cultural art center scheduled to open

–          First UAE Pavilion in Venice Biennale.

–          First Palestinian collateral exhibition in Venice Biennale

Kadir Attia

Wafaa Bilal discusses Shoot an Iraqi

Mounir Fatmi

Adil Abidin

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