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Middle East Institute to launch gallery for contemporary Middle Eastern Art
Mahmoud Obaidi, Peace and Salam, from the Confusionism series, 2013. Steel and wood, 230 x 73 cm. Courtesy of the artist and Rose Issa Projects.

WASHINGTON, DC.- The Middle East Institute announced the launch of the MEI Art Gallery on September 14, 2019. Located near Dupont Circle, the new non-commercial space is the only gallery in the nation’s capital dedicated to showcasing contemporary art from the Middle East. With a focus that spans from Morocco to Afghanistan, the gallery aims to support Middle Eastern artists and foster cross cultural dialogue.

“We want to provide a platform for the Middle East’s leading and emerging artists to engage with US audiences and the local DC community,” said Kate Seelye, vice president for arts and culture at MEI. “With thoughtfully curated and accessible exhibitions, free talks and film screenings, it’s a welcoming place for people to discover a new perspective on the region and to celebrate its rich culture.”

The inaugural exhibit, Arabicity|Ourouba, spans two decades of contemporary art from the Arab world, curated by renowned London-based curator Rose Issa. The show, which runs through November 22, features seventeen leading artists who resist stereotyping, challenge the perceived confines of their identity, and reshape the parameters of their artistic traditions.

Across various media, from painting and sculpture to installation and video, the artists draw upon wide ranging influences, such as pop culture, folk art, Sufi poetry, everyday found objects and the global environmental movement. Together the works in the exhibition reveal the potential of art to both explore personal, national, regional and international realities and to transform subjective narratives into universal ones. Featured artists include Adel Abidin, Chant Avedissian, Ayman Baalbaki, Said Baalbaki, Khaled Barakeh, Anas AlBraehe, Tagreed Darghouth, Hassan Hajjaj, Fathi Hassan, Susan Hefuna, Abdul Rahman Katanani, Youssef Nabil, Mahmoud Obaidi, Khalil Rabbah, Raeda Saadeh, Batoul S’Himi and Sharif Waked.

“The exhibition touches on themes of memory, identity, war, reconstruction, displacement, and a host of other issues affecting the region at this critical time with sensitivity, depth, beauty, and even humor,” said Lyne Sneige, MEI’s director of arts and culture. “The diverse works on view convey not only the challenges and problems facing the region, but also the incredible humanity, richness, and resilience of its artists and people.”

The gallery opens to the public on Saturday, September 14 from 7pm-12am, in coordination with the DC-wide art festival, Art All Night. The event will feature DC-based DJ Muath spinning dabke, rai, chobi and other Middle Eastern dance beats, a pop-up hosted by Adams Morgan bar The Green Zone, and an on-site calligrapher who will create unique mini-artworks for guests real-time.

MEI will also hold an invitation-only VIP opening the night before on September 13, at which curator Rose Issa will speak about the contemporary Arab art scene. The evening marks the global launch of her new book, Arabicity, co-edited with Juliet Cestar and published by Saqi Books London. Including essays by the economist and historian Georges Corm, curator Michket Krifa and artist Etel Adnan, the book reflects on four decades of contemporary Arab art and features over 200 works by fifty artists. A signing will follow the talk.

Throughout September, October, and November, the exhibition will be amplified by a series of artist talks, as well as film screenings of award-winning documentaries from Arab filmmakers. A panel on cultural production in the Arab world will explore today’s creative landscape in light of the region’s evolving geopolitical realities and the emergence of new power centers in the arts. Further details on public programs will be announced in the coming months.

The gallery is a key addition to the newly renovated Middle East Institute, which has promoted understanding between the people of the Middle East and the United States since 1946. The MEI Art Gallery complements a robust policy program and an educational center featuring language learning, regional studies and a library of 20,000 volumes on the Middle East.

Located at 1763 N Street NW, Washington, D.C., the MEI Art Gallery will be open to the public on weekdays from 10am to 5pm and will host up to five shows each year.

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