Thursday, April 9, 2009
This blog was inspired by passion and surprise.
A couple of years ago, on a visit to Istanbul, I visited several collections of contemporary Turkish art, and visited some of the city's younger artists. The work I saw was fresher, more powerful, more beautiful, than any of the art that I had seen in some time. I was captivated.
Later, an exhibition of new Iraqi art came to a new, experimental museum near my home. Eagerly, I attended the opening, having no idea what I might find there. I had, when the war in Iraq began, held hopes to visit the region and get to know artists there, and to bring Western art to Baghdad. While I was quickly talked out of this idea, the longing remained.
What Iraqi artists were producing, I discovered, was even more compelling and exciting than what I had uncovered in Istanbul: poignant, poetic, political without being propagandistic, elegant, seeped in Islamic tradition and enriched by Western culture.
If this was what was happening in Turkey and Iraq, I wondered, what else was being produced by artists in the Islamic world?
And so I began to steep myself in the art that was emerging out of Iran and Palestine and Syria, and being produced by Muslims from the Middle East and Africa who were now living in the West. The more that I have seen of this work, the more enraptured I've become.
Although many have expressed displeasure with the phrase "Islamic Contemporary Art," I have used it from the start -- with an article that appeared in Art & Auction magazine in 2008 -- and will continue to do so. These are not simply art works made by people from the Middle East and Africa; some artists come from Turkey and other areas of the Muslim world. Some are second generation immigrants living in the West. What the art they produce has in common, however, is a harkening to Islamic traditions, often expressed through calligraphy and calligraphic painterliness in their work, or a political reference to issues of importance in contemporary Islam.
This blog is my effort to share my passion, and to bring to other lovers of art the joys of what I am discovering. More, I hope that it will also provide a doorway for the Islamic and the Western worlds to pass through to one another, and join hands.