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  • Foreword / Glenn D. Lowry  13
    Acknowledgments / Jay A. Levenson and Sara Lookofsky  15
    Introduction: About This Book / Anneka Lenssen, Sarah Rogers, Nada Shabout  18
    Essay: The Making and Unmaking of the Arab World / Ussama Makdisi  28
    Primary Documents
    Defining Painting  36
    On the Benefits of Art  37
    Arab Romantics  45
    In Focus. Arab Romanticism / Stephen Sheehi  55
    Letter from Algiers to Paris  57
    Sculpture and the Public in Egypt  58
    In Defense of Egyptian Popular Art  68
    In Focus. Cairo's School of Fine Arts and the Pedagogical Imperative / Dana Ramadan  72
    Letter from Marrakesh to Algiers  73
    On the Formation of a Modern Spirit  74
    In Focus. Cultivation Discourses in the Arab East / Kristen Scheid  76
    Viewing the Exhibition  77
    Querying Art and Religion  80
    The Neo-Orientalists/Cairo  86
    Egyptian Art and Freedom Debates  87
    Shaping the Fate of the Nation  106
    Iraq's Wartime Transformation  109
    On Agony and Beauty  110
    Contemporary Art Group/Cairo  113
    Plates I (1-25)  117
    Surrealist Sensitivities  133
    Petition for the 1 Percent Law/Tunis  138
    An Early Declaration of Huroufiyah  139
    In Focus. Huroufiyah: The Arabic Letter as Visual Form  142
    Imagining an Immortal Arab Art  144
    Toward a Material Modernism  145
    Baghdad Group for Modern Art  150
    The Cultural Politics of Exhibitions  155
    In Focus. The Nakba and Arab Culture / Nasser Rabbat  161
    Algerian Group of the Lettrist International/Algiers  163
    A Call to Human Heritage  164
    Considering Arab Art and Artists  167
    Reviewing the Iraqi Revolution  181
    Proclaiming Arab Unity  186
    In Focus. Biennials and Arab Representation / Anneka Lenssen  191
    Cairo: Limits on Freedom  192
    Materials for a New Algerian Art  196
    Plastic Arts Movement/Damascus  198
    In Focus. Art and Political Patronage during the Cold War / Sarah Rogers  204
    Making Spaces in Beirut  206
    Personal Reflection. Three Years of Teaching Art in Khartoum, 1962-65 / Amir Nour  211
    Plates II (26-49)  213
    Art After the Algerian Revolution  229
    Exploratory Abstraction  240
    The Challenge of Art  243
    Contemplative Art/Baghdad  252
    Presenting New Tunisian Painting  256
    Morocco's Casablanca School Dialogues  263
    Debating North African Art at Home and Away  279
    Aouchem Group/Algiers and Blida  292
    Circulism and Kinetics in Kuwait  294
    In Focus. Experiments in Modern Arabic Typography / Huda Smitshuijzen AbiFarés  301
    Accounting for the June 1967 War  303
    Personal Reflection. From Dreams to Achievements: A Jordanian Artist in the Era of 1968 / Mona Saudi  322
    Exhibition at Djema Al Fna/Marrakesh  323
    Transforming the Arts of the Revolution  324
    In Focus. Revolutionary Film: The Palestine Film Unit / Mohanad Yaqubi  333
    Arab Art in Federation  335
    Exhibition Articulations in Iraq  343
    Personal Reflection. Notes on Contact Art Gallery, 1972-85 / Waddah Faris  351
    A Transregional Critical Terrain  352
    Art and the Letter  357
    The Diasporic Divide  362
    New Realism/Baghdad  367
    Response to the October 1973 War  369
    Personal Reflection. Graphic Design and the Visual Arts in Iraq / Dia al-Azzawi  370
    In Focus. Graphic Art in the Arab World / May Muzaffar  372
    Arab Biennial Initiatives and Critiques  374
    Life as a Palestinian Artist  387
    Khartoum Dialogues  393
    Second Arab Biennial in Rabat  408
    On the Desert Style in Saudi Arabia  412
    Thinking Through Culture During the Lebanese Civil Wars  415
    Environmental Art at Asilah  419
    In Focus. Yemen's Free Atelier: History and Context in the Arabian Peninsula / Anahi Alviso-Marino  424
    The Closure of Gallery 79/Ramallah  426
    Debating Commitment in a New Egypt  427
    Contemporary Modes in the United Arab Emirates  443
    Personal Reflection. Along New Paths: The New Visions Art Collective in Occupied Palestine / Vera Tamari  446
    Index  449
    Trustees of The Museum of Modern Art  464

  • "The translation and publication of these documents is particularly important for scholars. A problem with studying 20th-century Arab art has been lack of access to primary materials. Many of them are still in the hands of artists or their families, and have not been well-catalogued nor digitised – or are in Arabic and inaccessible to an English-dominated field. As study of Arab modernisms grows, projects like this allow artists’ voices to be heard, rather than others speaking for them."


  • "The translation and publication of these documents is particularly important for scholars. A problem with studying 20th-century Arab art has been lack of access to primary materials. Many of them are still in the hands of artists or their families, and have not been well-catalogued nor digitised – or are in Arabic and inaccessible to an English-dominated field. As study of Arab modernisms grows, projects like this allow artists’ voices to be heard, rather than others speaking for them."

  • “This is a unique collection of writings of extraordinary interest. The richness and variety of the documents allow you to listen in, across more than a century, to the debates among artists and critics about the nature, value, and political direction of art. Their manifestos, reflections, essays, dialogues, and letters capture a vibrant modernism as it was forged, elaborated, and contested.” — Timothy Mitchell, William B. Ransford Professor of Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies, Columbia University

    “This volume on Arab art is an important addition to MoMA’s remarkable Primary Documents series. It demonstrates how cumulative research raises the stakes and positions the colonial modern as a determinant within twentieth-century art, and how modernity is co-produced and thus embedded with contradictions that historicize it the more. With an excellent introduction by the editors, art writing from across Arab cultures is chronicled and debated in ways that change interpretive modalities: the pan-Arab imaginary—treated as trope, ideology, material practice—becomes, for instance, Arab meta-discourse on internationalism. This volume will precipitate discourse in contexts beyond the West and, like its predecessors in the series, change parameters within the discipline of art history.” — Geeta Kapur, critic, curator, and author of, When Was Modernism: Essays on Contemporary Cultural Practice in India

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  • Description

    Modern Art in the Arab World: Primary Documents offers an unprecedented resource for the study of modernism: a compendium of critical art writings by twentieth-century Arab intellectuals and artists. The selection of texts—many of which appear here for the first time in English—includes manifestos, essays, transcripts of roundtable discussions, diary entries, exhibition guest-book comments, letters, and more. Traversing empires and nation-states, diasporas and speculative cultural and political federations, these documents bring light to the formation of a global modernism, through debates on originality, public space, spiritualism and art, postcolonial exhibition politics, and Arab nationalism, among many other topics. The collection is framed chronologically, and includes contextualizing commentaries to assist readers in navigating its broad geographic and historical scope. Interspersed throughout the volume are sixteen contemporary essays: writings by scholars on key terms and events as well as personal reflections by modern artists who were themselves active in the histories under consideration. A newly commissioned essay by historian and Arab-studies scholar Ussama Makdisi provides a historical overview of the region’s intertwined political and cultural developments during the twentieth century. Modern Art in the Arab World is an essential addition to the investigation of modernism and its global manifestations.

    Publication of the Museum of Modern Art
    Distributed by Duke University Press

    About The Author(s)

    Anneka Lenssen is Assistant Professor of Art History at the University of California, Berkeley.

    Sarah Rogers is an independent scholar.

    Nada Shabout is Professor of Art History at the University of North Texas.
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