Middle Eastern Artists: Exploring the Art Scene
Powerful Middle Eastern art. It engages with the world at large, encouraging people to think and feel in new ways. Stretching further beyond traditional calligraphy and ornamentation, it encompasses a diverse range of thought-provoking, socially engaged and experimental works. Keep reading to discover the forefront artists from the region and its diaspora, who are shaping this dynamic art scene.
Farah Al Qasimi
Farah Al Qasimi is a photographer from the United Arab Emirates, living in Brooklyn, New York. She works in photography, video, and performance, examining postcolonial structures of power, gender and taste in the Gulf Arab states. Born in Abu Dhabi in 1991, Farah received her MFA at the Yale School of Art.
Al Qasimi infuses a joyous perspective into everyday life, whether it’s capturing a chandelier in a Yemeni-owned bodega in Ridgewood, Queens, or two men at a barbershop run by Palestinians in Brooklyn. She often blends tradition with contemporary mall culture, technological development and global markets.
Yasmine Nasser Diaz
Yasmine Nasser Diaz is a visual artist whose work frequently occupies the domestic sphere to explore the boundaries of cultural identity. Staging familial memories in nostalgic recreations of home, her work nods to both tradition and technological change.
Using a variety of media from collage and fiber to video and immersive installation, she mines personal archives to probe the nuances of third-culture identity. Yasmine often draws upon the friction experienced between the individual and the collective.
Over the last decade in particular, Oman has given birth to a new generation of talented photographers. Another name that is now also rising to national and regional recognition is young Omani photographer Abdulaziz Alhosni.
Abdulaziz depicts Omani culture in a new light. Using himself as his muse, he juxtaposes vintage imagery and modern objects, themes and clothing. Portraying soft masculinity, he questions its traditional perceptions and structures.
Starting in the early 1980s, Tarek Al-Ghoussein (1962–2022) dedicated himself to the field of photography. The artist with Palestinian-Kuwaiti roots was also an NYU Abu Dhabi professor of visual arts. His artwork encompassed landscape photography, self-portraiture and performance art, depicting spaces and objects on the precipice of abandonment.
Miramar Muhd is a self-taught Iraqi visual artist, muralist, and activist based in Amman, Jordan. Firmly rooted in humanitarian beliefs, Miramar uses art as a response to injustice and gender-based discrimination.
Shirin Neshat is an Iranian-born artist and filmmaker living in New York. Her photographs and video installations explore the cultural issues that shape her native Iran, with particular emphasis on the experience of women. Shirin delves into issues of femininity, religion, identity, exile, and cultural history.
Neshat particularly interested in the effects of Islamic fundamentalism and militancy, and in the relationship between the personal and the political. Neshat was awarded the Golden Lion Award, the First International Prize at the 48th Biennale di Venezia (1999).
Saks Afridi is a Pakistani-American multi-disciplinary artist. His art practice investigates the predicaments of the life of an ‘Insider Outsider’. This is the practice of achieving a sense of belonging while being out of place, finding happiness in a state of temporary permanence, and re-contextualizing existing historical and cultural narratives with the contemporary. Afridi fuses mysticism and futurism to discover worlds and galaxies within the self.
Saks comes to art with a background as a Creative Director in advertising. He studied advertising at the Academy of Art and sculpture at the Art Students League of New York.
Shirana Shahbazi is a contemporary Iranian-born photographer known for her large-scale installations. Shahbazi explores the limits of photography and the construction of reality. She painstakingly creates installations that blend color with black and white, geometric forms with documentary subjects, and abstraction with figuration. Her compositions are usually presented indoors.
For Images Vevey 2022 the artists covered the facade of a building with a pre-existing piece and composed an original frieze of images that overlap onto its windows. Shirana lives and works in Zurich, Switzerland.
Renowned self-taught photojournalist Newsha Tavakolian has been documenting conflicts, social issues, and natural disasters in Iran and Iraq. She started working as a photographer for the Iranian women’s daily newspaper at age 16.
Tavakolian joined the New York–based agency Polaris Images in 2001. Her work has since been published in international publications such as the New York Times, Newsweek, National Geographic and Time Magazine.
Cover Credits: Abdulaziz Al-Hosni, Farah Al Qasimi