The National profiles artist Mohamed Kanoo:
Pop art Arab-style is what Kanoo is good at. A longtime fan of Andy Warhol, his first attempt at art, in 1989, in the spirit of “how difficult can it be?”, was a combination of the polarised colour palettes of Warhol and the giant projections of Roy Lichtenstein.
“I liked Andy Warhol, I liked his style, so it was a question of how do I recreate that?” explains Kanoo. “Andy Warhol had this silkscreen process, but I could not get the materials here, and I said I have to have fun with this and create it myself. And I found Roy Lichtenstein who took these comic books and then projected them, drew them and painted them, and I said, well I can do that. So I merged the two and ended up with Andy Warhol style but hand-painted.” [ . . . ]
Influenced by the likes of Louise Bourgeois’s giant spider or the massive minimalist sculptures of Richard Serra, the huge installation was designed on a scale that would make it worth taking to the galleries of the world, spreading the information that the Arabic world does, indeed, have a contemporary art scene. Kanoo cites the Georges Pompidou in Paris, the Hamburger Bahnhof Museum in Berlin, The Tate Modern in London and the Guggenheims of New York and Bilbao as the places where he would like to see his work displayed. [ . . . ]
This hybrid art that is a mix of contemporary western style and Arabic ideas is, Kanoo insists, part of the global history of art, just the latest movement in a long tradition of East-meets-West visual culture, and he talks knowledgeably and enthusiastically about the mutual influence of Constantinople and Venice before the Renaissance, of Andalucian Spain, of Baghdad, destroyed by the Mongol invasion, the Golden Horde. “It’s like any art,” he says. “The tradition of art history builds on the predecessor. What contemporary Arab art is doing is simply building on the foundations of creating art that exists all over the world but infusing it with an Arab or Islamic culture.”
Squaring the Circle (The National)
Georgina Adam’s FT column contains this reminder of Phillips de Pury’s latest initiative: pushing further into the emerging market of Iranian and Arab Contemporary art in conjunction with Saatchi’s Unveiled show.
In parallel, Phillips de Pury, which funds free public entry to the Saatchi Gallery and has a space on the top floor, is showing 21 modern Arab and Iranian paintings. Curated by the firm’s Middle East director, Lulu Al-Sabah, the show spans almost 100 years, from a 1911 river scene by the Iraqi Abdul Al Rassam to an energetic 1997 abstract by the Lebanese Hussein Madi. “The choice is my own taste,” says Al-Sabah, who lives between Kuwait and Dubai. Prices range from $22,000 to $180,000, and the show continues until May 6.
Jonathan Jones doesn’t think much of Charles Saatchi’s desire to be a reality show star, even if Saatchi is going to keep his mouth shut:
The show will “attempt to discover the next Damien Hirst or Tracey Emin.” Well, I don’t suppose anyone would expect it to discover the next Cy Twombly or Jasper Johns. [ . . . ]
Does anything that happens in a reality talent show matter? What are you saying about art by becoming involved in such nonsense?
It’s of a piece with the desperate inclusiveness of Saatchi’s online activities, and the staggering, yet boring, plurality of British art now. “Everyone an artist”, said Joseph Beuys, and in Britain this seems to have come true. Or, as Rupert Pupkin put it in Martin Scorsese’s prophetic film The King of Comedy, you can have anything you want, so long as you’re prepared to pay the price. We can all be artists so long as we’re prepared to forget the idea that art has any worth or meaning.
Yet, at the same time, the Times of London praises his new show of art from the Middle East:
Yet however combustible it may turn out to be, Saatchi has good reason to put on this top-notch survey of Middle Eastern contemporary art. News of the Middle East today is dominated by images and reports of death and destruction, of terrorists and refugees, and the human misery caused by long-held political and religious antagonism. This widespread conflict overshadowing the region has tended to obscure the remarkably vibrant contemporary art scene that is alive and well in the countries of the Middle East and its diaspora. [ . . . ]
In its second show since moving to the King’s Road, the Saatchi Gallery offers us a major survey of recent Middle Eastern painting, sculpture and installation. Nineteen artists are represented, most of them in their twenties and thirties, from Iraq, Iran, Egypt, Tunisia, Lebanon, Syria and Algeria, and their works reveal something of the range of their experiences and of the cultural and historical traditions of their homelands.[ . . . ]
This is a richly fascinating survey and anyone with an interest in the region, at any level, would do well to take a look at these revelatory views from the inside.
Unveiled: New Art from the Middle East at Saatchi Gallery (Times of London)
Moves on to Contemporary Arab and Iranian Art
You might think Chinese Contemporary art is over and washed up, yesterday’s fad. But someone forgot to tell the British public. Charles Saatchi’s inaugural exhibition, Revolution Continues, is a huge hit in London:
About 5,200 visitors each day have seen the free Revolution Continues exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery, which means that by the time the show closes it will have attracted about 525,000 people. Only 300,000 visited Charles Saatchi’s 1997 Sensation exhibition at the Royal Academy.
How, you ask, will the impresario top that? By moving on to the latest field of art that is experiencing rapid growth: Contemporary Indian? SouthEast Asian? Nope and nope again.
Although art from the region is often overlooked because of the tense political situation, the former advertising mogul, who was born in Baghdad, said: “The work is breathtaking – new Arabian artists are about to take centre stage in the art world.” The stars of the new show – called Unveiled – include the brothers Rokni and Ramin Haerizadeh, from Tehran, Khaled Hafez from Cairo and Wafa Hourani from Hebron in Palestine.
Chinese Art Show Draws Record Crowd (This Is London)