• Histories of Abstraction in the Arab World

Taking Shape: Abstraction from the Arab World, 1950s–1980s is an exhibition of abstract art drawn from the collection of the UAE-based Barjeel Art Foundation, to be presented at the Grey Art Gallery in New York between January 14 – April 4, 2020.

The show explores the development of abstraction in the Arab world via paintings, sculpture, and works on paper dating from the 1950s through the 1980s. By looking critically at the history and historiography of mid-20th century abstraction, the exhibition considers art from North Africa and West Asia as integral to the discourse on global modernism. The project foregrounds a number of abstract movements that developed in the region at a time when individual artists and artist collectives grappled with questions of authenticity, national identity and the decolonization of culture.

The conversation at Jameel Arts Centre brings together some of the contributors to the exhibition and the accompanying publication to reflect upon their research and consider the multiple histories and genealogies of abstract art.


Salah Hassan: Goldwin Smith Professor of African and African Diaspora Art History and Visual Culture, and the Director of the Institute for Comparative Modernities at Cornell University

Salwa Mikdadi: Associate Professor, Practice of Art History, NYU Abu Dhabi

Sultan Sooud Al Qassemi: founder of the Barjeel Art Foundation and lecturer and researcher on social, political, and cultural affairs in the Arab Gulf States

Suheyla Takesh: Curator, Barjeel Art Foundation