The British Museum’s Islamic and Contemporary Middle East art curator Venetia Porter has authored a new book, Reflections, showcasing the museum’s collection of contemporary Middle Eastern art. Key works added to the museum in the last decade include artists’ responses to the Arab Spring and its aftermath. The Flag, by Mohamed Abla, evokes the exhilaration of the occupation of Tahrir Square in Cairo in 2011.
Since 2009, the British Museum’s Contemporary and Modern Middle Eastern Art acquisition group (CaMMEA) has been acquiring work for its collection, drawing on the extraordinary creativity of artists from the MENA region. Many of the purchases appear in Porter’s book. They include the Syrian digital artist and filmmaker Sulafa Hijazi’s Untitled, 2012. Hijazi began her career by sharing her digital images on social media.
In Untitled, 2011, Djamel Tatah presents an image of a boy offering handfuls of stones; it speaks immediately of Palestinian resistance, though Tatah is a French-born Algerian whose work often draws on newspaper images from across the region, of people living in conflict zones.
Reflections was published to coincide with an exhibition of the same name opening soon at the British Museum. With more than 100 works, it was due to open its doors on 11 February, but it has been delayed amid the coronavirus lockdown; Venetia Porter will give a (virtual) curator's talk on 25 February. While The Flag by Mohamed Abla is in the book, but not in the exhibition, his work In Conversation (above) will be shown (Reproduced by permission of the artist, Mohamed Abla)