An artist created a giant mural across 50 buildings in Cairo without the government noticing Chris Weller Mar 30, 2016.

Amid Cairo’s brick buildings and heaping piles of trash is a sprawling work of art, which, at first, looks messy and incoherent.

But when you stand on the nearby hillside and read the spray-painted Arabic “calligraffiti,” as its creator Tunisian-French artist eL Seed calls it, the message reads loud and clear: “If one wants to see the light of the sun, he must wipe his eyes.”

The quote represents the importance of withholding judgment of people just because of their circumstances, says eL Seed, who first visited the community a few years ago. He’s called the piece “Perception” for just that reason, hoping to get people to see past the area’s physical appearance.

The entire piece took three weeks to complete, and eL Seed says it was done in total secrecy from the Egyptian government due to the country’s strict laws forbidding artistic expression.



From Mathaf to Madrid

Arab Hyphen

Suspended-Together-Manal-Al-Dowayan-2011-123-fiberglass-doves Manal Al Dowayan, Suspended Together

The exhibition Looking at the World Around You: Contemporary Works from Qatar Museums is being held from 9 February to 19 June 2016 at the Santander Art Gallery in Boadilla del Monte, Madrid, the “first major loan exhibition in Europe of works from Mathaf, the Arab Museum of Contemporary Art in Doha.”

This selection, more than 160 works in total, represents the history of contemporary Arab art as seen through the eyes of 34 artists, most of whom are natives of Arab nations like Morocco, Egypt, Lebanon, Algeria, Iraq, Kuwait and, of course, Qatar. However, the exhibition also includes works by foreign-born creators whose art is related to the Arab world, such as Yan Pen Ming and Cai Guo-Qiang from China and the Belgian master René Magritte.

Take a “virtual visit” of the exhibition here.

Featured artists include:


Etel Adnan

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Loud Art and Nuqat: ‘Executing Culture Shock’

Arab Hyphen


Saudi initiative LOUD Art has partenered with Nuqat, a platform for connecting artists in the the Middle East, to put on an exhibition with the title ‘Executing Culture Shock’.  Apparently the initiative is “aimed at challenging and examining the experience of cultural change and its effect on artists and designers.” The exhibition will be on until June 7 in Khobar.

Arabnews reports that the project featured a total of 37 collaborating artists. In the past, LOUD art exhibitions have featured artists such as:

The artists showcased work which “reflected their ideas of the concept of culture shock in a wittingly, humorous, satirical, and positive attitude.”  I haven’t been able to find a complete list of the artists in this exhibition but apparently some…

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Al Hangar and the New Generation of Saudi Artists

Arab Hyphen

d7hftxdivxxvm.cloudfront.netMyrna Award writes about  Al Hangar (The Warehouse) an initiative by young Saudi artists, who describe it as a cultural movement which aims to “ignite a sense of community.”

Artists are individually invited to show work at Al Hangar, similarly to a biennial. And so far, they’ve been inundated with requests to participate, an indication of both the buzz around the alternative space, and the growing energy around Saudi’s art scene.

The initiative is led by Ramy Alquthamy and Nasser Al Salem who hope to provide this sense of community for emerging Saudi artists, the “generation in waiting” as they were referred to in Edge of Arabia’s exhibition from a couple of years ago, Rhizoma, which aimed:

to provide a clear vision of the radical transformation in Saudi art, which is now more affiliated with its roots, to the real culture represented by the awareness of the different living conditions in…

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Jameel Prize 4 – V & A Museum London.


The V&A has announced the shortlist for the Jameel Prize 4. Eleven artists and designers have been shortlisted for this year’s £25,000 prize, which is awarded every two years in partnership with Art Jameel. They are:

David Chalmers Alesworth
Rasheed Araeen
Lara Assouad
Cevdet Erek
Sahand Hesamiyan
Lucia Koch
Ghulam Mohammad
Shahpour Pouyan
Wael Shawky
Bahia Shehab

LACMA’s ground-breaking “Islamic Art Now” – in pictures from Art Radar

LACMA’s first exhibition of their contemporary Middle Eastern art collection charts the expanding parameters of Islamic art.

With a collection of Islamic art spanning from the Early to the Medieval and Late Islamic periods, LACMA in Los Angeles has recently been expanding into the contemporary arena. The first showing of its contemporary art collection from the Middle East has marked a milestone in the understanding of the region’s art history – as welll as triggering debate.





Wael Shawky “Cabaret Crusades: The Path to Cairo”, 2012 Vídeo monocanal, color, so, 58 min Col·lecció MACBA. Fundació MACBA. Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw © Wael Shawky, 2015
Once again, the MACBA collaborates with the Loop Festival showing the work of Wael Shawky, Cabaret Crusades: The Path to Cairo, 2012, in the Tower room on 4, 5 and 6 June.
The work will be seen showed as part of the MACBA Collection exhibition: Desires and Necessities that opens on 18 June.


A project by LOOP Barcelona in collaboration with MACBA.

EXHIBITION ‘Light Bodies’ by Maïmouna Guerresi by Islamic Arts Magazine

Composed of photographic works, sculpture, installation and video, made in different periods, the exhibition ‘Light Bodies’ will be on view from March 5-8, 2015 at Volta NY and from March 20- May 1, 2015 at the Mariane Ibrahim Gallery in Seattle.

The work on the exhibition show Maïmouna’s artistic path and a journey to the different spiritual interpretations. At Volta visitors will be able to see: ‘White Rubber Tire – First Lesson’, 2014, ‘The Giants’, ‘Cosmo’ and ‘Supha’ and at the Mariane Ibrahim Gallery in Seattle: the photographic series of the Giants: ‘Moussa’, ‘Rhokaya’ and ‘Surprise’; the photo triptych ‘Table Red’ and ‘Blue Family’; the photographic installation ‘Cosmo’; the photos ‘Hats-Minarets’; and the video installation ‘Milky Light’.

M-Eating Series

‘White Rubber Tire – First Lesson’, 2014 is a part of the latest photographic series titled M-Eating. The seies presents images of African men, women, and children, in front of the same table, anticipating a banquet. But there is no food on the table, and just a few objects like a plate, a jug of water, or some remnants of war, that in this context lose the meaning of menace for a daily and decorative aspect. The scene in ‘First Lesson’ takes place around a red table with a teacher, children and a wheel on the table painted white and used as if it was an object of study. The scene has a psychological connotation as well as formal one. The colorful clothes, tablecloths, the bottoms of the walls painted by the artist, are part of this silent act of metaphysical suspension, something is going to happen, perhaps a dialogue or something else. This table encounter thus becomes an opportunity to reflect on contemporary man and his relationship to society.


Maïmouna Guerresi / M-Eating Series, Salt, 2013, Lambda print on aluminum, 70×246 cm – 110×387 cm / Courtesy of the Artist and Mariane Ibrahim Gallery


Maïmouna Guerresi / M-Eating Series, White Cup, 2014, Lambda print on aluminum, 100×118 cm – 200×237 cm / Courtesy of the Artist and Mariane Ibrahim Gallery


Maïmouna Guerresi / M-Eating Series, White Rubber Tires -First Lesson 2014, Lambda print on aluminum, 100×162 – 150×243 cm / Courtesy of the Artist and Mariane Ibrahim Gallery

The Giants

In ‘The Giants’ series, the Maïmouna was inspired by the African Muslim mystics who appear in her photographs as large and imposing figure wearing the mantle, where only the hands and the face can be seen while the body is empty, a space that attracts new and unknown. The clothes are shaped in the architectural forms making metaphysical and surreal to become a whole with their body in the photograph.


Maïmouna Guerresi / Akbar, 2010, Lambda print on aluminum, 200×125 cm – 100×63 cm / Courtesy of the Artist and Mariane Ibrahim Gallery


Maïmouna Guerresi / Rhokaya, 2010, Lambda print on aluminum, 200×125 cm -100×63 cm / Courtesy of the Artist and Mariane Ibrahim Gallery


Maïmouna Guerresi / Surprise, 2010, Lambda print on aluminum, 200×125 cm -100×63 cm / Courtesy of the Artist and Mariane Ibrahim Gallery


A large photographic installation ‘Cosmo’ is composed of circles in various sizes that give the effect of planets spinning around their orbit, representing a female figure dressed in black seen from the top, in various stages of counterclockwise rotation symbolizing the mystical dance of the Sufis.

imageMaïmouna Guerresi / Illumination 1, 2010 Lambda print on aluminum, 120×120 cm / Courtesy of the Artist and Mariane Ibrahim Gallery


Maïmouna Guerresi / Illumination 3, 2010 Lambda print on aluminum, 100×53 cm / Courtesy of the Artist and Mariane Ibrahim Gallery


Maïmouna Guerresi / Illumination 4, 2010 Lambda print on aluminum, 100×60 cm / Courtesy of the Artist and Mariane Ibrahim Gallery


In these works Maimouna focused on the highest part of the body – the Head. She crowned them with a number of artifacts in the form of Hat-Minaret, created in traditional way with simple materials and pieces of cloth, collected, put together and then sewn as is the tradition for the Sufi Muslims Baifall Senegal. The architectural form of head pieces make men tall and narrow. The characters in the photographs hide their faces with a hand gesture, they are blindfolded or simply close their eyes, to get away from the world and to get in tune with the cosmic divine spirit. The form of the Hat-Minaret can also be seen as a castle, a fortress, which protects the head, the highest part of the body but is also an extension of the same body, the antenna, the canal leading and transmitting spiritual energy.

‘Milky Light’, video installation

The work ‘Milky Light’ (2013, 23 min) consists of three large bowls in white resin, filled with milk. In each bowl there is a projection video that represents the hands of different people continuously taking the milk, in almost hypnotic rhythm, without emptying the bowls, symbolizing the well of infinite light. The video is accompanied by an ancient Sufi music, the sound representation of the circles of water, produced by the sound of a lute. This music used to be played as a form of healing in the old Turkish hospitals.

Maïmouna Guerresi

Maïmouna Guerresi is a photographer, sculptor, and video installation artist. She lives between Italy and Senegal. Maïmouna’s universe is as much the result of chemistry between cultural and religious influences, as the fusion of different artistic languages. Linked both to Italy and Senegal, to Western culture and Sufi philosophy, her works reflect a dual culture and a dual belonging, and above all, the search for equilibrium between these two worlds.

Maïmouna Guerresi was invited to participate in the Italian pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 1982-1986-2010 as well as Documenta K18 (1987) in Kassel, Germany. In 1991 Maïmouna travelled to various Muslim countries in Africa and converted to Islam whilst in Senegal.

Her work has been exhibited and collected all over the world.

Azerbaijani artist Faig Ahmed transforms traditional techniques into lush 3D forms – interview

Azerbaijan’s Faig Ahmed merges fresh, modern textiles with traditional techniques. 

Faig Ahmed, one of Azerbaijan’s most internationally recognised visual artists, adds a decidedly modern twist to carpet weaving, string art and embroidery. Art Radar spoke with Ahmed to learn more about his most recent riffs on traditional Azerbaijani textiles, and how the artist prevents himself from being held “hostage to tradition”.

Faig Ahmed. Photograph by Rauf Askyarov.

Faig Ahmed (b. 1982, Baku, Azerbaijan) successfully completed his BFA in Sculpture from the Azerbaijan State Academy of Fine Arts in 2004. In 2013, the artist was shortlisted for the Jameel Prize 3 at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

Ahmed has exhibited his work throughout the world, including group and solo exhibitions in Europe, India, Hong Kong, New York, Russia and the UAE. His work is part of both private and public collections, such as the Amhem Museum, the Buta Foundation, the Seattle Art Museum and the Yarat Contemporary Art Centre.

Art Radar caught up with Ahmed to learn more about his creative process, what makes the Azerbaijani contemporary art scene unusual, and why he considers himself more of an “explorer” than an artist.

Creating outside of the box

I’ve read that you feel you are “not an artist but an explorer”. Please elaborate on this comment.

To me, an artist is someone who sees the tangible results of his/her ideas reflected in their artwork. You may think that I do the same, but no! The final result itself doesn’t interest me that much. The reality of my art is that it is still very much in the process of research and discovery. I create it and it’s just a part of the global system of art fairs and people’s opinions about each piece.

I’m an explorer, so I’m much more interested in what I unearth through my research. My artworks are just my reports that reflect various periods of my investigations.

Faig Ahmed, 'Gravity and Antigravity' installation (in process), 2014, handmade wool carpet, 120 x 250 cm. Photograph by Rauf Askyarov.

In 2014, you travelled to India for the first time. Regarding this journey, you said it was “a dream come true”. 

Throughout my life, India has had a great impact on me. I was dreaming about it even as a child. When I was ten, I found a yoga book that mesmerised me. I started practicing and it naturally brought me to Osho and other beautiful practices and philosophies. I even started learning Sanskrit. I dreamed of travelling to India and finding a guru.

So when I eventually travelled there, I thought I’d be prepared, but I was not. India is a place that influences all of your senses at the same time. I mean, if something is dirty, it’s really dirty. If the food is good, then it’s absolutely divine. This happens with everything. I had this experience on my own and had difficulties sharing these feelings with my friends when I returned home. Then, I started observing myself and found out that my best friend (just like when I was ten) is myself. I had to live twenty more years to understand that. Now, I’m ten again and I’m happy.

Has your recent interest in Indian embroidery influenced your artwork? How? 

In Delhi, I started doing my experimental artwork with Indian embroidery and I met two people who have really helped me with that – Valeria Corvo and Mala Shukla. Before my trip to India, all my artistic expression was directed outwards. After I went through the process of learning Indian embroidery, my expression is now internal and directed into myself.

Faig Ahmed. Photograph by Fakhriyya Mammadova.

How does one make a “liquid” carpet? Do you use local artisans for your work or do all of the work yourself?

I work with a group. Usually there are twenty to 25 people involved in the process. This group experience gives my work vitality and I’m the spark that ignites it.

When I decide to begin a piece, I first talk to the carpet makers and then edit and correct their work alongside my own sketch. Next, my artwork is transferred onto engineering paper. After these preparations, the weaving process begins. As a rule, the process itself is not that easy, and I have to visit the workshop often and make corrections all along the way.

Each work needs a different type of research. For a carpet from the “Fluid Forms” show, for example, I was pouring paint onto the walls to see how different colours blend into each other and flow. For the Geometric series of carpets, I was cutting different shapes from paper to place over the surfaces to see what kinds of shades they create.

Faig Ahmed, 'Rapture', 2010, handmade wool carpet, 100 x 150 cm. Photograph by Fakhriyya Mammadova.

Being held hostage by tradition

Tell us the story behind the carpet upcycled for the Recycled Tradition piece. Have you had the opportunity to send an image of the piece to the woman who sold the carpet to you? If so, what was her reaction? 

The idea of this artwork was born from the depth of the “transformed carpets” concept. Initially, I had done research analysing recycled culture. It was all very impersonal. I started to work four months before production to find the right carpet. What I needed was a 150 to 200-year-old carpet to be cut into the form of a “recycled” symbol.

I was shown different options, but there was only one that caught my attention. I wanted to start cutting it immediately after leaving the workshop, but the carpet seller asked me if I wanted to hear the story of the carpet first. He told me that there are gypsies who buy and resell old carpets. They suggested visiting an old woman in south Azerbaijan who had a beautiful old carpet in perfect condition. Initially, this woman rejected selling it, because she had inherited this carpet from her grandmother and it was the only thing she had taken with her from her father’s house when she got married many years ago. This was a tradition in the old days in Azerbaijan.

This woman couldn’t take anything from her home, because her parents were against her marriage and only her grandmother had supported her, giving her this carpet and helping her run away with her lover. After several visits and after she knew the carpet would be sold to an artist, she agreed to sell it.

I also discovered that this carpet was a Garabakh carpet, which is in another part of Azerbaijan. This lady can’t go there anymore, because this territory is occupied by Armenia and there are armed clashes between the two countries. So, when I took a cutting knife to cut the carpet, I couldn’t do it. Suddenly, I realised that I’m also a hostage of tradition! This story’s impact on me was so huge that I couldn’t destroy this carpet with my own hands.

I then passed it to an art production company to prepare it for me and didn’t tell them how old it was. After the work was done and Recycled Tradition was sent to Holland for the exhibition, I tried to find this lady. She had moved to another city, and that happened all of a sudden. I wanted to talk to her. I spoke to her on the telephone before it was processed and she told me that she wanted to see the result. Maybe she saw the artwork and doesn’t want to talk to me anymore?

Faig Ahmed, 'Recycled', 2014, handmade wool carpet, 140 x 140 cm.Photograph by Fakhriyya Mammadova.

What did it teach you about being a “hostage to tradition”?

I love being a hostage, because it’s a quiz and you have to take it to set yourself free. I think we are never completely free anyway, but you should exactly know where your own cage ends.

Please tell us a bit about your Embroidery Space installation. What were some of the challenges that you experienced with this installation? Were there any surprises?

Maybe it’s my most interesting artwork, because it can be exactly divided into parts. The first part is totally traditional regarding the rules of composition. Usually my assistants make this part. The second, or freestyle section, is the most spontaneous and unexpected, because I always decide how to do it on-site.

I did this installation in Dubai in 2014 and decided to connect two buildings with threads. It was so difficult to get the permit for that! Eventually we got permission, on the condition that the work could only be done after nine o’clock at night. I had to drink energy drinks to stay up day and night!

The result was amazing: threads were connecting buildings from the roofs to the balconies and back. All the people who worked in this area were totally unprepared for this change in their environment. It was so beautiful until the wind started blowing and the rain started falling – along with the threads.

What is the inspiration behind the combination of traditional Islamic forms and patterns within your contemporary structures?

Islamic shapes have been developed over many hundreds of years and have reached an apogee of ornament and geometry. Because of this tradition, it’s a huge responsibility to work with such difficult and complex patterns and try to pull a new form out of there.

Brave new world

How would you explain the current Azerbaijani art scene to someone who is new to the country and its creative traditions?

Contemporary art in Azerbaijan is not new, but it is developing and still very fresh. After the collapse of the USSR in the 1990s, most local artists were using abstract and Western art as a model. Today, they try to find their way by looking back to traditional art forms and techniques. Perhaps I have in some small way helped with this transition, as I have curated shows with several young local artists in the recent past.

I think it’s difficult to define the face of contemporary art in Azerbaijan. I like that there are lots of young artists who explore and research the culture and history of our country, in both ancient and contemporary times. There are enormous amounts of resources and energy there.

Faig Ahmed, 'Gravity and Antigravity' installation from the "Exploring Inward" exhibition at Louise Blouin Foundation, 2014, handmade wool carpet, 120 x 250 cm. Photograph by Nathan Browning.

Is life in contemporary Azerbaijan changing? As an artist, do you feel that it is important to embrace the past, while breaking away from some of the possibly outdated traditions and stereotypes?

You can’t move forward without leaving some parts of tradition and culture behind, but it’s tradition that observes and examines a country.

Azerbaijanis are very flexible. We have been conquered many times and have been a part of different empires, spoken many languages and changed alphabets many times – from Farsi to Arabic, Cyrillic and Latin. At the same time, the majority of the people use traditional elements of home decoration – like carpets – to connect with some kind of cultural ground under their feet.

It’s a delicate balance. You have to be sensitive to changes while keeping your identity and remembering your roots.

Faig Ahmed, "Gravity and Antigravity" installation (detail) from "Exploring Inward" exhibition at Louise Blouin Foundation, 2014, handmade wool carpet, 120 x 250 cm. Photograph by Nathan Browning.

Any interesting stories on how the audience reacts to your work both inside Azerbaijan and abroad?

I like the reaction of kids. They have the most honest and transparent reactions to my art. During one of exhibitions, a boy ten or eleven years old approached my Flood of Yellow Weight carpet and asked his mother if the boy who stained the carpet was punished like he was! I asked the mother if she punished her son for staining the carpet and she answered that she did. I told her that my parents didn’t punish me for doing so, and maybe that’s the reason why I dare to do all these manipulations with the carpets and maybe she has to give him more freedom.

Faig Ahmed, 'Shift', 2014, handmade wool rug with natural colours and threads, stainless steel, 170 x 110 x 100cm. Image courtesy the artist.

Are there any upcoming shows, exhibitions and biennales where your work is being shown in the next six months?

I will have a solo show in Rome at the Montoro 12 Contemporary Art Gallery in March/April, and in New Delhi in November. I’m also doing an installation during Art Dubai at the Dubai International Financial Centre and am included in a group show at the YARAT Contemporary Art Centre in March. In addition, I am planning solo shows in London and New York this year.

Lisa Pollman

Azerbaijani artist Faig Ahmed transforms traditional techniques into lush 3D forms – interview