artists & participants
Part of the Whitechapel Gallery's programme showcasing rarely seen art collections from around the world, a series of four chronological displays highlights works from the Barjeel Art Foundation's collection of Arab Art. Starting in September 2015 and concluding in January 2017, the exhibition is divided into four chapters, each exploring the historic context from which local modernism began in the region.
The Barjeel Art Foundation is based in the United Arab Emirates and was founded by Sultan Sooud Al Qassemi in 2010. It holds an extensive collection of art from the region, dating from the early 1900s to the present day. This series of displays takes the theme of imperfect chronology as its starting point: how do we narrate a history of Arab art through the lens of one collection? Over 100 works of art by 60 artists from the beginning of the 19th century to the present day are brought together here to tell this story.
Barjeel Art Foundation Collection: Debating Modernism I
8 September–6 December 2015
Opening this four-part exhibitions is a colourful gathering of tightly assembled artworks evoking the early artist salons that once took place across the Arab world. The first display seeks to map the emergence and development of an Arab art history by tracing a genealogy that runs from the early-20th century to 1967–68. In this period, the Arab world underwent radical social and political transformation with the conclusion of European rule and the emergence of new independent states. The end of the colonial period in the 1950s led to a Pan-Arab cultural renaissance, or Nahda, which was later thwarted by political turmoil in the region in 1967, a time often referred to as the Naksa ("the great loss"). This presentation includes 40 works, including the religious painting of Munira Al-Kazi from Kuwait; early abstraction from Iraqi modern master Dia Azzawi; works on paper from Inji Efflatoun, co-founder of Egypt's Art and Freedom Group of surrealists; Hamed Ewais's iconic portraiture; and the allegorical painting of Kadhim Hayder.
Barjeel Art Foundation collection: Debating Modernism II
15 December 2015–6 March 2016
The second chapter focuses on the relationship between abstract and figurative art produced between 1968 and 1987, focusing on artworks by pioneering figures including Kamal Boullata, Huguette Caland, Marwan and Abdul Qader Al Rais.
Barjeel Art Foundation collection: Mapping the Contempoary I
25 April–14 August 2016
The third presentation includes photography and video made between 1990–2000. Focusing on the theme of mapping, artists including Yto Barrada, Mohammed Kazem, Joana Hadjithomas and Khlail Joreige, Walid Raad, and Akram Zaatari explore territory and borders utilising both documentary and performative techniques.
Barjeel Art Foundation collection: Mapping the Contemporary II
23 August 2016–8 January 2017
The fourth and final display explores how artists using various media engage with the landscapes in which they either live or work, exploring urban transformation and architecture. Artists include Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Etel Adnan, Marwa Arsanios, GCC and Iman Issa.
The Whitechapel Gallery exhibitions are curated by Omar Kholeif, Curator, Whitechapel Gallery, with Candy Stobbs, Assistant Curator, Whitechapel Gallery.
A fully illustrated exhibition catalogue, Imperfect Chronology: Arab Art from the Modern to the Contemporary—Works from the Barjeel Art Foundation, edited by Omar Kholeif and co-published with Prestel, is available in the bookshop. Featuring contributions from Etel Adnan, Kamal Boullata, Iftikhar Dadi, Omar Kholeif, Rasha Salti, Nada Shabout, Gilane Tawadros and Edward McDonald-Toone.