As growing interest and an increase in spaces amongst the public for non-Western artists becomes more and more prevalent, modern Middle Eastern art captivates audiences with its cultural allure, political relevance, and sheer visual beauty and display of skill and expertise rooted in thousands of years of long revered unique artistic tradition.
It is no surprise that art collectors today are drawn in by the indisputable value and exquisite appeal that it can offer. Today modern Middle Eastern art enjoys a status of being one of the most consistently fastest growing sectors of the 21st century art market with prices for individual works reaching up to millions of pounds. With a broad range of styles, influences, and inspirations, there is surely something to interest any art enthusiast.
A type of modernism unlike that of the Western world was forged in the Middle East during the postwar era when due to gaining independence from imperial forces, a new sense of optimism and need to define and establish a new cultural identity became eminent across the region. Artists wanted to create a unified artistic identity that was unique to the Middle East and push forth and explore a new direction in art that was individual to themselves as a culture and independent from European tradition. Various movements emerged, such as The New Vision Group, in which artists sought to be connected through their work not through style but ideology. Artists wanted to paint subjects that were characteristic to their life and the people around them instead of mimicking European subjects.
Themes in Modern Middle Eastern art, much like art across the world, deals with contemporary issues unique to their society. Subjects of war and political unrest are prevalent issues that Middle Eastern artists deal with, such as in the works of Naim Ismail or Zena Assi who take inspiration from the daily struggles of individual people who live amongst the chaos of the war.
With such a broad array of independent practices, there is an endless amount of Middle Eastern artists worth recognition and to represent them all in the scope of one article would be an impossible feat. Nonetheless, here are a few modern and contemporary artists of the region to take note of.
Shaker Hassan Al-Saïd is one of the most influential Middle Eastern artists of the past half century, helping to found the Baghdad Modern Art Group in 1951. He sought to establish a need for art of the region to draw from their own cultural heritage, but also recognized works of European modernists such as Paul Klee and Picasso. Today he is recognized as one of the leading figures of modern art in the Middle East
"Monir Farmanfarmaian is an artist known for her contribution to modern art in marrying together traditional Islamic geometric patterns of mosaic with the rhythms of European Abstractionism. "
Monir Farmanfarmaian is an artist known for her contribution to modern art in marrying together traditional Islamic geometric patterns of mosaic with the rhythms of European Abstractionism. During her lifetime she moved among both Middle Eastern and American spaces, rendering her able to form a unique international perspective towards her practice. In 2017 the Monir Museum in Tehran was opened in her honor.
Born in Iraq and currently living in America, Harv Kahraman is an artist that deals with feminist subjects. Having traveled internationally and extensively, her work draws from a great pool of inspirations and her work may appear rather classical, however she addresses the struggles and plight of women in the Middle East. Focusing on how women are seen as objects of property in her homeland, she critiques these flaws in society and forces her audience to address the matter as well.
With the recent opening of the Louvre Abu Dhabi, the ongoing popularity of the Mathaf in Dohar, and prices for contemporary Middle Eastern artwork reaching well into the millions at auction, the consistently growing hunger for artwork from the region is undeniable. The cultural potency represented through these visual works is enough to captivate any audience, locally or internationally.