Silvia Naef: Writing the History of Modern Art in the Arab World: Documents, Theories and Realities

Evening lecture

organized by the Max Planck Research Group "Objects in the Contact Zone - The Cross-Cultural Lives of Things"

In recent years, the debate about how art history could include modernities from outside the West has often been conducted (Belting, Elkins, etc.). In this global context of rewriting art history along inclusive lines the Arab world constitutes an interesting case study. First of all, because materials have still to be localized, gathered and studied; monographs on major founding artists are mostly lacking. Secondly, because no major prescriptive art institutions have taken root in the region until now. And, thirdly, because most art histories written to this date consider art production in the Arab world through the lenses and senses given to art production in the West, not taking thus the local conditions enough into account. Starting from specific examples, this lecture will try to give some suggestions of how to read works of art that - in spite of pretending to universality - are to be embedded in the specific place and time that produced them.

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).

Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz - Max-Planck-Institut
Palazzo Grifoni Budini Gattai
Via dei Servi 51
50122 Firenze
Elahe Helbig M.A.  

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