Arab art in the global spotlight

A round-up of some of the most notable regional and international art exhibitions and festivals for fans of Arab art to mark on their calendars.

Etel Adnan’s Untitled. Courtesy Etel Adnan and Sfeir-Semler Gallery, Hamburg / Beirut
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What is believed to be the largest solo exhibition by an Arab artist will open in the Qatari capital in October. The show of work by Iraqi Modernist artist Dia Al-­Azzawi will cover 9,000 square metres in two venues – Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art and QM Gallery Al Riwaq. Some of the artworks have been loaned by international institutions – including Sharjah’s Barjeel Foundation and the Tate Modern in London, whose contribution is Al-­Azzawi’s famous mural depicting the Sabra and Shatila massacre.

I am the cry, who will give voice to me? Dia Al-Azzawi: a Retrospective (from 1963 until tomorrow), Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art and QM Gallery Al Riwaq, Doha, Qatar, 16 October to 16 April 2017,, ­­gallery-alriwaq


The Weight of the World by Etel Adnan, at Serpentine Galleries, is one of the most impressive exhibitions with links to the Middle East. Born in 1925 in Beirut, Adnan has long been gaining prominence on an international scale, and this, her first solo exhibition in a United Kingdom public institution, features works from across her career, including paintings, drawings, poetry, film and some large-scale tapestries.

The Weight of the World: Etel Adnan, Serpentine Galleries, ­London, until September 11,

Rana Begum, who is represented regionally by The Third Line in Dubai, has a large exhibition of work at Parasol Unit. Her sculptural installations explore line and form and echo the visual angles of urban life in bright colours.

• Rana Begum, The Space Between, Parasol Unit, London, until September 18,

This week, Sheikh Sultan Sooud Al Qassemi's Barjeel Art Foundation opened a show in Whitechapel Gallery. Imperfect Chronology: Mapping the Contemporary II examines the notion of statehood and explores how artists engage with the rapidly expanding cities of the Arab region. Among the works are a series of photographs by Algerian artist Zineb Sedira, which explore the networks and trade routes that make up the global oil and sugar industries, and a limestone porch taken from disputed territories in East Jerusalem that artist Jumana Manna has recontextualised in the gallery. The exhibition is accompanied by a conference, hosted by Al Qassemi, that will discuss what constitutes Arab art and the debate on its diasporic and multiple identities – spanning Africa, Iran, Turkey and South Asia.

Imperfect Chronology: Mapping the Contemporary II, Whitechapel Gallery, London, August 23 to January 8,

In October, the annual Frieze art fair will include the notable participation of a handful of regional galleries. Dubai’s Green Art will be showing a sculpture by Palestinian artist Shadi Habib Allah, and The Third Line will present a women-only booth with a collection of works that play with viewers’ perceptions. Gypsum Gallery in Cairo is also part of Frieze Live, with a new performance by Egyptian Mahmoud Khaled that questions the role of contemporary art through a ­reiteration of a famous go-go dance performance.

• Frieze Art Fair, Regent’s Park, October 6 to 9,


Haus Der Kunst is hosting Two Suns and a Sunset, a travelling exhibition of films and photographs by artist duo Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige. Also shown in Sharjah this year, it examines the role of the image in relation to memory and history. Also coming to the German institution is a show covering post-Second World War art from between the Pacific and the Atlantic, including work by several Arab artists.

• Joana Hadjithomas & Khalil Joreige, October 28 to February 12, Haus Der Kunst, Munich,


The newly named AB43 Contemporary gallery will show the photography of Shadi Ghadirian from Iran. Her work often exaggerates the restrictive customs of her national culture, and the archaic stereotypes it places upon contemporary women.

• Shadi Ghadirian, AB43 Contemporary, October 23 to December 10,


The International Çanakkale Biennial takes place on the Dardanelles Strait, just north of the epicentre of the European refugee crisis around the Aegean Sea, and because of this, curators of this event have chosen to focus on the imagery and visions of the idea of homeland. The event features several artists, including an interesting performance from Iranian artist Ghazel that came about after a workshop with asylum seekers and illegal immigrants in Venice.

• International Çanakkale Biennial, September 24 to November 6,

New York

The Guggenheim in New York is still running But a Storm Is Blowing from Paradise, a vast exhibition of regional art organised by Sara Raza, the Guggenheim's UBS MAP curator for Middle East and North Africa. The show exclusively features work from this region and includes a piece from the UAE's Mohammed Kazem. The show closes in October, before moving to Istanbul's Pera Museum next year.

But a Storm Is Blowing from Paradise: Contemporary Art of the Middle East and North Africa, Guggenheim Museum, New York, Until October 5,