V&A and British Museum bring Light from the Middle East in new collection

By Culture24 Reporter | 17 July 2012
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A digitally altered image of a Middle Eastern soldier in uniform on top of a mountain
Nermine Hammam, from the series Upekkha (2011). Archival inkjet print© V&A / Art Fund Collection of Middle Eastern Photography at the V&A and the British Museum
The Middle East has provided a huge amount of contemporary photography recently, much of it of sufficiently exceptional quality to see public interest in work from the area escalating at a commensurate pace.

An image of a framed photo of a Middle Eastern woman set against a green backdrop
Hassan Hajjaj, Saida in Green (2000). Digital c-print and tyre frame© V&A / Art Fund Collection of Middle Eastern Photography at the V&A and the British Museum
Reflecting this, the British Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum have collaborated to build a new collection of visual arts from the region.

With Light from the Middle East, a new display of more than 90 works at the V&A’s Porter Gallery spanning North Africa to central Asia, organisers are hoping to address the relatively sparse presence of Middle Eastern photography domestically, showcasing responses to 20 years of frequently tumultuous social and political change.

“In the past few years, contemporary photographic practice from and about the Middle East has been some of the most exciting, innovative and varied art anywhere in the world,” says Marta Weiss, who has curated the technically diverse survey of 30 artists from 13 countries.

“The exhibition will celebrate the creative and sophisticated ways that contemporary artists use photography to respond to the complexities of the Middle East.”

An image of a digitally-altered image of a Middle Eastern woman sitting in a grey lounge
Shadi Ghadirian, from the series Qajar (1998). Gelatin silver bromide print© V&A / Art Fund Collection of Middle Eastern Photography at the V&A and the British Museum
The opening section aims to present photography as a tool for capturing history, including Newsha Tavakolian’s Mothers of Martyrs, a 2006 series showing elderly mothers clutching framed pictures of sons killed in the war between Iran and Iraq during the 1980s.

The second part features existing photos which have been subverted, from Iranian studio portraits newly festooned with sunglasses and soft drink cans to modernist takes on Israeli watchtowers in the West Bank.

And the final works look at images which have been manipulated, altered, or even scratched, burnt and attacked – among them Egyptian soldiers reimagined in multi-coloured “fantasy settings” far from the Arab Spring, as well as box camera views of Kabul.

The collection was originally established by the Art Fund in 2009. “This new collection is being formed at a time of profound change in the Middle East,” says Stephen Deuchar, the Fund’s director.

“Artists and photographers, as cultural commentators, are themselves among the agents of change. We much look forward to the exhibition in the autumn, which will showcase highlights from this important new collecting initiative.”

  • Light from the Middle East: New Photography takes place November 13 2012 –April 7 2013.

More pictures:

An image of a brightly coloured digitally-altered postcard souvenir from Beirut
Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige, Wonder Beirut #13, Modern Beirut, International Centre of Water-Skiing, from the series Wonder Beirut (1997-2006). C-print mounted on aluminium with face mounting© V&A / Art Fund Collection of Middle Eastern Photography at the V&A and the British Museum. Courtesy the artists / CRG Gallery, New York / In Situ / Fabienne Leclerc, Paris
An image of a brightly coloured photo of a Middle Eastern man in a suit, hat and scarf
Youssef Nabil, detail from the series The Yemeni Sailors of South Shields (2006). Hand-coloured gelatin silver print© British Museum / Art Fund Collection of Middle Eastern Photography at the V&A and the British Museum
An image of a colourful photo of a Middle Eastern woman holding up a portrait photo of a man
Newsha Tavakolian, from the series Mothers of Martyrs (2006). Digital c-print© V&A / Art Fund Collection of Middle Eastern Photography at the V&A and the British Museum
An image of a photo of a half-naked Middle Eastern man gyrating in front of a mirror
Mehraneh Atashi, Bodiless I, from the series Zourkhaneh Project (House of Strength) (2004). Digital c-print© British Museum / Art Fund Collection of Middle Eastern Photography at the V&A and the British Museum
An image of a graphic design for a piece of air mail showing two people embracing on it
Jowhara AlSaud, Airmail, from the series Out of Line (2008). C-type print© V&A / Art Fund Collection of Middle Eastern Photography at the V&A and the British Museum
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