The Barjeel Art Foundation opens a new exhibition at the Barjeel Art Foundation Gallery at the Maraya Art Centre, Sharjah.
“Beloved Bodies”, showcasing a variety of depictions of the human form, from the 20th century to the present day, is comprised of two phases: Part 1 (October 2016 – February 2017) and Part 2 (March 2017 – September 2017). The exhibition aims to challenge social expectations and conventions of how the body should be perceived, used and represented across the world. The image of the body not only moves between figuration and abstraction, but also from an object of desire, affection and observation, to an active, self-conscious figure that observes, seeks and confronts the viewer’s gaze.
“Beloved Bodies” is presented and curated by Barjeel Art Foundation curator Mandy Merzaban, with works drawn exclusively from the Barjeel Art Collection, one of the most extensive collections of Modern and Contemporary Arab art from the region, dating from the 1800s to the present day. Established by Sultan Sooud Al-Qassemi in 2010, the collection forms the basis for examining the history and significance of Arab art from its early modernist beginnings to the contemporary work created by Arab artists both locally and on a global stage. Through in-house exhibitions (in Sharjah), lending work to cultural organisations across the world, and partnerships with arts institutions internationally, the foundation strives to convey the nuances inherent to Arab histories beyond the borders of culture and geography, and encourage public awareness of the importance of art to the community.
The exhibition’s title, “Beloved Bodies”, is taken from the writings of the French philosopher Roland Barthes: the term ‘beloved body’ recurs through his writings on love to describe the object of a lover’s affection. Inspired by the universal themes of love and desire, which are continuously debated across the world through philosophy, literature, music and art, Beloved Bodies examines how these are translated through representations of the human figure, through works by Arab artists across the world.
The exhibition presents a number of key works by influential female artists, including Lebanese-American artist Etel Adnan, who presents one of the most abstract works in the exhibition. Alongside this, the late Iraqi artist Layla Attar’s Untitled (1988), killed during the US bombardment in 1993, depicts a lone woman in an ethereal primordial forest that recalls the Epic of Gilgamesh. The Lebanese artist Huguette Caland’s Erotic Composition(1966-67), a small, delicate abstract drawing hangs alone in a peach coloured room in the exhibition, challenges expectations and continues the artist’s devotion to subtle representations of the feminine form.