Baya: Woman of Algiers, published in conjunction with an exhibition of the same name at NYU’s Grey Art Gallery, features new scholarship on the self-taught Algerian artist Baya Mahieddine (1931–1998). The four-color illustrated catalogue includes an essay by Natasha Boas, an art historian and independent curator based in Paris and San Francisco, and features a contribution by the Egyptian writer and director Menna Ekram. Also included are reprinted and translated texts by André Breton and the late Assia Djebar, an Algerian novelist, translator, and filmmaker, and former Silver Professor of Francophone literature at New York University.
Known as Baya, she was born in Bordj el-Kiffan and orphaned at age five. Encouraged by her adoptive French mother to pursue art, she began as an adolescent to paint gouaches and make ceramics. Her work was soon discovered by fabled gallerist Aimé Maeght who, along with André Breton, organized an exhibition in Paris in 1947. Baya’s colorful depictions of women, rhythmic patterns, and bright palette drew the attention of Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso, with whom she later collaborated in the renowned Madoura pottery studio in Vallauris. Celebrated in both Algeria and France, Baya has yet to gain international recognition. Woman of Algiers reexamines Baya’s career within contemporary, Surrealist, “outsider,” and Maghreb post-colonial art contexts.