The Future of Traditions, Writing Pictures: Contemporary Art from the Middle East

Key information

10:30 am to 5:00 pm
Brunei Gallery, SOAS
Brunei Gallery exhibition space

About this event

The Brunei Gallery, SOAS is pleased to present a major new exhibition, The Future of Traditions, Writings Pictures: Contemporary Art from the Middle East, open from 12 January to 25 March 2023.

The exhibition is collaboratively produced by guest curated by Rose Issa and Bob Annibale and explores three generations of artists, from Iran and the Arab world, from the early pioneers of a vernacular ‘Lettrism’ movement to those incorporating the written word in their works today. These artists, from different background and styles, take inspiration from their own culture and combine those influences with international aesthetics and concepts. The result is the creation of an alternative and original approach to modernism and contemporary art.

While partly based on the book ‘Signs of Our Times: From Calligraphy to Calligraffiti’, the exhibition adds more artists from the younger generation—artists whose concerns, whether conceptual, socio-political, or simply aesthetic, have found their own modes of expression, thus contributing to world art.

From the 37 artists represented here, only a very few are calligraphers. The variety of their vocabularies of art, whether painting or sculpting the words, offers a fresh perspective on the creativity that the region has inspired.

A selection of rare, illustrated books and manuscripts from the Special Collections SOAS Library and artists books alongside selected pieces from SOAS’s wider Collections are also included in this exhibition connecting the old with the new.

A catalogue ‘The Future of Traditions - Writings Pictures: Contemporary Art from the Middle East’ has been produced and is available from the SOAS Bookshop in the Brunei Gallery, SOAS.

Artists include: Etel Adnan, Maliheh Afnan, Farhad Ahrarnia, Siah Armajani, Nasser al Aswadi, Manal al Dowayan, Halim al Karim, Shakir Hassan al Said, Mouneer al Shaarani, Chant Avedissian, Said Baalbaki, Mahmoud Bakhshi, Jacqueline Béjani, Khaled Ben Slimane, Kamal Boullata, Hanieh Delecroix, Jumana el Husseini, Mohammad Ehsaey, Ali Omar Ermes, Parastou Forouhar, Bita Ghezelayagh, Fathi Hassan, Susan Hefuna, Farnaz Jahanbin, Christine Khondjie, Rachid Koraichi, Nja Mahdaoui, Hassan Massoudy, Joumana Medlej, Farhad Moshiri, Ahmed Moustafa, Enayatollah Nouri, Mahmoud Obaidi, Mehdi Qotbi, Nayla Romanos Iliya, Katayoun Rouhi, Walid Siti and Hossein Valamanesh. 

The opening night of exhibition was a success and saw over 250 people in attendance, including SOAS Director Adam Habib, SOAS trustees, SOAS staff, students and alumni, private collectors, auction houses and artists. The exhibition is on display until 25 March 2023.

Opening times

The Brunei Gallery is open 10:30am–5pm Tuesday–Saturday, and late on Thursdays until 8pm.