Arab Art Workshop

Arab Art Workshop
The Barbican
June 7, 2004

Post-9/11, art from the Arab world holds a privileged place on the agenda of countless cultural institutions. The Arab Art Workshop, organized by Mona Tayara-Deeley and the Zenith Foundation and held at the Barbican in London on June 7, was a chance to hear insiders-Lebanese curator Saleh Barakat, Iraqi artist Rashad Salim, and Lebanese-Canadian curator Jayce Salloum-as well as notable outsiders-Parachute’s Stephen Wright, curator Catherine David, and Els van der Plas from the Prince Claus Fund for Culture and Development among them-explore the ramifications of such heightened visibility today.

Throughout, the old arguments remained: what is ‘Arab’?; what constitutes the ‘Middle East’?; does Catherine David have the ‘right’ to represent Middle Eastern artists via her ‘Contemporary Arab Representations’ project?; who claims what for whom? Some of the discussion suffered from curatorial sniping. But in the end, the art spoke for itself.

Importantly, the Zenith workshop took place during LIFT’s Laughter, an impressive programme of contemporary performance and visual arts from Lebanon. Both events seemed entirely separate, with little cross-over — by all accounts an opportunity lost.