NYU Abu Dhabi Art Gallery opens one-of-a-kind exhibition

  • Curated by Dr. Aisha Stoby, Khaleej Modern: Pioneers and Collectives in the Arabian Peninsula, 1941-2008 marks the first-ever investigative exhibition on modernism and the visual arts in the region
  • The exhibition features several unique works by communities and collectives from the Arabian Peninsula that have never before been exhibited in the context of the region’s art history.
  • The exhibition develops inclusive narratives of modernities and art movements in the Gulf region

Abu Dhabi: NYU Abu Dhabi Art Gallery (NYUAD) today announced the key artists for its Fall 2022 exhibition, Khaleej Modern: Pioneers and Collectives in the Arabian Peninsula, 1941-2008. Organized by Dr Aisha Stoby, who curated the first Oman pavilion at the Venice Biennale this year, Modern Khaleej is a historical historical survey of 20th century modern art movements across the Arabian Peninsula, collectively known in Arabic as “Khaleej”.

Opened on September 6, the exhibition is based on Dr. Stoby’s doctoral research tracing the region’s “pre-boom era” from the 20th century to 2008 and examining the evolution of visual art movements as the discovery of oil was beginning to transform the region. It delves into the changing understanding of public and private spaces and their relationship to national identity as expressed through artistic practices.

Commenting on the exhibition, NYUAD Art Gallery Executive Director and University Chief Curator Maya Allison said, “An exhibition like this is quite rare, sort of a salvo of opening and call to action, offering new perspectives on art history and artistic practice in this region. Rather than a definitive survey, this project takes us on a journey to explore the understudied – and, for some people, undiscovered – emergence of modern art in the Arabian Peninsula over the past century. It is a profound honor to have Dr. Stoby present his original research with us, in this exhibition which has lasted for many years. I thank her for partnering with us on this crucial and innovative project.

For Modern Khaleej, Dr. Stoby traces the histories of local art contextualized by deeply rooted traditions, the ongoing process of modernization and the evolution of national identities. Bringing to the fore the importance of ancient community and art institutions, the exhibition brings to life the curator’s research into the pioneers and artistic collectives that emerged in the 20th and 21st centuries, beginning with the first exhibition of the Al Mubarakiya School in Kuwait in 1941.

Saudi Arabia’s modern art community began as early as 1938 with Mohammed Racim (1911-1974) in Jeddah, and some of the artists on display include Mounirah Mosly, Safeya Binzagr, Abdulhalim Al Radwi and Abdullah Al Shaikh. The Saudi House of Fine Arts in Riyadh, meanwhile, included works by Mohammed Al Saleem and Abdulrahman Alsoliman.

In the 1950s, the Manama group from Bahrain had formed (Abdul Karim Al-Orrayed, Nasser Al-Yousif and Ahmed Qassim Al Sunni). The next two decades saw the emergence of Qatar’s The Three Friends collective (comprising Yousef Ahmed, Hassan Al Mulla and Mohammed Ali Abdullah), alongside the development of early UAE art practitioners, including Abdul Qader Al Rais and the group of artists known as The Group of Five, Hassan Sharif, Abdullah Al Saadi, Mohammed Kazem, Mohamed Ahmed Ibrahim, Ebtisam Abdulaziz and their community. The exhibition also features important figures in Oman’s art history, artists Anwar Sonya and Rabha Mahmoud, as well as the pivotal group, The Circle, led by Hassan Meer.

Dr. Aisha Stoby noted, “Many of the works in this exhibition will be on display for the first time in decades, and it is a real privilege and honor to have been asked to present this work to a wider audience. Enhanced by the presence of rare material and archives, Modern Khaleej creates space and offers resources to learn and re-understand our own stories. More broadly, we hope the exhibition will contribute to a broader regional and global understanding of modern visual art. This project responds to emerging debates around refocusing artistic narratives, towards a more nuanced and inclusive appreciation of global art histories. It was amazing to be part of this project and to see the works of these pioneering artists brought together for the first time.

Title of the exhibition: Khaleej Modern: Pioneers and Collectives in the Arabian Peninsula, 1941-2008
Exhibition dates: September 6 – December 11, 2022
Admission fee
Exhibition page: https://www.nyuad-artgallery.org/en_US/our-exhibitions/main-gallery/khaleej-modern/


About NYU Abu Dhabi Art Gallery


Founded in 2014, NYU Abu Dhabi (NYUAD) Art Gallery is the first and only university gallery in the Gulf with a program of scholarly and experimental museum exhibitions. The program seeks to map new territories and ideas by presenting exhibitions by internationally renowned artists, curators and scholars in its main space. Its auxiliary location, the Project Space, is an exhibition laboratory for the university community, as well as for emerging artists and curators. Located within NYU Abu Dhabi, whose community hails from more than 115 countries, The Art Gallery runs free public programs and guided tours in conjunction with its groundbreaking exhibitions. It also produces scholarly publications, which are an integral part of its curatorial framework and reflect its academic mission. Together with the Gallery’s reading room, these welcoming and intimate spaces open up artistic opportunities and initiate regional and international dialogue.

About NYU Abu Dhabi


NYU Abu Dhabi is the first comprehensive liberal arts and sciences campus in the Middle East to be operated overseas by a major American research university. NYU Abu Dhabi has integrated a highly selective liberal arts, engineering, and science curriculum with a global center for advanced research and scholarship enabling its students to succeed in an increasingly interdependent world and advance the cooperation and progress on the common challenges of humanity. High-achieving students at NYU Abu Dhabi come from 115 countries and speak more than 115 languages. Together, NYU’s campuses in New York, Abu Dhabi and Shanghai form the backbone of a unique global university, offering faculty and students the opportunity to experience diverse learning environments and immersion in other cultures. on one or more of the many study abroad sites that NYU maintains. on six continents.

William E. Bennett