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Posts Tagged ‘Middle Eastern art’

Important ArtInsight conference on Middle Eastern art market in London – event alert

Posted by artradar on October 6, 2010


MIDDLE EAST CONTEMPORARY ART LONDON CONFERENCES

ArtInsight, the events partner of leading art market research firm, ArtTactic, has organised what we think looks to be a very important conference for early October in London. State of the Art – Middle East [The Future of the Middle East Contemporary Art Market] will focus on trends and opportunities in the Middle Eastern contemporary art scene.

Artwork by Houria Niati. Image courtesy of Janet Rady Fine Art.

Artwork by Houria Niati. Image courtesy of Janet Rady Fine Art.

As detailed in the latest press release from ArtInsight, State of the Art – Middle East will include talks and in-depth panel discussions with leading figures from all facets of the Middle Eastern art world, including curators, gallerists, consultants, museum professionals, artists, patrons/collectors, auction house specialists and art market experts. With this event, ArtInsight hopes to provide an comprehensive insider’s perspective of both market and artistic trends in the Middle East today, and into the future.

Key issues and topics to be explored and debated at State of the Art – Middle East will include:

  • The impact of substantial museum building plans and activities throughout the region
  • Collector opportunities: The effect of the rapid and growing visibility of Middle Eastern artists across the international art scene and art market
  • The significance of the roles of auction houses, art fairs and galleries, in the development of the region’s art market

Leading speakers listed are:

  • Lulu Al-Sabah: Founding Partner, JAMM-Art
  • Alia Al-Senussi: Collector, Curator and Advisor
  • Bashar Al-Shroogi: Director, Cuadro Fine Art Gallery (Dubai)
  • Maryam Homayoun Eisler: Leading Patron/Collector and Contributing Editor
  • John Martin: Co-founder and former Fair Director, Art Dubai
  • Ahmed Mater: Artist
  • Jessica Morgan: Curator, Contemporary Art, Tate Modern
  • Anders Petterson: Founder and Managing Director, ArtTactic
  • Dr Venetia Porter: Curator, Islamic and Contemporary Middle East, The British Museum
  • Janet Rady: Director, Janet Rady Fine Art
  • Stephen Stapleton: Director, Edge of Arabia
  • Steve Sabella: Artist
  • Roxane Zand: Director, Middle East & Gulf Region, Sotheby’s
  • Conference Moderator Jeffrey Boloten: Co-founder and Managing Director, ArtInsight

State of the Art – Middle East [The Future of the Middle East Contemporary Art Market] will take place on Friday 8 October this year and runs from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. at Asia House in London. The £195 conference fee includes a Halal lunch and there is a student discount available. For bookings, visit www.artinsight.eventbrite.com.

MS/KN

Related Topics: Middle Eastern artistspromoting art, art market

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Posted in Advisors, Asia expands, Business of art, Collectors, Conference, Critic, Curators, Directors, Events, Gallerists/dealers, Globalization of art, London, Middle Eastern, Professionals, Resources, Scholars, Trends, UK, Venues, Writers | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

First ever Moroccan art fair to launch in October

Posted by artradar on August 24, 2010


MARRAKECH MOROCCO ART FAIRS ARAB ART

In October this year, the tourist hotspot Marrakech, Morocco, will host the country’s first modern and contemporary art fair. The fair points towards a growing trend of interest and investment in art in the Middle East where Dubai, currently the top art city in the Middle East, is facing increasing competition from upcoming art ventures in Abu Dhabi and Sharjah. (Read our report on this recent trend.)

Gjdn Neshat's 'Untitled96'. Neshat is a participant at this year's Marrakech Art Fair.

Gjdn Neshat's 'Untitled96'. Neshat is a participant in this year's Marrakech Art Fair.

Morocco, characteristically, is a country that culturally and geographically straddles the “east meets west” junction. That the Marrakech Art Fair shares some of these characteristics make it all the more special. Out of the thirty galleries exhibiting at the fair, half come from the Arab world, primarily North Africa while the other half come from Europe. For art lovers, this could provide an incredible opportunity to sample international contemporary art.

The city also plans to host simultaneous art events throughout the days of the fair. Some of these are special exhibitions at select museums and galleries in Marrakech. The idea behind engaging the city as a giant art fair in itself is to offer rare insights into Moroccan heritage and its contemporary art world.

The Marrakech Museum, for example, is hosting “Resonance: Contemporary Moroccan artists across the world”, which showcases fifteen artists of Moroccan origin who are based outside of Morocco. Inventing and re-thinking ideas of identity versus the global, these artists will work through various mediums such as painting, installation and video art to map new thoughts about the reality of art in Morocco. Another interesting intervention looks at the culmination of popular culture and art. Six graffiti artists will create spontaneous art to the music of Moroccan rapper BIGG over the period of one night.

Zoulikha Bouabdellah's 'Love'. Bouabdellah is a participant in this year's Marrakech Art Fair.

Zoulikha Bouabdellah's 'Love'. Bouabdellah is a participant in this year's Marrakech Art Fair.

Other events include talks such as the panel discussions led by Roxana Azimi, a specialist in the international art market, that will deal with the twin issues of “Art market in the Arab world” and “The role of patrons and collectors.” Pascel Amel, a writer and director, will lead a debate on “Art in Morocco at the dawn of globalization.” The talks seem to be marked with hope and enthusiasm for the place of Moroccan art in the world market as well as a belief in the possibility of internal development.

Fifteen of the galleries invited to the fair will respond to a set theme of “From Orientalism to nowadays.” The Jean Brolly gallery is one such participant that intends to showcase work by two artists of different origins – Mahjoud Ben Bella and Francois Morellet. Local galleries are active participants at the fair. The Tindouf Gallery and the Galerie 127 are based in Marrakech itself. Other galleries that are showing at the fair come from Tunisia, the UAE, France and Morocco. The fair will be held from 9 to 11 October this year. For more details, visit the fair’s website.

AM/KN

Related Topics: art fairs, Middle Eastern art, promoting art

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Posted in Africa, Asia expands, Business of art, Crossover art, Fairs, Globalisation, Middle East, Promoting art, Venues | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Antonia Carver named Art Dubai director, lends Middle Eastern art insight to fair

Posted by artradar on July 22, 2010


ART PROFESSIONALS ART INDUSTRY APPOINTMENTS MIDDLE EASTERN ART INDUSTRY

Antonia Carver, an arts writer and administrator who is often credited with pushing contemporary Middle Eastern art into the limelight, has been named Fair Director of Art Dubai. She succeeds co-founder John Martin, who remains on the fair’s board.

Carver has been living in Dubai for the past eight years and is currently editor-at-large of Bidoun Magazine and director of Bidoun Projects. She has been a member of this renowned Middle Eastern arts organisation since its founding in 2004 and will remain on their board.

Antonia Carver at the 2009 Dubai International Film Festival.

Antonia Carver at the 2009 Dubai International Film Festival. Taken from zimbio.com.

The fifth edition of Art Dubai takes place in March 2011, coinciding with Sharjah Biennial 10, and as quoted on ARTINFO,

Officials from the fair say that they plan to work closely with the Sharjah Biennale to raise the international awareness of artists from the Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia as they expand into those regions. Recently there has been a surge in contemporary art in the Middle East, as wealthy locals have flocked to international and regional art fairs, snapping up works along the way.

So what changes, if any, does new Fair Director Antonia Carver aim to make to Art Dubai? As she points out in an interview with Time Out Dubai,

“Any fair is ultimately a place to do business, but Art Dubai is also one of the city’s premier cultural events. We’re continuing with the Global Art Forum and projects, as well as educational events, and there’s more to come. At the last fair I was the director of Bidoun Projects: we commissioned projects such as artist Daniel Bozhkov’s ‘World’s Fastest Tour of Art Dubai’. We want to continue with these types of events – they’re different to what other fairs do and they’re a way to help audiences interact with the work.”

She has a deep knowledge and understanding of Middle Eastern contemporary art although, as she states in a 2008 interview with ForYourArt, this is a term only recently coined:

“Dubai has – dramatically – established itself as a commercial art capital in the last 2-3 years. This has meant that for the first time, in commercial terms at least, it’s possible to refer to ‘Middle Eastern art,’ and compare this nascent market with India, China, Latin America, and so on.”

On the Middle Eastern art market she is quoted as saying in The Art Newspaper that…

“There’s never been such a level of international interest in the region and its art and culture. There is a new maturity in the market with a group of young Emirati and UAE-based collectors who are interested in how the market works and are looking at international as well as regional artists.”

Carver graduated in 1994 and since then has worked in publishing and the arts in Sydney, Australia and London. She was a correspondent for The Art Newspaper and has contributed to journals, newspapers and exhibition catalogues worldwide. As a film curator, she is a member of the programming teams for the Dubai International Film Festival and Edinburgh International Film Festival, specialising in Arab and Iranian cinema.

KN

Related Topics: Middle Eastern artists, events – fairs, art professionals

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Posted in Antonia Carver, Business of art, Directors, Events, Fairs, Middle East, Professionals, Promoting art, Venues | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Interventions explore art industry relationships in curator Meenakshi Thirukode’s Guild Art Gallery show: interview

Posted by artradar on June 24, 2010


ART GALLERY SHOW ASIAN ART IDENTITY CURATOR INTERVIEW

Structures Within an Intervention, a show that was on at The Guild Art Gallery, New York, was centered on the various relationships that exist in the art world. Relationships that determine the place of an artist, curator, dealer, buyer, critic and the spectator in relationship with each other under the institutional umbrella of a gallery space, function as the central premise for an interventionist re-thinking of the lines between artist, curator and spectator.

The show consisted of five “interventions“, scheduled at specific times, which were open for anyone to witness. With each intervention, the meaning of the work and the artist’s intention were reworked into a new context. Participating artists and artist collaborators included Afruz Amighi, Anindita Dutta, Divya Mehra, Fawad Khan, Mariam Ghani, Michael Buhler RoseNidhi Jalan, Rajkamal Kahlon, artist project Redo Pakistan (Fatima Hussain and Hamja Ahsan), Swati Khurana and Vandana Jain.

Intervention #1 Town Hall Meeting

Intervention #1 by Town Hall Meeting

Art Radar Asia spoke with Meenakshi Thirukode, curator of “Structures Within an Intervention”, about the show and the various issues that have arisen within and from the interventions.

How did “Structures Within an Intervention” come about?

All of my curatorial projects are essentially dialogs – a continuation of dialog to be precise. For me curating is one form of trying to find answers or just have a conversation or perhaps even find some kind of reconciliation between the idea of the institution and the idea of the individual. So, when The Guild Art Gallery asked me to curate a project for them, one of these dialogs manifested as “Structures Within An Intervention.” I don’t work from the standpoint of thematic contexts. I think that’s a regressive way of contextualizing any practice. There has to be some kind of deeper more genuine search.To go beyond expectations, categories, niches: it’s the need to have that conversation and have it materialize as projects that are physical or ephemeral, definite or indefinite that is my focus.

“Structures Within an Intervention” features contemporary artists of Asian origin and a few of these artists straddle multiple media and follow specific ideologies. How did you select artists and works for this show?

The premise was already laid out for me by the institution. As The Guild gallery focuses on South Asian and Middle Eastern artists, I had to function within those parameters, so to speak. This was a perfect scenario because it is in a sense reflective of how contexts are created based on this very focused mission of commercial institutions. In a way, this is the gallery’s identity, one that it has every right to define just as artists or even curators define their own (by choice or by contexts others build around him/her). So how do all of these structures work then? What do we have to say beyond this obvious friction between institution and individual and all of the hierarchies within it? That is something we are trying to get at here.

I chose artists that I’ve been working with since I started to “function” in the art world as a writer and curator. I’ve written about their work or curated them in other projects. I’ve done so because I connect to their work and to me it’s important to nurture that relationship, to see the work progress, evolve, change or perhaps remain as is. Whatever the case might be my relationship to all these artists is important in terms of my curatorial practice and what my work is about – some I’ve known since the start of my career and others I am getting to know along the years. This continuity is pertinent to my work and given the premise under which I was asked to curate the show, it was a perfect segue into exploring all the intricacies and structures so to speak between artist, curator, gallery, collective and all the other myriad categories under which we all function in the art world.

The works were chosen predominantly by talking to the artist about this premise and seeing what they thought would work best. In that way, I was playing with the idea of authority and control – is it the curator who has the control and so called authority to choose the work or did it transfer to the artist? Or did I, as curator, allow the transfer of authority to artist in choosing the work they wanted to be a part of the project. Of course less romanticized factors like availability of the work also played a role in what work was ultimately part of the show.

It seems the interventions essentially seek to question some defined norms of social relations, personal and public, and institutional hierarchies under the umbrella of which we all seem to operate. Do these interventions manifest themselves via the work/the artist/the curator, or via the interaction of all of them? How, then, is it a move away from or within the defined systems of collectives/curatorial practice/artist as the creator of meaning?

Freedom is an interesting word. Because we presume we have freedom but most likely we don’t. From the start of the project, the way it culminated, the responses of artists and those invited to intervene, all of it embodied this notion of freedom and control and who was giving it and how much of it. Five interventions were set to take place and four of the interveners were artists whose practice extends beyond just their ‘individual’ practice to put it in simple terms. Parlour is a curatorial duo (Leslie Rosa-Stumpf and Ciara Gilmartin) and has proposed an intervention that will re-curate the exhibition in an attempt to bring the participating artists’ practices into a broader contemporary dialogue—not one tied to a definitive cultural milieu.  New artists will be invited to be part of the conversation. Parlour alone functions predominantly as a curatorial duo but since their intervention is still to take place the context of their interaction is ambiguous. Town Hall Meeting (THM) describe themselves as performative art historians, AD HOC VOX‘s (AHV) Colleen Asper and Jennifer Dudley are artists but as AHV they are having their own critical dialogs about varied ideas both within and outside of what we call contemporary art. SHIFTER is a publication Sreshta Premnath co-founded with another artist. Greshams Ghost is Ajay Kurian, an artist who functions within the norms of a curator under this insignia.

Intervention #2 Ad Hoc Vox

Intervention #2 Ad Hoc Vox

Interestingly the four interventions that have taken place have all been more of a performance or what would seem like an artist’s intervention rather than a curatorial intervention. Of Course Parlour’s intervention is yet to take place so we would have to wait to see what they do. There was no sense of inclusion/exclusion or a presence of authority and control as would define a ‘curator’.

If work was being placed as in the case of AHV and Greshams Ghost, I did not tell them where to place it. They chose where to place the works. There was no attempt to move away from anything really because I don’t think exact defined roles exist in what we all do. How do we define performance even? During AHV’s intervention Swati Khurana, an artist in the show, did a performance with her grandmother called Lesson 1, which involved them knitting a ball of red yarn together concurrent to a reading that Colleen and Jennifer performed after installing their artwork in specific sites around the gallery space. We then celebrated her grandmom’s 80th birthday with a surprise birthday cake – is that performance? Did I, by suggesting we get cake, lead everyone into a performance no one knew they were participating in? Is that curatorial control then?

For instance, I have a blueprint on the wall where I’ve been documenting whatever has been placed or left behind or performed in the gallery space. It is a blueprint/a record in flux. In a way I am trying to exude control but do I have any? And by virtue of placing this blueprint on a wall am I functioning as an artist? Or am I strictly a curator? Are the interveners artists or curators or critics? Are they institutions since they have built an identity and a ‘brand’ with logos and mission statements separate from who they are as artists or writers? In fact, I have a logo and have created this pseudo institution of myself called MT Productions. So what does that make me? All those definitions and roles then seem redundant and I am just trying to see if that’s a justifiable statement through this project.

Intervention # 3 Shifter (Shresta Rit Premnath)

Intervention # 3 by Shifter (Sreshta Premnath)

There are set dates and times for these interventions. Do these interventions, in themselves, become performative? Is the essential quality of the show dependent upon viewers witnessing these interventions? If yes, how so?

Viewer interaction was very key in all the interventions. With Town Hall Meeting and SHIFTER they were participants rather than mere ‘viewers’. While with AHV and Greshams Ghost it was more of an opening reception/reading/panel discussion kind of interaction.

Town Hall Meeting had prepared a questionnaire based on their reading of postcolonial theorists as well as essays and texts on the notion of the ‘other’. So the participant would sit with them, in a make shift tent they made in the gallery, thereby making it a small more comforting space within the abstract gallery space, and answer the questions. THM is in the process of compiling the answers.

Shifter’s intervention involved looking at works with torchlights while Trin T Minh-ha‘s lecture played. So the role of this ‘viewer’ has also been a point of exploration within established structures.

Many Asian artists, increasingly because of international gallery representations and greater exposure to international markets, fairs and increased interest in Asian art, have attained a global status. Their works are international in spirit but often deal with themes of displacement, identity and are culturally specific. Additionally, most artists featured in this show are international artists of Asian origin. How do these themes appear in this show? In the interventions so far, how have the artists responded to re-contextualizing their works?

The artists were chosen either because they were of South Asian or Middle-Eastern origin or had some connection to the region as embodied in their practice. This was a conscious choice reaffirmed to work within the gallery’s vision as well so as to have that ever-present dialog and debate of choosing artists and creating contexts based on nationality.

The process of inviting artists was interesting. So was the process of inviting those who would function as interventions. Most accepted to be a part of the show as artists while some had issues with being contextualized based on their South Asian identity, even though the point of the project was to set it up that way so that we could deal with all the problems associated with it. And that was great! It shows how some artists can be very cautious of how their work is being contextualized. It shows a need for control, perhaps. And so even before the project materialized here we were negotiating control! Here was a strain of dialog that’s always running through every other debate on the ‘other’ identity, the ‘non-Western’ identity, that was more pronounced now that we were specifically talking about a project that was ironically trying to discuss the problems of such contexts and if at all it can be resolved here.

Intervention #4 Greshams Ghost

Intervention #4 by Greshams Ghost

In terms of responding to the actual interventions it’s always been positive and interesting when they give their feedback. They have been more open to all these different interactions and contexts. No sense of losing control even though it could have run through their mind at some point, I suppose. I can’t speak for them but it also brings up the notion of trust in my mind. The fact that I know most of them at a personal level, if not all, it’s less formal, so to speak. I mean of course there are consignment agreements and everything else related to formal structures between gallery and artists but there is still a sense of community here between all participants.

Do you plan a finale for the last day of the show?

There’s no finale. The project in its materialization at The Guild ceases to exist. The dialog still goes on.

Meenakshi Thirukode is a writer and curator based in New York. She graduated with honors for art critical and historical development from the masters program at Christie’s Education, New York. She has written for leading Indian newspaper The Hindu, and is a columnist for White Wall Magazine‘s online daily as well as artconcerns.com. Thirukode serves on the Christie’s Alumni Society Board (New York).

AM/KN

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Xu Zhen takes on Middle Eastern identities and cultures as the new artists’ collective alias Madeln at the Ikon Gallery, UK

Posted by artradar on June 16, 2010


MADEIN ARTIST COLLECTIVE CHINESE ART UK GALLERY SHOW

Seeing One’s Own Eyes is the first European exhibition by MadeIn, a new artists’ collective founded in 2009 in Shanghai by Xu Zhen (b. 1977, Shanghai), often heralded as one of the most important and renowned conceptual artists to have emerged from China since the 1990s.

While the work is all made in China, Madeln impersonates a fictional group of Middle Eastern artists, creating a kind of exhibition in disguise, “an exhibition of an exhibition.”  The use of this technique enables Xu to play down his personal identity.

Derived from “Made In”, two words that refer to manufacturing (with country of origin not specified), the name Madeln also phonetically translates into Chinese for “without a roof ” (‘méi d˘ı∙ng’), suggesting an openness to the collective’s work.

Through a range of media including sculpture, video and mixed-media installation, Madeln presents clichéd images of the Middle East, as a war-torn part of the world, associated with the oil industry, death, violence, human suffering and religious conflict. By raising issues of cultural perception, the exhibition encourages us to take a clearer view of current affairs in that region of the world.

The most recent work titled Hey, are you ready? (2009–2010) comprises of three large white sculptures made from polystyrene, one of the many by-products derived from the distillation of oil. These objects form neat, crisp packaging for the protection of loaded symbols including mosques, crescents, oil barrels and Kalashnikov rifles, revealed by negative space.

Spread (2009), a series of wall hangings covered with cartoon imagery, deal explicitly with the geographical politics of Israel, Palestine, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, China, Europe and the USA. Key political figures and scenarios are starkly drawn and exaggerated to billboard proportions, provoking and highlighting the often unconstructive and negative debates that are encountered in this area.

'Spread' by Madeln (2009) Mixed Media on Canvas, Courtesy the artist and ShanghART Gallery

'Spread' by Madeln (2009), mixed media on canvas. Courtesy the artist and ShanghART Gallery.

In Perfect Volume (2009) the toe-ends of combat desert boots create a circle on the floor representing a row of absent soldiers as imagined casualties. This references the eternity and infinity of the circle, and is further depicted in the piece Machine for Perpetual Motion (2009), a model of an oil pump, constructed meccano-style but made from razor wire. The energy needed for its movement is blatantly taken from an electrical socket.

The illusionary installation Calm (2009) is made of building debris, a carpet of bits of brick and rubble that is still at first glance. Slowly it reveals itself as animated, gently moving up and down as if it were breathing like the survivor of a bomb blast, trapped and awaiting rescue. This notion of destructive power also features in the low-level floor-based installationThe Colour of Heaven (2009), where mushroom clouds from atomic bomb explosions are placed under assorted glasses.

'The Colour of Heaven' by Madeln (2009) Glasses, painting Courtesy the artist and ShanghART Gallery

'The Colour of Heaven' by Madeln (2009), glasses, painting. Courtesy the artist and ShanghART Gallery.

The title of this exhibition refers to a verse in the Koran, “My way, and that of my followers, is to call you to God, on evidence as clear as seeing with one’s own eyes” (Sura 12, verse 108). Freely translated it is an opportunity for to reflect, a consideration of how we see – by “seeing one’s own eyes” – as much as what we see.

Seeing One’s Own Eyes” is a collaboration with S.M.A.K. (Belgium) and is on display at the Ikon Gallery, Birmingham, UK, until 11 July, 2010.

Two other articles regarding Xu Zhen’s Madeln and “Seeing One’s Own Eyes”, when the show was on display in other international locations, are:

RM/KN

Related Topics: Chinese artists, venues – UK, gallery shows

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Posted in Art as meditation, Cartoon, Chinese, Conceptual, Consumerism, Events, Fact and fiction blur, Found object, Gallery shows, Illustration, Installation, Middle Eastern, Political, Sculpture, Shows, UK, Video, War | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Art industry elite meet at inaugural Abu Dhabi Art fair

Posted by artradar on December 21, 2009


ART FAIRS

The inaugural Abu Dhabi Art fair opened to much fanfare on November 19th. The government-run Tourism Development and Investment Company (TDIC) organized the fair, along with the area’s new cultural district on Saadiyat Island.

The project features the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi by architect Frank Gehry, the Louvre Abu Dhabi by architect Jean Nouvel, the Performing Arts Centre by architect Zaha Hadid, the Maritime Museum by architect Tadao Ando, and the Sheikh Zayed National Museum by architect Foster + Partners Ltd.

In attendance at the event were big time players from the Western art world, including London’s White Cube, New York’s Acquavella Galleries, and Dubai’s Third Line and B21. Megacollector François Pinault along with Jeff Koons were in attendance as special patrons.

Jeff Koons on left, François Pinault on right.

According to ArtForum who covered the event, Abu Dhabi Art was really two fairs under one roof. On the one hand, there was a slew of young galleries from places like Bangalore, Damascus, and Dubai, showing works that ranged from calligraphic kitsch to more promising endeavors. The other fair was a higher-stakes arena, featuring major New York and European dealers.

Dealer Iwan Wirth, from Hauser & Wirth, in front of a large Louise Bourgeois spider

Hauser & Wirth brought a large Louise Bourgeois spider sculpture and Subodh Gupta skull, while White Cube offered sparkling paintings by Hirst. Tony Shafrazi hung his ’80s-themed stand with Basquiats, Warhols, and Harings. A consortium of seven dealers, including L&M Arts, Malingue, and Louis Carre & Cie, combined forces with Picassos and Légers.

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SF/KCE

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56 artist show Iran Inside Out – Will election unrest fan the debate about Iranian contemporary art?

Posted by artradar on June 30, 2009


IRANIAN CONTEMPORARY ART EXHIBITION US

New York’s Chelsea Art Museum is holding its “groundbreaking” exhibition Iran Inside Out (26 June to 5 September 2009) which features 35 artists living and working in Iran alongside 21 others living in the diaspora.

We are promised a “multifarious portrait of 56 contemporary Iranian artists challenging the conventional perceptions of Iran and Iranian art”. However, do not be at all surprised if unfolding events in Iran and the very art itself will result in heated debate and deep schisms about this interpretation.

Pooneh Maghazehe, Hell's Puerto Rico Performance Still, 2008 copyright artist

Pooneh Maghazehe, Hell's Puerto Rico Performance Still, 2008 copyright artist

The debate was ignited by ‘Unveiled’, a show of Middle Eastern art (half of it Iranian) at The Saatchi Gallery London in the early months of this year. The exhibition garnered plenty of critical attention but strongly divided views were expressed about the success of the organisers’ claim to overturn the cliched idea that the Middle East is synonymous with violence and intolerance.

According to Henry Chu of LA Times , “Unveiled is an exhibition which offers an alternate vision: the Middle East as a source of lively, stimulating contemporary art — informed by conflict, certainly, but not consumed by it.” Nonsense, says Dorment in The Telegraph who claims the show is replete with references to bombs, religious police and the denigration of women.

This debate will be fanned anew by recent political disturbances in Iran. Relations between foreign powers and Iran are now severely strained following the disputed re-election on 12 June of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Click to browse Iran Inside Out catalogue

Click to browse Iran Inside Out catalogue

“Iran has repeatedly accused foreign powers – especially Britain and the US – of meddling after the 12 June election, which officially handed him a decisive victory” says the BBC while The New York Times gives us a specific quote:

President Obama, who made his most critical remarks of the Iranian leadership on Friday, when he called the government’s crackdown “outrageous” … said the prospects for a dialogue with Iran had been dampened.

…“Didn’t he say that he was after change?” Mr. Ahmadinejad asked. “Why did he interfere?”

Unfolding political events will challenge the New York show’s curators, artists and museum staff and test their courage. Even before the protests, in reference to Iranian art in ‘Unveiled’, the Guardian was saying:

It is still amazing how far into politics this art bravely goes and it is no overstatement to speak of bravery in this case. One of the artists represented here, who lives in Tehran, is muffled in the gallery’s publicity shot to conceal his identity. Another, the prodigiously gifted Tala Madani, has escaped Tehran for Amsterdam but still refused to have her face revealed in a photograph. Guardian

The museum’s website raises the interesting point – and this is perhaps the nub of it – that artists in the diaspora and at home in Iran choose different forms of expression:

Ironically, contrary to one’s expectations, the artists living abroad often draw more on their cultural heritage, while those on the inside focus more on issues of everyday life without much regard to what ‘the outside’ views as specifically Iranian references.

But, whereas the museum’s writers see the focus of home-based artists on the  ‘everyday’ as an act of choice, there are some who suggest it is an act of self-preservation. Time will tell whether the description of this show will be excoriated like that of the catalogue description of ‘Unveiled':

In her catalogue introduction to .. ‘Unveiled: New Art from the Middle East’, Lisa Farjam airily dismisses European perceptions of the Middle East as a place synonymous with political oppression, religious intolerance, and terrorism as unthinking ‘clichés’ that prevent us from understanding the richness and diversity of Muslim societies.

All I can say in response is that the artists in this show profoundly disagree with her sunny take on this part of the world. The evils Westerners see from a distance are the everyday context in which many of these painters and sculptors make their work – and it was precisely to escape repression at home that so many of the best of them now live in New York or Paris.

Their art isn’t (like so much Western art) about consumerism or celebrity or art itself; it’s about suicide bombers, religious police, unending war, and the denigration of women in Islamic societies. While I admit I was surprised that those still working in Tehran feel able to treat the subjects of gender, sexuality, religion, and politics without risking imprisonment or death, among the photos of the artists displayed at the end of the show, I noticed that one, who still lives in Tehran, has taken the precaution of wearing a balaclava. Telegraph

Related links: Exhibition description on Chelsea Art Museum site

Catalogue

In a still unusual and much-appreciated move, the museum has put the show’s catalogue online. It is a glorious glimpse of a very active art scene. Text and works by artists sit alongside interviews with collectors and galleries. Buy the ‘Iran Inside Out’ catalogue here.

FEATURED ARTISTS:

Inside Iran (35)

Abbas Kowsari, Ahmad Morshedloo, Amir Mobed, Alireza Dayani, Arash Hanaei, Arash Sedaghatkish, Arman Stepanian, Barbad Golshiri, Behdad Lahooti, Behrang Samadzadegan, Bita Fayyazi, Daryoush Gharahzad, Farhad Moshiri, Farideh Lashai, Golnaz Fathi, Houman Mortazavi, Jinoos Taghizadeh, Khosrow Hassanzadeh, Mahmoud Bakhshi Moakher, Majid Ma’soomi Rad, Mehdi Farhadian, Nazgol Ansarinia, Newsha Tavakolian, Ramin Haerizadeh, Reza Derakshani, Reza Paydari, Rokni Haerizadeh, Sadegh Tirafkan, Saghar Daeeri, Shahab Fotouhi, Shirin Aliabadi, Shirin Fakhim, Siamak Filizadeh, Siavash Nagshbandi, Vahid Sharifian

Outside Iran (21)

Ala Ebtekar, Alireza Ghandchi, caraballo–farman, Darius Yektai, Kamran Diba, Leila Pazooki, Mitra Tabrizian, Nazanin Pouyandeh, Negar Ahkami, Nicky Nodjoumi, Parastou Forouhar, Pooneh Maghazehe, Pouran Jinchi, Roya Akhavan, Samira Abbassy, Sara Rahbar, Shahram Entekhabi, Shahram Karimi, Shirin Neshat, Shiva Ahmadi, Shoja Azari

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Posted in Activist, Identity art, Iranian, Islamic art, Middle Eastern, Museum shows, Nationalism, New York, Overviews, Performance, Political | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Where is the Sharjah Art Museum heading? – Manal Ataya, Sharjah Museums director

Posted by artradar on June 18, 2009


MIDDLE EAST MUSEUMS

The Art Newspaper has published a fascinating video interview with the Director of the Sharjah Museum, Manal Ataya. Because the video is in a frame rather than its own separate page, it is not possible to link to it directly so we have paraphrased some of the most interesting snippets of information.

map-sharjah2

Sharjah – the cultural emirate

Sharjah is just one of seven of the emirates which make up the United Arab Emirates and is often called the ‘cultural emirate’ because its leading position in arts infrastructure. It has a well-respected biennial and three museums devoted to art:

  • Museum of Islamic Civilisation
  • Sharjah Art Museum and Contemporary Arab Art
  • Sharjah Calligraphy Museum

His Highness the Emir’s passion and vision

Sharjah’s pre-eminent position in the Middle Eastern art scene is largely due to the energy and vision of His Highness the Emir of Sharjah and in this video Manal Ataya gives us an intriguing insight into the progressive and enlightened principles which he communicates to his museum staff.

For example, she explains that His Highness encourages staff to thirst after knowledge and he encourages extensive and continual reading.

He believes that culture and museums encourage flexibility of thinking which can help to promote openness and understanding between people and, ultimately, bring peace. He also believes that a developed sensitivity to aesthetics spills over into other facets of human endeavour, for example an appreciation of the arts can help a teacher teach and a politician polemicise and a doctor practise.

Islam prohibits the figurative in art? Not true

Manal Ataya also points out and clears up some misconceptions about the Islamic prohibition of the figure in art. She explains that there is a tradition of portraiture in the Middle East and Islamic rules are more nuanced than is commonly understood.

Islam does allow human representation and it is only forbidden in a religious context or space. She explains that there are some sects which do not allow representation of the human figure in any context but these are not Islamic rules per se.

Youthful demographics – 70% under 30 years –  shaping museum plans

 The Emir has a young population (perhaps 70% are under the age of 30, says Ataya) and this age group is showing a strong interest in digital and graphic art. The museum plans to show more sculpture and 3D work, which is not traditional in Sharjah.

Collaboration with Abu Dhabi and its blockbuster museums

When asked about potential collaboration with Abu Dhabi, the largest and richest of the UAE’s city-states which is planning blockbuster branded museums such as the Louvre and Guggenheim, Ataya explains that the museums in Sharjah are always ready and able to collaborate and work with others.

She describes how they have already started working with Abu Dhabi’s universities which have disciplines in the arts. She believes that Sharjah is just one of seven emirates and they can unite successfully to bring UAE a more prominent role in the international art scene.

See the video

To see The Art Newspaper videos you can subscribe online.

See Manal Ataya, Sharjah Museum director video interview 14 mins May 2009 – in a frame so may be difficult to find

Related links: Sharjah museums website, Art Newspaper subscription

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Pockets of change in Asian art infrastructure – interview Leeza Ahmady director ACAW

Posted by artradar on May 12, 2009


ASIAN CONTEMPORARY ART WEEK NEW YORK 2009

Asian Contemporary Art Week director Leeza Ahmady talks about the ‘ incredible’ initiatives in India and Hong Kong which are helping to build an Asian art infrastructure, Indian collector Anupam Poddar’s first time purchase of art from Afghanistan and where to see exciting art from Central Asia, the Middle East and Iran at New York’s Asian Contemporary Art Week May 2009.

This is the second part of a 3 part interview

 

Gulnara Muratabek

Gulnara Muratbek

 

AR: If visitors to Asian Contemporary Art Week 2009 in New York want to learn more about Central Asia at Asia Contemporary Art Week, what can they see and where they can go?

LA: People can see some of the best artists from Central Asia and the Middle East at an exhibition titled: Tarjama/Translation I have co-curated with Iftikar Dadi and Reem Fada at Queen’s Museum produced by ArteEast. Many of them are internationally-renowned artists but for some reason they are not being exhibited in New York yet.

Akram Zaatari and Lara Baladi from Lebanon, Esra Ersen from Turkey and Sharif Wakid from Palestine are represented and Almagul Menlibayevaof Kazakhstan who is getting a lot of attention here in New York and now has a gallery representing her. We have specially commissioned a video work by her entitled “Queens”. It is an extraordinary work. Almagul has juxtaposed her signature style-using performance as a base revolving around ritual and the fantastic to captivate the Central Asian diasporas like the Bukharan Jews, the Samarkand Uzbeks and the Afghans living in Queens, New York.

Among the Iranian artists included in Tarjama/Translation, Farhad MoshiriI have heard is totally galvanising the art market which is very encouraging. Often these artists do well in the biennale or academic arenas but we do not see them in the market arena so there is a shift there as well.

There is a whole lot of fascination going on with Iran this year I have to tell you. Thomas Erben, one of the best galleries in my opinion for working with cutting edge artists from Pakistan and India, has just come back from Iran. So in honour of ACAW, he will be curating an exhibition of artists living and making art in Iran and he has been going through all kinds of hoops to get the work to New York. The Chelsea Museum is also organizing a large exhibition in June showcasing Iranian artists from the 60’s up to the present.

AR: What do you see in the future for Asian art? Will Asia continue to rely on Western art centres as a platform for international recognition or will it start to happen within Asia itself?

LA: The Western world is way ahead, years if not centuries, in having the institutions which help with not just showcasing but also maintaining, archiving and saving works of contemporary art. We can’t really have a conversation which compares the two because of that disparity. What I can say is that changes will not just happen in the future …. they are already happening.

Arts i  is the new 12,000 square foot art space of one of the largest investment companies in India. It is based in New Delhi and has launched the Religare Arts Initiative which acts as a corporate champion of art. Most galleries, auction houses and art funds operate art businesses but the Religare Arts Initiative tries to leverage business for art through a host of activities – exhibitions, residency programs, library, documentaries, art fund, seminars, documentation etc. The intention of the initiative is to have a 360 degree platform for art in India and really have it create change in society. It is not just a group of people but it wants to actually create an impact on society. I think that is incredibly novel.

Often it is easy for us to say that there is not enough expertise and not enough critical dialogue but the fact is if you really want to look there are some incredible things happening. In India another example is Devi Art Foundation started by a mother and son team who turned their private collection into a public venue. They opened a huge space last summer and already have had two or three critically-acclaimed exhibitions.

They are looking not only at promoting Indian art but also at what else is going on in the region. They reached out to me and we purchased two works by Afghan artists for their collection. This is very encouraging.

 To have come this far is wonderful. I want to acknowledge that there is a handful of us out there and it is changing. Another great example is Green Cardamom Gallery in London. They are contributing to the discourse by providing critical context through artist-generated collaborative exhibitions and writing projects.I cannot speak for China as I have never been there except for Hong Kong. But I have to say organisations like Asia Art Archive or your publication now, these are huge leaps forward in creating forums where critics can have space to say what they need to say.

AR: Do you have anything to say about the market for Asian art?

LA:  What has astonished a lot of people is that art from India and China has been successful because of locally-based collectors not just outside collectors. The whole market frenzy and speculation was accelerated by this local interest. In the long term this interest will continue to grow. What is happening in the Middle East is also incredible. For the first time in the last 2 years we are seeing auctions of contemporary art from the Middle East. Who would have thought it? And they did not do too badly at all.

AR: Perhaps it speaks about the quality and freshness of the work coming out of the Middle East, what do you think?

LA: That is true. It is fresh  because there is a cultural specifity which is very intriguing yet at the same time the art is universally relevant. For me when art tells me something specific but is still relevant whether or not I know where it is from or what it is about – if I can connect with it from that universal place – then it is good art. That is not to say that everything that is coming out of Asia is good of course! (Laughter) 

This is the second part of a 3 part interview

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How art from half of Asia has been missed – interview Leeza Ahmady ACAW director

Posted by artradar on May 4, 2009


 ASIAN CONTEMPORARY ART WEEK 2009

Leeza Ahmady talks to Art Radar about her involvement in the Asian Contemporary Art Week (ACAW) in New York. She discusses her two missions: first to broaden the definition of Asian art – yes, she tells us, the Middle East is part of the Asian continent  – and second, to connect Asians with one another.

 

This is the first part of a 3 part interview.

 

AR: You have an interesting story tell us about how you got involved with the Asian Contemporary Art Week. What happened?

LA: Some time ago I was studying arts and cultural management at Pratt Institute in New York and writing my thesis on Central Asia. One of my classes was about leadership and we were given the assignment to choose a leader in the arts field and have a daring interview with them.

Well I really took that on. Who do I want to do this with, I asked myself. I remember choosing Vishakha Desai who is now the president of the Asia Society but at the time was the Museum Director.  I hounded her assistants and emailed them until I got an interview. And we had a wonderful very pleasant interview. I asked her standard questions about how she started and what she envisioned for her role. I asked her how much of that she had managed to accomplish and questioned her about her leadership style.  

Then I took a deep breath and  I dared to ask the real question I wanted to ask. How did the Asia Society justify calling itself the Asia Society when half of the Asian continent is missing from its programming. She was amazing and answered me carefully and diplomatically.

AR: It is a provocative question! What did she say?

LA: Very matter-of-factly she explained to me that everyone has to narrow their mission and the Asia Society was supported by the Rockefellers in the early days and their original mission focused on East Asia. She explained that of course other regions are now being integrated.

Then she looked at me and said 10 years ago when I came on the scene, there was no such thing as India particularly from a contemporary art perspective. Then it was only about antiquities so what I had to do was make it my mission to change that and I did that. She didn’t say it in so many words but I got this really wonderful answer which was if you want to make something happen don’t complain about it. You have to take it on and make it happen yourself.  It was as provocative as my question to her.

AR: And then?

LA: Well we kept in touch and I kept her up-to-date about my research in Central Asia. A few months later she wrote to me: “Leeza I have a wonderful project for you. Talk with Melissa Chiu and get involved in the Asian Contemporary Art Week” and that was 4 years ago – the end of 2004.

 

Mohsen Ahmadvand, Wrestlers, 2008, mixed media, courtesy of artist, Thomas Erben and XVA galleries

Mohsen Ahmadvand, Wrestlers, 2008, mixed media, courtesy of artist, Thomas Erben and XVA galleries

 

 

AR: So can you tell us more about the ACAW? What is it?

LA: The Asia Contemporary Art Week is an initiative started by a group of independent curators, museum directors, collectors and seminal people interested in creating awareness about Asian art primarily in New York, but also elsewhere. They formed a consortium, the Asian Contemporary Art Consortium, in 2001 to create public educational programs.

Rather than doing things in isolation, they felt it would be more effective to join forces once a year or so and make this one big loud noise together. When I came in it was small and limited to galleries and museums already focused on Asian art. But I was interested in encouraging others to jump on the wagon. I wanted to motivate those who were thinking of showing a couple of Asian artists but who were, perhaps, a little reluctant because they did not have the backing or voice.

AR: Vishakha Desai helped to raise the profile of India in the Asia Society. What has been your mission and your contribution to Asian Contemporary Art Week?

LA: My contribution has been based on my strong desire to expand participation not just by the galleries and museums but also by the artists. 

We now have featured artists from all over Asia, not only from the traditional participants of China, Japan, Korea and Taiwan. We have gradually moved West and we now include more artists  from, amongst others, Vietnam Thailand Pakistan Indonesia Iran Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. Now over the last 2 years I have been trying to really broaden the notion of what constitutes Asia by bringing in the Middle East. Lebanese, Turkish, Palestinian and Israeli artists have been represented in 2008 and 2009.

AR: That sounds like an enormous undertaking. Asia is a huge continent.

LA: My specialty is Central Asia so of course I have had to learn a lot.  If you want to be involved in something I believe that you really need to know the players and what is going on with everyone. And by being involved in Asia Contemporary Art Week I am lucky enough to be at the centre of a lot of networks.

AR: What has been the response?

LA: I have spent a lot of time figuring who would be interested in opening their doors  to help broaden frontiers. Fortunately people have been very open because of the success of artists in the international arena from Central Asia. And people are curious, they do want to know what else is out there.

AR: How much do people know about the Asian continent in New York?

LA: Well there is a lot of confusion. For example take the Middle East. Iran is somehow there and not there at the same time. Afghanistan? There is also a lot of confusion about where it is and whether it is in the Middle East, Central Asia or South Asia.

AR: In the past you have talked passionately about opening up Asia to the Asians. We often hear people talk about connecting East and West but why do you feel there is a need for connection within Asia?

LA: Well the fact that the Middle East is a vast territory within Asia surprises people. In the US, Asia represents China Korea and Japan and only very recently has it been expanded to include India and Pakistan.

There is tremendous ignorance about Central Asia and when I tell someone from Korea or Japan that I too am from Asia, they look perplexed and ask well where are you from? When I say, “I am from Afghanistan” they look confused. Afghanistan shares a 76 kilometer border with China. To me it is simply incredible that in such an interconnected world, people on the same continent can still be so disconnected from eachother. There were years of Soviet rule which kept Central Asia out of reach but at the same time it is now 20 years since the Soviet rule ended.

AR: Why do you feel promoting connections within Asia is so important?

LA: I remember learning so much about all the countries around the world when I was at school in Kabul in Afghanistan. Why do I feel its important ? There is something wise about knowing yourself well. Asians share so may linguistic, spiritual and cultural ties which have broken down as a result of politics.

Historically Iran and Afghanistan were regarded as part of Central Asia. This changed for Iran after the Shah was deposed in 1979. With the dissolution of Soviet rule, 5 states from the USSR became independent including Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. These 5 states are now more commonly referred to as Central Asia.

Meanwhile Afghanistan was left hanging in limbo until the events of September 11 shot it directly back into the Middle East. Recently Afghanistan has been referred to as part of South Asia.

AR: Why have these connections within Asia broken down?

Economic and political policies create disconnections and I feel the best way to make things whole is through art. At least that is what artists do. They try to break things down and put them back together. The idea of deconstructing and constructing, I see art as something beyond aesthetics and intellectual mumbo jumbo. I see it as a  tool for people to become more aware, spiritual and connected to themselves and others.

Leeza Ahmady was born in Afghanistan and lives in New York. Her specialist area is Central Asia.

This is the first part of a 3 part interview:

Related links: Asian Contemporary Art Week website

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Posted in Events, Gallery shows, Middle Eastern, Museum shows, New York, Professionals, USA | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
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