Taking Shape

In New York City this year, art made by Arab artists or focusing on themes about the Arab world will be a firm part of the art season’s roster of gallery shows and museum exhibitions. The number of shows, spanning both commercial and institutional spaces, points to a shift toward increased curiosity about Arab art—a field of modern and contemporary visual arts that has been largely unexplored and somewhat misunderstood by both galleries and collectors, and by academics who recognize art criticism’s oversight of the field.

From the 1950s, significant changes swept through the Arab world – the disintegration of colonial powers, industrialisation, war and the mass exodus of people. In this period until the 1980s, various modes of abstract art also began to spring up in the region. The artistic movements produced in these decades is the focus of the exhibition Taking Shape: Abstraction from the Arab World, 1950s to 1980s, which opens on January 14, 2020 at New York University’s Grey Art Gallery in Manhattan.

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 raises a fundamental art historical question: How do we study abstraction across different contexts and what models of analysis do we use?

Artist Spotlight: Saliba Douaihy

Saliba Douaihy is considered to be one of the leading 20th century painters of Lebanon. Born in 1915 in a mountainous town in northern Lebanon, Douaihy was first exposed to painting and art through the churches in his hometown. Due to his apprenticeship with Habib Srour at the age of 14, his style was initially realistic and figurative. Srour was a portrait painter of religious, social, and political Arab figures in Lebanon and taught Douaihy the techniques of drawing and painting. Douaihy later assisted Srour in large church murals.

Artwork Spotlight: Farid Belkahia’s “Aube (Dawn)”

August 12, 2019 by Lulu Fleming-Benite The Grey Art Gallery’s upcoming exhibition Taking Shape: Abstraction from the Arab World, 1950s–1980s (on view January 14–April 4, 2020), traces the development of abstraction in art from the Arab world via mid-20th century painting and sculpture. The works, lent by the Barjeel Art Foundation based in Sharjah, UAE, […]