Silvia Naef: Writing the History of Modern Art in the Arab World: Documents, Theories and Realities
organized by the Max Planck Research Group "Objects in the Contact Zone - The Cross-Cultural Lives of Things"
The aim of the workshop is to deepen, through the study of two recent texts, the themes highlighted in the lecture, but with a special focus on concrete questions that those writing on art in non-Western contexts have to face, and more specifically, those dealing with the Arab Middle East. Modern art from the Arab world is only marginally included in academic curricula. As a consequence, most writing on modern and contemporary art from the Arab world is either produced by art historians coming from a Western art historical background with reduced knowledge of the region or from historians, anthropologists, etc. with a specialization in the region but whose competence in art history is often superficial. The first text, an introduction to the catalogue of the London exhibition Unveiled, stands for many others texts written for a global audience having no knowledge of the region. The second one, a chapter from Patrick Kane’s book on Egyptian art published in 2013, exemplifies an attempt to tie social history and art history, and constitutes a historian’s approach to the writing of art history.
Silvia Naef is full professor at the Arabic Studies Section of the University of Geneva. She has been a visiting professor at the University of Toronto (2007-2009), and in Sassari (Italy, 2012), and has taught in Tübingen (1995/96) and Basel (1997-2000). Her research focusses on modern art and visual representations in the Arab and Islamic world; she leads at present the three years-research project Other Modernities: Patrimony and Practices of Visual Expression Outside the West, funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation (2013-2016). Among her main publications are: Y a-t-il une question de l'image en Islam? (2004, updated edition to be published in 2014; German 2007, Italian 2011; partial transl. into English (Art in Translation, 2014), A la recherche d'une modernité arabe, L'évolution des arts plastiques en Egypte, au Liban et en Irak (1996; Arabic 2008). She is Vice-President of the Union Européenne des Arabisants et Islamisants (UEAI).
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