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Book Launch: Reflections: Contemporary Art of the Middle East and North Africa
Venetia Porter with Natasha Morris and Charles Tripp, British Museum Press November 2020
Professor Sussan Babaie will discuss with the authors of this new book the pioneering formation and the nature of the British Museum’s extraordinary collection of modern and contemporary art of the Middle East and North Africa. We will explore the significance and strengths of the collection and the perspectives and methodologies deployed in writing this new book.
Reflections: Contemporary Art of the Middle East and North Africa brings together in a new publication an important collection of works on paper by artists born in or connected to countries that include Iran, Turkey, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Tunisia. The book accompanies an exhibition to be held at the museum in February 2021. Venetia Porter’s introduction engages with the nature of the collection, discusses the refracted picture it conveys of the region and investigates the terminologies used to define this material. One of the contentions of the book is that a thorough grasp of the recent history of the region is essential to understanding the context within which the artists are working. This framework is provided by Charles Tripp’s essay. The majority of the works in the book represent a decade of collecting by the museum. Over 170 artists are represented here with works which include prints, drawings photographs and artists’ books. Grouped into seven chapters, the themes include figuration, abstraction, faith, politics and displacement.
Venetia Porter is a curator of Islamic and Contemporary Middle East art at the British Museum, where she has been since 1989, and Honorary Research Fellow at the Courtauld Institute of Art. Among her exhibitions are Word into Art (2006) and Hajj: journey to the heart of Islam (2012), and she was lead curator for the Albukhary Foundation Gallery of the Islamic World (2018). Recent publications include Thea Porter’s scrapbook (Unicorn Press 2019).
Natasha Morris is Myojin-Nadar Project Curator – Contemporary Middle East Art at the British Museum. She has a doctorate in the history of Iranian art from the Courtauld Institute of Art, where she was previously Iran Heritage Foundation Research Assistant.
Charles Tripp is Emeritus Professor of Politics with reference to the Middle East and North Africa at SOAS and a Fellow of the British Academy. His most recent book is The Power and the People: Paths of Resistance in the Middle East (Cambridge University Press 2013).