Misk launches Art Library to support scholarships in art: “The idea is to provide opportunities”
Egyptian artist Adam Henein passed away last year, leaving behind some of the country’s best-known landmarks, the restoration of the Great Sphinx, as well as the famous Aswan International Sculpture Symposium, dedicated to training young sculptors. Egyptians.
But when curator Mona Khazindar met him in Cairo in 2016, Henein wanted to show him something different: his charcoal drawings, on a warm and intimate scale. He asked her if she would do a book on them, and Khazindar agreed. But life and other plans got in the way, and when Henein died, the book project was still in doubt.
Khazindar, by then, had left the Arab World Institute and started working at the Saudi Ministry of Culture. Today, for the kingdom’s Misk Art Institute, she is editing a new series of books aimed at remedying the lack of scholarship on Arab artists called The art library: discovering Arab artists.
The first two volumes are devoted to the seminal Saudi painter Abdulrahman Al Soliman and Henein, where his charcoal drawings will be presented for the first time.
Returning to Henein was, Khazindar said, “a promise I had to keep.”
The art library The series will include three pairs of books per year, in English and Arabic: one on a Saudi artist and two on Arab artists. Modern art, like that of heavyweights Al Soliman and Henein, will be the focus, along with photography, contemporary art, calligraphy and other types of artistic practice.
I became more and more convinced that it was necessary to document artists and their work before it was too late.
Mona Khazindar, curator
“When I was at the Institut du Monde Arabe, we often saw that artists lacked documentation or archives. I became more and more convinced that it was necessary to document artists and their work before it was too late, ”explains Khazindar, who became the first female CEO of the Musée de Paris in 2011.
Through imagery, meticulous research and commissioned essays, the open series aims to answer that call. The Art Library is also strategic in its approach. Each book will have two main essays, one written by an international reviewer and the other by a reviewer from the artist’s country or the Arab region. Misk hopes the international critic will help raise awareness of the artists beyond the region. And as for Arab criticism, she hopes these books will have a ripple effect.
“We don’t have a lot of art critics in the Arab world because there is little tradition of public discourse on art,” Khazindar explains. “So the idea is to give opportunities, and little by little make a change.”
Iranian-British art specialist Roxane Zand and Iraqi writer Farouk Yousif wrote about Al Soliman, one of the pioneering Saudi artists who joined the famous Darat al Funun Al Saudia (Saudi School of Art), founded in 1979. There he painted cubist-inspired works, filled with voluminous forms, and later transformed into more abstract, more freely painted and architectural canvases.
Appropriately for the start of this series, both Henein and Al Soliman have contributed to the development of the art scene in their respective countries. Al Soliman wrote one of the few books on Saudi art history, The Saudi art march in 2000, and Henein donated his private art collection to Egypt become a public museum.
Henein also has a long-standing relationship with Saudi Arabia. The Jeddah Al Mansouria Foundation, headed by Princess Jawaher bint Majid Al Saud, supported his work and in 2005 published a monograph on his work, also edited by Khazindar.
For Khazindar, the art library is necessary not only to understand the Arab culture but also the past of the region.
“These artists documented history – the social and political upheavals of the time,” says Khazindar. “I am thinking of Egypt and the nationalization of the Suez Canal, which various artists have documented in their paintings, or of political events, such as the 1967 war or the first Intifada. And they studied abroad, they came back, and they created their own identity. All of this evolution and movement is necessary to document and understand where we are. “
The lack of documentation on Arab artists is compounded by the linguistic divide, where the information that does exist is mostly in Arabic.
The Arab Library is one of many new initiatives aimed at overcoming this separation between Arab culture and that of the West.
In 2010, NYU Abu Dhabi launched the Library of Arabic Literature, which commissions translations of important Arabic works into English, again in a standardized library format.
The 2018 volume Modern art in the Arab world: primary documents English translations in the same way of key Arabic texts of the history of modern Arabic art.
Misk contributed to the financing of the Modern Art book, which was produced in association with the Museum of Modern Art in New York. As the Saudi artistic landscape develops, Misk’s role is emerging as one of the initiatives supporting education and artists. For the library launch, Misk is hosting an exhibition of Al Soliman and Henein’s work, as well as the results of the inaugural Masaha residency, a four-month mentorship program for Riyadh artists and curators.
The works of Abdulrahman Al Soliman and Adam Henein will be on display at the King Faisal bin Fahad Arts Gallery in Riyadh until August. The showcase of the residence, Blurring Lines: Art & the Creative Industries, is in place at the same location until Saturday June 26