NYU Abu Dhabi Art Gallery to reopen for the first time since the pandemic began

The first physical exhibition of the season will feature paintings and sculptures from the collection of Abby Weed Grey

A work by Parviz Tanavoli. Photo: NYUAD Art Gallery
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For the first time since the start of the pandemic, the NYU Abu Dhabi Art Gallery will reopen with a physical exhibition on November 15.

The show, Modernisms: Iranian, Turkish, and Indian Highlights from NYU’s Abby Weed Grey Collection, includes paintings and sculptures from the 1960s by artists such as Parviz Tanavoli, Fahrelnissa Zeid, MF Husain, Abindin Eldergolu and Prabhakar Barwe.

Grey was an American collector who was interested in modern art from non-western cultures. She travelled to several countries in the 1960s and early 1970s, including Iran, eight times, and India and Turkey four times, acquiring prints, drawings, paintings and sculptures along the way. Through her travels, she collected 200 works from Iran, 175 from India and 95 from Turkey.

Her acquisitions then became the core of the Abby Weed Grey Collection of Modern Asian and Middle Eastern Art in New York University’s Grey Art Gallery, which she established in 1974.

Outside of Iran and Turkey, the art gallery has the largest grouping of Modern Iranian art and Turkish art. Her first trip to Iran was in 1960, which was also when the second national biennial of modern art was held in Tehran. During her trips, Grey would visit artists' studios, drawn to those who were able to work with indigenous traditional arts, but also carved out their own styles and aesthetic.

The show at NYU Abu Dhabi Art Gallery will present works by members of the Saqqakhaneh school in Iran, including Tanavoli, Faramarz Pilaram and Charles Hossein Zenderoudi, who reimagined the country’s traditional forms of calligraphy and ornamentation to more contemporary styles.

There are also works by Turkish Modernists, including Bedri Rahmi Eyuboglu, whose work Full Moon from 1961 shows a crimson canvas with the celestial body depicted in various colours. Both Eyuboglu and fellow artist Eldergolu sought to forge art that was distinctly Turkish rather than a borrowing of western styles.

Renowned artist Zeid developed her signature style by abstracting the geometric forms from ornamental elements in Turkish art and architecture.

Modernisms will also include Grey’s personal letters, journals, catalogues and photographs from the university’s archives.

The exhibition first opened in New York City in 2019 and has also travelled to the Block Museum of Art at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. Its arrival in the UAE marks the first time that the university’s art space will have an in-person presentation after running a number of virtual programmes beginning in spring 2020.

Maya Allison, chief curator at NYU Abu Dhabi and executive director of The NYUAD Art Gallery, noted the exhibition’s “historical significance and regional relevance”. She said Grey’s goal was to “promote international artistic exchange in an academic setting”.

The exhibition will run from Monday, November 15 to Saturday, February 5, and will have an accompanying book about the featured artists and how the Abby Weed Grey collection aims to highlight Modern art outside of North America and Europe.

Admission to the exhibition is free, but visitors will have to book an appointment online before visiting. Tickets will be available from Wednesday, October 27.

More information is available at nyuad-artgallery.org

Updated: October 13, 2021, 2:40 PM