SOAS University of London

London Middle East Institute

Regional vis-à-vis Global Discourses: Contemporary Art from the Middle East

Moments of Glory Cropped

Date: 5 July 2013Time: 9:00 AM

Finishes: 6 July 2013Time: 7:00 PM

Venue: Brunei Gallery Room: Brunei Gallery Lecture Theatre

Type of Event: Conference

There have been limited attempts to theorise unresolved questions about definitions and regional/local forms of logic in the contemporary global art discourses. Therefore addressing these deficiencies is now timely when we see the growing interest in the different levels of the market and exhibitions and gradually in academia, in particular in departments of art history and cultural studies in European and North American universities. 

This conference will look at this increasingly important and stimulating subject. It will examine the state and future of contemporary Middle Eastern art history within this context. It will discuss the themes by attending to the development of modern and contemporary art from the Middle East in an extended historical and global perspective. Furthermore, one of the objectives of this conference is to reflect the methodological fundamentals of art history and cultural studies and how they could be applied when studying contemporary art from the Middle East. It will also investigate how contemporary, so-called global, theories impact on the making of art in this region. Reflecting on recent exhibitions and curatorial projects, it aims to deal with the question of what is lost in the process of transfer and how it can be reclaimed in the art of the region with its cultural modes.

The conference will involve the international body of art theorists and historians, together with regional scholars and professionals in the field, in discussing different aspects of the subject through the various sessions and panels. While presenting interdisciplinary frameworks, it will try to provide a comprehensive insider and outsider’s perspective of artistic trends and the affinity of art theoretical discourses with art production in the Middle East today. The conference will deal with the issue of how the interpretation and contextualisation of contemporary art from the Middle East affect its understanding at home and in global terms. It will also attend to cultural diasporas and their problematisation of historical conceptions of place, and what position the diaspora plays in defining contemporary Middle Eastern culture.

Convened by: Hamid Keshmirshekan, History of Art Department, Oxford University

Please see the full conference programme below. Bios and Abstracts are available in the attached.

Admission: £30/£10 (students and concessions) Pre-registration required. To register online please visit the SOAS Online Store.




Welcome: Dr Hassan Hakimian
(Director of London Middle East Institute)
Introduction to the Conference: Dr Hamid Keshmirshekan (Conference Convener)

Keynote Speeches
Trauma, Memory, and History
Prof Hamid Dabashi (Columbia University)

Oblique Points of Entry
Prof Irit Rogoff (Goldsmiths, University of London)

11.00-11.30 tea/coffee break

Session 1: Knowledge Production and Distribution in the Middle East
Chair: Prof Hamid Dabashi
(Columbia University)

What Can Art Do? New Pieties and Critical Practices
Dr Anthony Downey (Sotheby’s Institute of Art)
Framing a Discipline: Contemporary Art of the Arab World
Dr Nada Shabout (University of North Texas)
Mapping Iranian Contemporary Art Publications and Knowledge Production
Hamid Severi (freelance art historian, curator)

13.00-14.00 lunch

Session 2: Artistic Production from the Middle East and The Contemporary Global Art Discourses
Part I
Chair: Prof James W. Allan
(Oxford University)

Questions about the “Documentary Turn”: Artistic Practices by Middle Eastern Artists Working Inside and Outside the Region
Dr Sonja Mejcher-Atassi (American University of Beirut)
The Crisis of Belonging: On the Politics of Art Practice in Contemporary Iran
Dr Hamid Keshmirshekan (Oxford University)

15.00-15.30 tea/coffee break

Part II
Chair: Dr Venetia Porter
(British Museum)
And Again to Authenticity…
Dr Dina A. Ramadan (Bard College)
The Liberation of Signs: Deconstruction and the Contemporary Arts of Iran
Prof Abbas Daneshvari (California State University)

Panel Discussion I: The Problem of Teaching Contemporary Art from the Middle East
Moderator: Dr Nada Shabout
(University of North Texas)

Panellists: Prof James W. Allan (Oxford University), Dr Dina Ramadan (Bard College), Dr Sonja Mejcher-Atassi (American University of Beirut)

Video Screening



Session 3:  Exposing Contemporary Art from the Middle East
Part I
Chair: Prof Anna Contadini
(SOAS, University of London)

Collecting Contexts
Jessica Morgan (Tate Modern)
Dilemmas and Benefits of Introducing Artists from the ‘Middle East’ to Institutions in the West
Dr Fereshteh Daftari (freelance curator and scholar)

10.30-11.00 tea/coffee break

Part II
Chair: Dr Dina Matar
(SOAS, University of London)

Histories of the Present: the Changing Worlds of Middle Eastern Artists
Dr Venetia Porter (British Museum)
Uneasy Lie the Arts that Wear the Crown:  Disaggregating the “Critical” in Post-War Contemporary Lebanese Art
Dr Hanan Toukan (The Forum for Transregional Studies, Berlin)

12.00-13.00 lunch

Session 4: Public Sphere, Museum Infrastructure and Domestic Support
Part I
Chair: Dr Anthony Downey
(Sotheby’s Institute of Art)

The Global Work of Art: The Case of Beirut
Dr Sarah A. Rogers (freelance author, academic)
From Galeri to Gallery: Transitioning from Public Forums to Commercial Spaces
Sarah-Neel Smith (University of California, Los Angeles)

14.00-14.30 tea/coffee break

Part II
Chair: Prof Abbas Daneshvari
(California State University)

Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art as a Microcosm of the Administrative Cultural Agenda
Helia Darabi (Art University, Tehran)
A Case Study: Kuwait’s Sultan Gallery and Arab Art Galleries of the 1970s
Kristine Khouri (researcher, writer and photographer)

Panel Discussion II: Problem of Archival Sources
Moderator: Laura Carderera
(Delfina Foundation)

Panellists: Shaheen Merali (independent curator), Hala Khayat (Specialist of Modern and Contemporary Arab, Iranian and Turkish Art, Christie’s), Kristine Khouri (freelance researcher, writer and photographer), Hamed Yousefi (freelance art critic, documentary film-maker)

17.00-17.30 tea/coffee break

Closing session

Video Screening

Conference Reception 19.30-21.00
The John Addis Gallery (Room 34), British Museum

Videos will be screened on both days of the conference in Room B104, First Floor, Brunei Building
Curated by: Azar Mahmoudian (freelance curator, critic) in collaboration with Barbad Golshiri (artist, critic)

Organiser: London Middle East Institute

Contact email: /

Contact Tel: 020 7898 4330

Sponsor: The Barakat Trust, Goethe Institute, Iran Heritage Foundation, Caspian Arts Foundation, Ibraaz, and Shubbak Festival