Upcoming Exhibition

Opens
February 5, 2022
Closes
June 12, 2022
Location
In the Bartels Gallery, Floor 1L

Exact upcoming exhibitions dates are tentative and subject to change.

Taking Shape: Abstraction from the Arab World, 1950s–1980s traces the emergence and development of abstraction in the Arab world through paintings and sculpture dating from the 1950s through the 1980s. Drawn from the collection of the Barjeel Art Foundation, it will feature some sixty works by a diverse group of artists from across the Middle East and North Africa.

Taking Shape: Abstraction from the Arab World, 1950s–1980s is organized by the Grey Art Gallery, New York University, and curated by Suheyla Takesh and Lynn Gumpert. Major support for the exhibition is provided by the Barjeel Art Foundation. Additional generous support is provided by the Charina Endowment Fund; the Violet Jabara Charitable Trust; the Grey’s Director’s Circle, Inter/National Council, and Friends; and the Abby Weed Grey Trust.

WATCH

Taking Shape: New Perspectives on Arab Abstraction
Session 1: The Barjeel Art Foundation and “Taking Shape”

Sultan Sooud Al-Qassemi, founder of the Barjeel Art Foundation, will discuss this independent, UAE­­­–based initiative, which he established in 2009 to study, preserve, and exhibit modern art from the Arab world, and to foster critical conversations about regional modernisms. Suheyla Takesh, a curator at Barjeel and co-curator of Taking Shape, will discuss her role in organizing the exhibition, framing her investigation of modernism’s development in mid-20th century North Africa and West Asia within today’s rethinking of the canon of abstract art. Moderated by Lynn Gumpert, director of NYU’s Grey Art Gallery and co-curator of the exhibition.

Session 2: Arab Abstraction and Arabic Letterforms

Iftikhar Dadi, Associate Professor of History of Art, Cornell University, and Nada Shabout, Professor of Art History, University of North Texas, will explore how the artists in Taking Shape “reterritorialized” the Arabic alphabet and made its aesthetic more accessible to the larger world, not only in detaching Arabic letterforms from Islamic calligraphy and religious history but also in liberating them from their semantic functions. In stripping Arabic letters of their former meanings, artists enabled them to signal modern (pan-)Arab identity and the decolonization of culture. Moderated by Pepe Karmel, Associate Professor of Art History, New York University.

Session 3: Modern Art in Algeria and Egypt

Between the 1950s and the 1980s, Arab countries were transformed through decolonization, the rise of nationalism, socialism, rapid industrialization, and wars and mass migrations. At the same time, artists were revitalizing their practices, finding inspiration in Arabic calligraphy, geometry and mathematics, and local topographies. Hannah Feldman, Associate Professor of Art History, Northwestern, will focus on abstract art in Algeria; and Alex Dika Seggerman, Assistant Professor of Islamic Art History, Rutgers University–Newark, on figurative art in Egypt. Moderated by Sarah-Neel Smith, Assistant Professor of Art History, Theory, and Criticism, Maryland Institute College of Art.