Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Times Goes On...

Funny thing: about two years ago, I offered a story to the NY Times' Arts & Leisure section on the importance of the art coming out of the Middle East, and of exhibiting contemporary Middle Eastern art in the West while Western art was appearing in the Middle East. Apparently, I was too soon. Now, Jori Finkel, a fantastic writer/reporter and my former editor at Art & Auction, takes on the subject in the Times' latest coverage on "The American Qur'an."

With my own book on Islam in the West due for publication in a few months, I found the following particularly interesting:

>>The first exhibitions of Mr. Birk’s “American Qur’an,” a work-on-paper series that is roughly a third complete, is about to open: 30 hand-painted pages at Catharine Clark Gallery in San Francisco starting on Thursday and another 30 at Koplin Del Rio gallery in Culver City starting Friday. (A New York exhibition slated for this fall at the P.P.O.W. Gallery was rescheduled for winter 2010 after a gallery fire.)

“We’re very concerned about repercussions from the Muslim community,” said the Culver City gallery owner, Eleana Del Rio. “But it’s important to know that Sandow did this with the best intentions, no irony or satire intended.”<<

 Ms. Del Rio is clearly aware of something many Americans are not: the dangers associated with presenting the Koran in anything but the most reverential context, even here in the West. Other artists, after all, have taken on similar risks -- like Sooreh Hera, for instance, whose photographs of gay men dressed as Mohammed and his son-in-law Ali led to death threats against her and warnings to the museum where they were scheduled to be shown (until a certain lily-livered museum director gave in). I commend Del Rio and the other gallery owners for their courage and their principles.

I am also, if I may say so frankly, rather proud to have been at the forefront of this - and look forward to more exciting events and projects (my own among them) ahead. Stay tuned.

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