The Sea Suspended

Shakir Hassan: Jala Aidun (Evacuation, We Will Return)

Next month, the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art opens an exhibition of modern Arab art, extracted from the UAE-based Barjeel Foundation. The show – which marks a landmark cultural exchange between Iran and its Arab neighbours – comes in the midst of an ongoing wave of historicisation that seeks to rebalance art historical narratives that privilege Western artists.

What if you could suspend the cultural, political and geographical boundaries that separate and confine us? What if the sea that would drown you became solid, allowing you to walk across and greet your neighbours? In bringing Arab Modernism to Tehran, The Sea Suspended imagines such a meeting, and extends a historical invitation to reflect on a shared modern heritage.

The article continues here.


Creative Complaining


I was so excited to see the Guerrilla Girls in London. I didn’t know that their project was still as active as in the 1980s, or that they’ve been working so prominently in Europe. Their work continues to be performatively scandalous, but this exhibition is rooted in a dogged examination of data that reveals the enduring perversion of the art world: a tedious subservience to wealth and power. 

The Guerrilla Girls know how to silence a room. Dressed head-to-toe in black, their faces concealed behind snarling masks, the impression is something between a gang of bank robbers and superheroes in disguise. It’s unexpected when they speak in bright, amiable tones, approaching visitors to shake hands and pose for pictures. The somewhat jarring incongruity in this approach echoes the central tension between aggression and playfulness in their work, at its most distinctive in the lurid pink and yellow billboards that splashed shameful statistics on racial and gender imbalances in the art world during the 1980s.

Ms. and BUST have published the whole article here and here.

Around the World and Back Again


I was asked by Salaam Gateway to write a monthly column about Islamic Art. In this first piece, I looked at the restitution of an important Afghan bowl as a way of framing a larger question about cultural heritage. 

It’s difficult to get a grip on the meaning of cultural heritage. Notions of belonging, value, and memory can seem abstract and academic, but the discovery of a trafficked object has pushed these ideas into a more tangible framework. In a case that involved collectors, an auction house, and two museum authorities, the private market worked in tandem with the public sector towards a resolution that didn’t prioritise personal or corporate profit. Instead, a piece of cultural heritage, stolen over twenty years ago, was recovered and restored to its rightful context. The object in question, an Islamic tinned copper vessel, was ripped from its place in the National Museum of Afghanistan and condemned to obscurity for two decades before bobbing once again to the surface earlier this year.

The rest of the piece is here.