23 August 2016 – 8 January 2017, Gallery 7
The Whitechapel Gallery has presented 64 artists and 100 works of Arab art in an ambitious series of four displays which launched in September 2015 and ends in January 2017.
The displays tell the story of Arab art from the modern to the contemporary period, spanning nearly a century. Drawn from the Barjeel Art Foundation Collection based in the UAE, the Whitechapel Gallery has presented artists from across the Arab world who were either born or who have lived and worked in Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Palestine, Kuwait, Lebanon, Morocco, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates.
Opening on 23 August, Mapping the Contemporary II explores how a generation of multi-media artists has artistically engaged with the cities where they either live or work. The exhibition closes with Etel Adnan’s (b. 1925, Lebanon) two-metre tapestry Champs de Petrol (2013) that uses brightly coloured abstract forms in the form of a map to suggest a sequence of oilfields.
Further works on display include:
Two ceramic doves by the female Saudi Arabian artist Manal al-Dowayan titled Suspended Together – Standing Dove, Eating Dove (2012). While doves are seen as a symbol of freedom, al Dowayan’s are inscribed with texts from permission documents which all Saudi Arabian women are required to travel with, issued by their appointed male guardian.
Micro Council (2013) by GCC A wood, brass and acrylic sculpture resembling in miniature, the circular round table where the leaders of the six Gulf States meet. The work critiques the self-importance of the six leaders and their recent talks on the formation of a Gulf Union.
Iman Issa (b. 1979, Egypt) imagines a shimmering and fragile glass monument for Tahrir Square in Cairo with Proposal for a Crystal Building (2003).
Jumana Manna (b. 1987, USA) examines public spaces through her sculpture Unlicensed Porch, Jabal al-Mukaber (2014) of a limestone porch taken from territories in East Jerusalem.
Lawrence Abu Hamdan’s (b. 1985, Jordan) The All-Hearing (2014), a single-channel video that examines noise pollution in Cairo.
The Barjeel Art Foundation was founded by Sultan Sooud Al-Qassemi in 2010. It holds one of the most extensive collections of art from the region, dating from the 1900s to the present day. Four displays, which began in September 2015, explore four different themes which examine ways of defining Arab art from its early modernist beginnings and geographies. Shown in a dedicated Collections Gallery as part of the Whitechapel Gallery’s programme opening up rarely seen art collections for everyone, from around the world this final exhibition follows three previous displays Barjeel Art Foundation: Debating Modernism I (8 September – 6 December 2015), Barjeel Art Foundation: Debating Modernism II (15 December -17 April 2016) and Mapping the Contemporary I (26 April – 14 August 2016).
Notes to Editors
Barjeel Art Foundation is an independent, United Arab Emirates-based initiative established to manage, preserve and exhibit the personal art collection of Sultan Sooud Al Qassemi. The foundation’s guiding principle is to contribute to the intellectual development of the art scene in the Arab region by building a prominent, publicly accessible art collection in the UAE.
For over a century the Whitechapel Gallery has premiered world class artists from modern masters such as Pablo Picasso, Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko and Frida Kahlo to contemporaries such as Sophie Calle, Lucian Freud, Gilbert & George and Mark Wallinger. With beautiful galleries, exhibitions, artist commissions, collection displays, historic archives, education resources, inspiring art courses, dining room and bookshop, the Gallery is open all year round, so there is always something free to see. It is a touchstone for contemporary art internationally, plays a central role in London’s cultural landscape and is pivotal to the continued growth of the world’s most vibrant contemporary art quarter.
The Whitechapel Gallery exhibitions (8 September 2015 – 8 January 2017) are curated by Omar Kholeif, Curator, Whitechapel Gallery with Candy Stobbs, Assistant Curator, Whitechapel Gallery.
To celebrate the culmination of the four displays from the Barjeel Art Foundation Collection, a symposium taking place on Saturday 22 October, 11.30am-6pm (£15/£12.50 concs) considers topics including how Arab art is defined.
The exhibitions are accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue co-published with Prestel. Imperfect Chronology: Arab Art from the Modern to the Contemporary (Works from the Barjeel Collection) includes essays by Whitechapel Gallery Curator Omar Kholeif as well as commissioned texts by Kamal Boullata, Iftikhar Dadi, Rasha Salti, Nada Shabout, Gilane Tawadros, and Edward McDonald-Toone with introductions by Iwona Blazwick and Sultan Sooud Al-Qassemi. Edited by Omar Kholeif. Published by Prestel and Whitechapel Gallery.
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