Exhibition with over 80 works of modern and contemporary Arab art opens in Paris. Image Credit: Supplied

Paris: Chefs-D’oeuvre De L’art Moderne Et Contemporain Arabe (Masterpieces Of Modern and Contemporary Arab Art), has been inaugurated at the Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris on Sunday.

The exhibition of over 80 works from the Barjeel Art Foundation’s Collection in Sharjah was opened by Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Bin Khalifa Al Nahyan, Madhed Hareb Al Khaiili, the UAE Ambassador to France, Jack Lang, President of the Institut du Monde Arabe and Sultan Sooud Al Qassemi, founder of the Barjeel Art Foundation.

Curated by Philippe van Cauteren, Artistic Director of S.M.A.K. Belgium, and Karim Sultan, Curator at Barjeel Art Foundation, this exhibition explores the act of exhibition-making and the role that a collection has in the construction of art history, with an emphasis on Arab Modern and Contemporary art.

Chefs-D’oeuvre De L’art Moderne Et Contemporain Arabe highlights the role of the collection in defining artworks as "masterpieces".

The exhibition draws attention to this phenomenon, displaying major works from the collection alongside works by lesser well-known artists. 

The exhibition aims to illustrate the methods that occur behind the scenes during the presentation and the conservation of artworks in an exhibition.

Referencing Achraf Touloub’s Le Visage du Monde / Surat Al-ard from the Barjeel Art Foundation Collection, van Cauteren will examine the idea that the discourse of art has been monopolised by an almost exclusively Western view — one that he aims to avoid during the curation of this exhibition.

Meticulous selection

The artworks within the exhibition have been meticulously selected, but independently of their position in art, national or cultural history.

As a result, the curatorial approach is a reconstruction of the conditions within institutions, such as the Barjeel Art Foundation, placing importance upon presentation, conservation and personal reflection.

The exhibition is split into two sections: a room which brings together leading artists from the collection in an archetypal museum scenography (‘white cube’ format); and a second space focused on presenting the ‘back rooms’ of the museum.

The works in this second room appear as objects of study, granting the visitor a rare intimate experience with these works.

The exhibition will also include a selection of documents, works, photographs, notes and letters from the Barjeel Art Foundation and its founder Sultan Sooud Al-Qassemi.

Major artists such as Adel Abdessemed, Hassan Sharif, Mohammed Cherkaoui, Marwan Kassab Bachi, Kader Attia, Rachid Koraichi, Chafic Abboud, Asim Abu Shakra, Shakir Hassan Al-Said, Achraf Touloub and Etel Adnan will be exhibited alongside their peers.