New Exhibit on Middle Eastern Art Coming to Museum of Anthropology

Photo courtesy of Tarek Al-Ghoussein and The Third Line, Dubai

Photo courtesy of Tarek Al-Ghoussein and The Third Line, Dubai

A landmark exhibit of works by Middle Eastern artists is set to be unveiled in Vancouver’s Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia.

But if you’re expecting ancient relics, calligraphy and studies on veiled women, you may be in for a surprise. 

The Safar/Voyage exhibit, which opens April 20, focuses on contemporary works by 16 different Arab, Iranian and Turkish artists.  The show aims to counteract simplified, one-dimensional representations of the Middle East with a more nuanced, intimate picture of the region.

Photo courtesy of Tarek Al-Ghoussein and The Third Line, Dubai

Photo courtesy of Tarek Al-Ghoussein and The Third Line, Dubai

The 8,000-square-foot exhibition includes paintings, sculpture, video and performances that look at themes as diverse as migration, war, geopolitics and aesthetics.  Among the works on display, for example, is a hand-woven Persian carpet that depicts – not visions of ancient life – but scenes from modern day Tehran.  Another work consists of a pile of personal belongings hastily lashed to the roof a 1970s car – a commentary on the decades of inner strife that have roiled the region.

The exhibit marks the first time that works from internationally recognized contemporary artists from the Middle East are being shown together in Canada.  It is curated by Dr. Fereshteh Daftari, a scholar famous for assembling MOMA’s collections of Middle Eastern art in New York.

Among the artists highlighted is Iran’s reigning master of modern sculpture – who happens to have a home in West Vancouver.  Parviz Tanavoli, who splits his time between Vancouver and Tehran, has had works displayed at the British Museum, MOMA and other leading galleries around the world.  This is the first time, however, that his sculptures will be part of an exhibit in his own backyard.

The name of the exhibit, Safar/Voyage, refers to both the transformations of the Middle East in recent decades and the personal journey that visitors to the exhibit will undergo.  Visitors first experience global visions of the region, then plunge into specific cities like Tehran and Cairo and finally narrow in on the human level of internal thoughts and meditative spaces.  The idea is to counterbalance simplistic representations of the Middle East in the media with a more complex and human portrait.

Safar/Voyage: Contemporary Works by Arab, Iranian and Turkish Artists is on display at the Museum of Anthropology at UBC from April 20-Sept. 15.

For more updates on Vancouver and beyond, follow me on Twitter @RemyScalza.  

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