In conjunction with the year-long celebration of the 175th anniversary of E. E. Salisbury and Arabic Studies, the Yale University Art Gallery aims to host works from the Barjeel Art Foundation, located in Sharjah, in May 2017. This is a comprehensive and exciting collection of modern art, from the 19th century until the present, made by influential artists from the Middle East and North Africa. The exhibition will focus on key modernist artworks, with the goal of locating them within the context of geographically and historically diverse works in the Yale University Art Gallery. We hope that the juxtaposition will be productive, placing the works from the Middle East in conversation with other modernist projects, thereby expanding their frame of reference and also that of the YUAG’s collection. This will be the first exhibition at any Yale museum devoted to modern art from the Middle East, and we hope that it will allow for new pedagogical possibilities, from Art History to Anthropology.
Very often the cultural productions of ‘non-western’ countries have been viewed through the lens of European and American modes of art practice and education. We aim to move away from such binaries to demonstrate Timothy Mitchell’s assertion that the question of modernity is one of entanglements and synchronicity; one in which artists in the Middle East were both inspired by and contributed to global trends in modern art and culture.