New York Museums Are Putting The Spotlight on Arab Art

Challenging stereotypes from MOMA to The Met

Despite having only been established in 2017 by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, the Misk Art Institute has already cemented its position as one of Saudi Arabia’s leading cultural institutions.

Led by physicist-turned-artist Ahmed Mater—who has made a name for himself in the regional and international art scene for offering a critical lens into the Kingdom—the institute has spearheaded some of the region’s most promising initiatives. 

The institute reached new heights earlier this year by becoming the chief commissioner of La Biennale di Venezia’s permanent National Pavilion of Saudi Arabia. And next month, the organization is reaching new heights by partnering up with the United Nations and bringing Arab art to New York City’s most prominent art galleries and museums. 

Due to open on October 13, the initiative, entitled Arab Art and Education Initiative, will include art exhibitions, film screenings, and discussions celebrating Arab culture. 

To kick off the programme, an exhibition is set to take place at the Brooklyn Museum. Entitled ‘Syria, Then and Now: Stories from Refugees a Century Apart’, the show sheds light on the refugee experience, behinning with those of Circassian descent who were displaced by the Russian conquest of the Caucasus in the early 20th century. 

The exhibition will also showcase Ayyubid ceramics dating back to the 13th century that were uncovered by Circassian refugees as they were searching for materials to build homes in Raqqa, Syria during their refuge. 

To put focus on the current plight of Syrians displaced by Assad’s regime, the event’s curators looked to three contemporary artists; Ginane Makki Bacho, Issam Kourbaj, and Mohammed Hafez, who will all exhibit various works that draw from each of their personal experiences and perspectives in relation to the current refugee crisis. 

On October 23, the initiative moves to New York’s Guggenheim Museum, where Palestinian painter and scholar Samia Halaby is set to join curator Sasha Kalter-Wasserman for a conversation surrounding her work, and her contributions to the field. 

New York’s Asia Society is also set to join the initiative, with a discussion taking place on October 16

Arab Art and Education Initiative will run from October 13-24

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