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Contemporary Arab video, photography and mixed media art to be shown in Houston
Faisal Samra (Saudi Arabia), Performance #13, Triptych #01 (detail), 2007.

HOUSTON, TX.- With more than a 100 exhibitions and events, FotoFest launches its fifteenth consecutive Biennial of Photography and Photo-related Art March 15 – April 27, 2014 in Houston, Texas.

The centerpiece of the 2014 Biennial is four newly created exhibitions on Arab Video, Photography, and Mixed Media Art – VIEW FROM INSIDE – presenting a broad and diverse vision of Arab art, society and politics.

The exhibitions present works from 50 leading Arab artists from the Middle East and North Africa – a generation of artists who turned from traditional forms of visual art in the late 1990s to begin experimenting with video, photography and mixed media. Their works coincided with the widespread presence of satellite television, new forms of film, the Internet and social media over the past 15 years. The effect of these combined technologies, with more immediate access to people and ideas around the world, has had a profound impact on Arab art.

FotoFest’s Arab exhibits are accompanied by six weeks of Arab programs, including artist roundtables, forums, academic symposia, Arab films, musical concerts, poetry readings, informal discussions between artists and curators, and programs on Arab culture for schools. FotoFest is partnering with the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH); the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy and the Humanities Research Center at Rice University; and the Arab-American Cultural and Community Center of Houston on a number of these programs.

Other Biennial programming features FotoFest’s famous International Fine Print Auction and the sixteen-day international Meeting Place portfolio review for artists. One hundred independently organized art exhibitions and events will take place at spaces across the city, including: the MFAH, the Menil Collection, Holocaust Museum Houston, and the Station Museum of Art.

A new program in 2014 is the Collectors Weekend, a three-day event featuring two panels on collecting with international experts, exhibition tours with Arab artists, and a visit to the MFAH’s photographic print collection with MFAH photography curator Anne Wilkes Tucker and her newly appointed successor Malcolm Daniel. Attendees also receive reserved seats at the Biennial Fine Print Auction, with Sotheby’s Vice President Denise Bethel as auctioneer.

The quality and wide-ranging character of FotoFest’s programs have led Houston’s Mayor Annise Parker to say: “Its sheer magnitude… provides the opportunity for photographers and video artists from around the globe to exhibit and share their creativity.”

VIEW FROM INSIDE features Arab artists from 14 countries and promises to be the largest presentation of contemporary Arab photography and mixed media art presented in the United States in many years. Over the past five years, FotoFest Senior Curator Wendy Watriss has been looking at the work of Arab artists with Karin Adrian von Roques, a German curator with over 20 years experience working in the Middle East and North Africa. An expert in classical Islamic and contemporary Arab art, Ms. Von Roques has been commissioned by FotoFest as Lead Curator for the Arab exhibitions.

“The diversity of these artists work is remarkable, with the artists manifesting deeply personal, intimate views of their cultures,” says Ms. von Roques. “They are exploring issues such as the role of religion in an increasingly commercialized secular world; the complex cultural interconnections between the West and the East; the role of women in society; and the rapidity of social, political and economic change in the past 10 years.”

“New technologies and communication platforms have given artists in the Middle East and North Africa unprecedented access to the global community,” says FotoFest Senior-curator and Co-Founder Wendy Watriss. “These artists have already risen to prominence in their own countries and across the Arab world. Many are prominent in the European art world as well. But only a few of these artists have been seen by audiences in the United States. We hope the Biennial will build new and lasting bridges.” A full list of the artists featured in the FotoFest 2014 Biennial will be made available in January 2014.

With the Biennial catalogue, a hardcover book will be done on the Arab exhibitions with essays by four European and Arab scholars and art experts, over 150 color reproductions of Arab artworks, an introduction by FotoFest Senior Curator Wendy Watriss, artist and curator biographies, and a bibliography. The book is being designed by HvAD Design in New York and is being published by Schilt Publishing in Amsterdam, with FotoFest.

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