Rabin Mondal, Brothel II, 1962. Oil on canvas. 83.8 x 109.2 cm. Courtesy of DAG, Delhi, Mumbai and New York
Rabin Mondal, Brothel II, 1962. Oil on canvas. 83.8 x 109.2 cm. Courtesy of DAG, Delhi, Mumbai and New York

“A discursive platform to open up the multiple facets of Modernism”

– Sam Bardaouil and Till Fellrath, Curators of Art Dubai Modern 2020

The 2020 edition of Art Dubai Modern will showcase focused, individual presentations of 19 leading modernist artists from 11 countries in the MENASA region making it the largest edition to date. Curated by Sam Bardaouil and Till Fellrath of Art Reoriented, the upcoming edition highlights a number of diverse artistic practices each exemplifying a unique vision and application of modernism ranging from the 1930s until the 1970s. It illustrates the broad spectrum of formal styles that each of the exhibited artists developed within their specific cultural and socio-political contexts, providing visitors with the unique opportunity to learn about some of the most remarkable figures of modernism from the region.

Rabin Mondal, Brothel II, 1962. Oil on canvas. 83.8 x 109.2 cm. Courtesy of DAG, Delhi, Mumbai and New York
Rabin Mondal, Brothel II, 1962. Oil on canvas. 83.8 x 109.2 cm. Courtesy of DAG, Delhi, Mumbai and New York

Alongside the exhibited artworks, the 2020 edition will feature an extensive display of archival materials ranging from exhibition catalogues and posters, to press articles, photographs and correspondence. This will provide a contextual framework that allows the visitors to further appreciate the artistic and cultural significance of the exhibited artists and their respective works.

Three significant modernist positions from India are represented through the politically charged works of Anjolie Ela Menon (b. 1940 / Aicon Art, New York), M. F. Husain (1913 – 2011 / Eye for Art, Houston) and Rabin Mondal (1929 – 2019 / DAG, Delhi, Mumbai and New York). Menon has constantly re-envisioned her role as an artist and feminist through producing work that defies categorization. The exhibition will feature a number of her seminal 1970s portrait paintings. The highly regarded Husain, returns to the Modern section with rare works from the 1950s and 1960s highlighting the innovative aspects of his approach to figuration. Mondal invented a language in paint that expresses his engagement with social injustice, and will be presented through seminal paintings from the 1960s and 1970s.

Bibi Zogbé, Untitled, 1935. Oil on canvas.  27 x 23 cm.
Untitled, 1945. Oil on canvas.  40 x 30 cm. Courtesy Agial Art Gallery, Beirut.

The 2020 edition will host iconic names in modernism from Egypt. Rare abstract masterpieces from the 1960s by Fouad Kamel (1919 – 1973 / Gallery Misr, Cairo) will be exhibited for the first time since they went on tour in the US between 1967 and 1970. Works by Gamal El Sagini (1917 – 1977 / Zamalek Art Gallery, Cairo) will be on view including a range of paintings and works on paper from the 1930s onwards, culminating in his seminal Dolls series from the 1970s. Samir Rafi (1926 – 2004 / ArtTalks, Cairo) returns to Art Dubai through hitherto un-exhibited surrealist works from the 1940s during his affiliation with the Art et Liberté Group. Archeologist and painter Abdel Ghaffar Shedid (b. 1938 / Ebdaa Art Gallery, Cairo) will be a newcomer through rare works from the 1960s that illustrate his truly singular modernist trajectory. Lastly, a presentation of the scarcely exhibited Mounir Canaan (1919 – 1999 / Art Talks and Ebdaa Art Gallery, Cairo) will reveal his unique negotiation of abstraction through collage works and paintings that boast a remarkable range in materiality.

From Lebanon, the exhibition will showcase three incredible, yet rarely exhibited artists. Directly from the artist’s estate, Aref El Rayess (1928 – 2005 / Sfeir-Semler Gallery, Beirut and Hamburg) will be represented through a unique series of works revealing his philosophical stance on life. In another highlight, early paintings ranging from the 1930s to the 1950s by Bibi Zogbé (1890 – 1975 / Agial Art Gallery, Beirut) will be on view revealing her recurring take on flowers and the Still Life. In addition, Art Dubai Modern will feature a unique selection of early sculptures and rarely seen sketches and studies by the leading sculptor Alfred Basbous (1924 – 2006 / Mark Hachem Gallery, Beirut, Paris and New York) revealing his lifelong search for a true aesthetic of minimalism.

Hailing from Haifa, Palestinian artist Abed Abdi (b. 1942 / Gallery One, Ramallah) is a leading voice of his generation, and will be included with a concentrated collection of significant paintings, etchings, and works on paper mostly from the 1950s and 1960s that showcase his profound engagement with the Palestinian plight.  A visionary position of modernism in Saudi Arabia will be represented through works from the 1970s by Saud Al Qahtani (b. 1953 / Hafez Gallery, Jeddah), executed in his signature synthesis of neo-cubist, and quasi-calligraphic forms.

Fahrelnissa Zeid, Untitled, 1940s. Oil on canvas.  134 x 530 cm. Courtesy Dirimart, Istanbul.

In furthering the heterogeneity of positions within the exhibition, two focused presentations of two pioneers of modernism from Turkey will be included. A number of masterpieces by Fahrelnissa Zeid (1901 – 1991 / Dirimart, Istanbul), will be on view with several works including a monumental abstract painting from the 1940s. Bedri Rehmi Eyüboglu (1911 – 1975 / Anna Laudel, Istanbul and Düsseldorf) is represented through intriguing works from the 1950s until the 1970s showcasing his navigation of styles from the geometric to the figurative.

An important voice from the diverse expressions of modernism within Morocco is present through rarely exhibited works from the 1950s until the 1970s by celebrated painter Mohammed Kacimi (1942 – 2003 / Comptoir des Mines Galerie, Marrakech), illustrating his strong post-colonial position. Omer Kheiry (1939 – 1999 / DABANGA, Khartoum), an important figure of the Khartoum School in Sudan, will be present through powerful works from the 1960s and 1970s, revealing the remarkable story of his artist alter ego George Edwards. From Nigeria, the exhibition will feature an astoundingly intricate body of work from the 1970s by Bruce Onobrakpeya (b. 1932 / TAFETA, London) highlighting his exploration of Nigerian folklore and contemporary life through highly original bronzed lino relief and metal foil etching. Ernesto Shikhani from Mozambique (1934 – 2010 / Perve Galeria, Lisbon) will also be on view with a selection of seminal works executed in his signature bold colors and intricate fusion of styles as a surreal-like response to local, modern political history.

In choosing to highlight the distinct stylistic traits of these 19 significant artists, each within their respective intellectual and geo-cultural context, Art Dubai Modern 2020 will provide a platform for discourse that opens up the multiple facets of modernism recognizing its heterogeneous incarnations within various centers of artistic production across the MENASA region.

Follow the curators on Instagram: @Till.Fellrath, @sbardaouil

Visit Art Reoriented’s site here.

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