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The Short Century
Curated by Karim Sultan and Suheyla Takesh, this exhibition of work from the Barjeel Art Foundation collection takes Eric Hobsbawm’s description for an era that packed so many dramatic and extreme shifts in human history into what seems like so few years.
In the European context the century begins in 1914 and ends in 1991 with the fall of the Soviet Union; it’s paralleled in the Arab region, starting with the Sykes-Picot Agreement (1916) or the fall of the Ottoman Empire (1920) and running to the Gulf War of 1990-1991. The stark shifts in politics, society, and cultural activity in this period make for a fascinating and well curated show.
This exhibition explores a number of artistic narratives in the Arab world, from representations of landscape and portraiture, responses to social and political developments, and the rise of nationalisms. As counterpoint alongside these expressions are the developments of abstraction – tajreed – and hurufiyya (an movement that used calligraphic forms as the basis for a contemporary art).
Illustrated here are the multiple entry points and trajectories of the many overlapping, and sometimes opposing, expressions of modernism and modernity that rise, peak, and fall throughout the Short Century, and provide context to expressions of the globalised contemporary art of the present day.
To 24 December.
Above: Faisal Laibi Sahi, Martyrs. 1978. Oil on canvas, 70 x 450 cm, 1978