With its two leading art fairs, Paris + Art Basel and ASIA NOW, as well as exhibitions scattered around the city, Paris Art Week 2022 had a wide presence of artists and sculptures of the Middle East, and pay close attention to the current situation in Iran. The week is one of the most important days in the diary for art lovers, who flock to the French capital to take in the world of art. This year, in particular, was marked by a series of art exhibitions; without a doubt the biggest exhibition was Paris + Art Basel, which was accompanied by several smaller but important exhibitions, such as ASIA NOW and AKKA Art fair, dedicated to Africa.
AKKA had several North African galleries from the Middle East and North Africa region and was visible on the side of countries such as Morocco seeking relations with the African continent, in rather than being limited to the Middle East. One of AKKA’s special projects, for example, was the masterpiece of Abdoulaye Konaté, a Malian artist and icon of contemporary African art, who was represented by the Casablanca gallery La Gallery 38.
In this regard, we can say that it is in art festivals that new areas of the art world are being reorganized. Today’s market and silk roads are the driving force behind artistic discourse. This is not necessarily a bad thing for the art environment in general.
“We think of the market as something negative, something that somehow undermines the work of the artist,” explained curator Thien-Bao Le, who curated the A2Z gallery show during Paris Art Week. “But that’s not really it. A thriving market is what allows art to emerge.”
Next to countries with a developing economy, which allows them to finally participate in international exhibitions, there are also other countries that invest in art as a luxury, such as Saudi Arabia. Places like Athr – always present at international art festivals – showed works in Paris +, while Hafez gallery had its booth in ASIA NOW.
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At all these shows during the week, there were several talks about NFTs that are ubiquitous in art, generally in a positive light. At AKKA, Kenza Zouari, co-founder of the MONO gallery in Tunis, asked the question, “Are NFTs a spirit that needs to be caught quickly or a dream that the continent’s developers need to realize?” be careful?” Other discussions in ASIA NOW explored current issues such as “creation in a time of crisis with the examples of Lebanon, Iran and China.”
Paris + Art Basel
The biggest exhibition of the Paris Art Week was Paris + Art Basel at the Grand Palais Éphémère, in the heart of the history of Paris on the Champ-de-Mars. Marc Spiegler, world director of Art Basel said: “With its incomparable history and modern energy, Paris is in a unique position as an important center of international culture. “We intend to build on Paris’ unparalleled status as a world capital to help create an even more exciting week that enhances the city’s international image as a cultural capital.”
In terms of Middle Eastern art in the gallery, perhaps the most interesting booth was the Marfà gallery from Beirut in the featured section, where each collection could present one artist only. Marfà decided to create an exhibition by the Lebanese artist Caline Aoun, who installed a fountain in the center of the booth, offering Klein-blu ink. The centerpiece was composed of a series of beautiful pieces of fabric and paper soaked in blue ink for hours and hours. “The idea was an attempt to understand time. The artist asks: how do you capture something invisible?” explained the journalist, who notes that he is really excited about this first opportunity at Paris + Art Basel. “It’s a great first edition, with great quality work, and the crowd is amazing.”
In various sections of terrorist correct text, posters and unexpected pieces of art spoke about Iranian women and showed solidarity in their struggle. These included the works of artist Hanieh Delacroix, who put up posters in various corners of art fairs and fairs with “#MahsaAmini” printed on them. The guerrilla work was called “Femme, Vie, Libertè, Egalitè, Fraternitè”.
Iran and UAE in ASIA NOW
Another main event for Middle Eastern art during the Paris art week was the 8th Edition of ASIA NOW, which presented artists and sculptors from the Middle East to Southeast Asia. This year’s theme was Feux de Joie (Flames of Joy). The main idea was to create a sense of community through a collective artistic experience.
“We were here last year and we can see how the art scene has grown,” said an assistant at Etemad Gallery in Tehran. “It is very nice to see so many Iranian artists as well as so many Asian artists. We brought seven Iranian artists to present a broad picture of art in the country. They all worked in different media,’ and they are of all ages, and they go from paintings. all the way to being abstract.”
He noted that one of his most appreciated paintings among those presented was “Untitled” by the Iranian artist Hiva Alizadeh, which is an installation created in 2022 and made of synthetic hair. Given what is currently happening in Iran, this was viewed by the guests of the festival as a strong statement.
Presenting a variety of different artists was also the strategy of O Gallery in Tehran. “It’s the first time we’ve shown ASIA NOW, and we’ve gotten great feedback from visitors,” the rep told me. It featured six artists, three women and three men. “For this fair, we showed mainly abstract and figurative artists. Most of them are in the emerging stage, from their early 20s to the years of see the latest 30s by age. It is very important for us to discover new artists and introduce them to the mainstream market, but to help the program here we have also presented some artists who are already known. “
ASIA NOW’s CMS collection, which aims to launch young artists, has featured a Syrian artist, Anas Albraehe, who lives in Lebanon. He presents with extreme sensitivity and humanity the different topics he approaches, through painting and poetry. One of the three collectors explained: “It is an oriental thing to describe these two types of art. “His pictures are a metaphor for the mental state of the mind. In his subjects, he seeks to capture the vulnerability and dignity of people.” Albraehe’s paintings are warm, bright, and intimate.
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Another section, by Mitra Farahani and presented by +2 Gallery, was called “Behjat Sadr: Time Suspended”, and contained a 2006 film dedicated to Behjat Sadr, one of pioneers and masters of contemporary art in Iran. In this film, Sadr himself guides us through his strong, compelling canvases, thinking about his performance, his influences, and his difficult relationship with fame and death. His very abstract mind wanders into dark, strangely beautiful places, and the camera follows him, giving a glimpse into his thoughts.
Fabien Leclerc’s gallery deserves a mention. It showcased the unique In Situ space project, featuring the work of three Iranian artists based in Dubai. Ramin Haerizadeh (born 1975, Tehran), Rokni Haerizadeh (born 1978, Tehran) and Hesam Rahmanian (born 1980, Knoxville) have lived and worked together since 1999 in Tehran, and at the festival they present a series of beautifully decorated, organized plates. such as installation. They also had a video showing the protests in Baghdad, but with the animals represented as animals, and the canvas as a carpet, they all work together as one surreal and colorful piece. – read in the narrow hole, where the military meets the imagination.
“Femme, Vie, Libertè, Egalitè, Fraternitè,” Guerrilla artwork of ASIA NOW [Naima Morelli]
ASIA NOW also featured the Jeddah-based Hafez Gallery, which featured a range of printmaking works by Afsoon and simple collages by Maryam Beydoun. The Gulf Futurism exhibition featured a number of video art works by female artists from Palestine, Saudi Arabia and Iraq.
Coined by the artist Sophia Al-Maria, the term “Gulf Futurism” has come to describe an artistic and literary movement in the region, based on the process of rapid and reckless development of the cities of the Gulf. In the videos, the artists criticize the environmental damage caused by fossil fuel extraction and urbanization. They also show the inconsistency between extreme wealth and the insecurity of migrant workers, who have few rights, live and work in difficult conditions. Others expressed skepticism about today’s media-saturated world, criticizing the isolation of people created by technology.
Inherent in all the works of art was a constant digital connection that blurred the divide between public and private space and a depressing existence made up of virtual spaces. They provoked the upheaval of certain traditions, and the erasure of history in the collective memory and the places of the country.
“We have the feeling that we are losing our minds in the face of the excessive speed of this development,” said the curator of the program, Odile Burluraux. “Many issues are at stake: climate change, modern human values, a redefinition of the social model.”
Although the show was very promising in its area, it was given very little space in the show. Unfortunately, only a small screen was devoted to the middle of this series of very interesting works. Who has time to sit around for hours in the middle of a busy art week? What would have been better for this idea, and more satisfying, would have been a room with many screens to compare and contrast the different styles and techniques of these very talented artists.
Finally, from this Paris Art Week we can see the artistic production coming back strongly after the pandemic. Although we may argue that increasing the number of art exhibitions may not be good for the environment, we can appreciate the food for thought and the strong statements made. In these discussions, Middle Eastern artists are still among the best voices, even if they move away from purely political themes, and are able to present themselves in an organized and beautiful environment.