Art & Culture

Art from Sharjah to travel to New York

Barjeel Art Foundation’s exhibition "Taking Shape: Abstraction from the Arab World, 1950s–1980s" to rethink mid-century abstract art in Middle East and beyond. On view at New York University’s Grey Art Gallery January 14–April 4, 2020
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Ahmed Cherkaoui (Morocco) Les miroirs rouges (Red Mirrors), 1965. Oil on jute, 9 1/4 x 11 1/4 in. Collection of the Barjeel Art Foundation, Sharjah, UAE

Artworks from the collection of the Barjeel Art Foundation in Sharjah will be presented at New York University’s Grey Art Gallery as part of the upcoming exhibition Taking Shape: Abstraction from the Arab World, 1950s–1980s, a collaborative project between the two institutions. 

The exhibition will be accompanied by a book of essays by prominent personalities from the world of arts and cultureincluding three UAE-based authors – Salwa Mikdadi, Associate Professor, Practice of Art History, NYU Abu Dhabi; Sultan Sooud Al Qassemi, founder of the Barjeel Art Foundation, and lecturer and researcher on social, political, and cultural affairs in the GCC region; and Suheyla Takesh, Curator at the Barjeel Art Foundation. 

Taking Shape: Abstraction from the Arab World, 1950s–1980s explores the development of abstraction in the Arab world via paintings, sculpture, and works on paper dating from the 1950s through the 1980s. By looking critically at the history and historiography of mid-20th century abstraction, the exhibition considers art from North Africa and West Asia as integral to the discourse on global modernism. At its heart, the project will raise a fundamental art historical question: How do we study abstraction across different contexts and what models of analysis do we use?


Examining how and why artists investigated the expressive capacities of line, color, and texture, Taking Shape will highlight a number of abstract movements that developed in the Middle East, North Africa, and West Asia, as well as the Arab diaspora. Across these regions, individual artists and artist collectives grappled with issues of authenticity, national and regional identity, and the decolonization of culture. The exhibition will feature nearly 90 works by a diverse group of artists, such as Etel Adnan, Shakir Hassan Al Said, Kamal Boullata, Huguette Caland, Ahmed Cherkaoui, Saloua Raouda Choucair, Rachid Koraïchi, Mohamed Melehi, and Hassan Sharif. On view will be works produced by artists from countries including Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine, Qatar, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, and the UAE.

Curated and organized by Suheyla Takesh and Lynn Gumpert, Director of the Grey Art Gallery, the exhibition will run from January 14 through April 4, 2020.

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