Walid Raad explores exploding Middle East art infrastructure in Louvre exhibition



As the Louvre Museum opens a new wing showing the “largest collection of Islamic art in Europe”, multimedia artist Walid Raad is named as the exhibition’s face of contemporary art.

Raad’s exhibition “Preface to the First Edition” (19 January to 8 April 2013), which combines video, sculpture and a publication, is the first part of a three year collaboration between Raad and the Paris Louvre, marking the opening, on 12 September 2012, of the museum’s permanent Islamic galleries.

Walid Raad, 'Preface to the Third Edition', relief, 2013. Image courtesy Walid Raad and Hughes Dubois.

Walid Raad, 'Preface to the Third Edition', 2013, relief, dimensions variable. Image courtesy Walid Raad and Hughes Dubois.

In “Preface to the First Edition”, Lebanese-born Raad, an associate professor at the Cooper Union New York, examines the rising Western interest in the history and heritage of the Middle East. Raad has explored similar themes before: projects such as “The Atlas Group, a fictional history society and archive, and the ongoing “Scratching on Things I Could Disavow: A History of Art in the Arab World (started in 2007) demonstrate the artist’s use of multimedia installation to examine contemporary art in the Middle East and the history of art in Arab countries.

Walid Raad, 'Vue de l’exposition', 2013, still from video, in "Preface to the First Edition". Image courtesy Walid Raad and Antoine Mongodin.

Walid Raad, 'Vue de l’exposition', 2013, still from video, in "Preface to the First Edition". Image courtesy Walid Raad and Antoine Mongodin.

On its website, the Louvre summarises why it chose Raad’s work:

Attentive to the way geopolitical conflicts and changes impact the relationship with history, the artist explores the current perception of tradition. And with a purpose-designed installation at the Louvre, he presents a visual and narrative reflection on the future of the ‘universal museum’, a concept developed in the West in the late eighteenth century. Shadows, reflections, interstices and optical mystery highlight the poetic nature of his work.

Walid Raad, 'Preface to the Fourth Edition', 2013, video. Image courtesy Walid Raad and the Louvre.

Walid Raad, 'Preface to the Fourth Edition', 2013, video. Image courtesy Walid Raad and the Louvre.

Walid Raad, 'Vue de l’exposition', 2013, still from video, in "Preface to the First Edition". Image courtesy Walid Raad and Antoine Mongodin.

Walid Raad, 'Vue de l’exposition', 2013, still from video, in "Preface to the First Edition". Image courtesy Walid Raad and Antoine Mongodin.

Walid Raad, 'Preface to the Fourth Edition', 2013, video. Image courtesy Walid Raad and the Louvre.

Walid Raad, 'Preface to the Fourth Edition', 2013, video. Image courtesy Walid Raad and the Louvre.

Walid Raad, 'Preface to the Third Edition', 2013, relief. Image courtesy Walid Raad and Hughes Dubois.

Walid Raad, 'Preface to the Third Edition', 2013, relief. Image courtesy Walid Raad and Hughes Dubois.

Speaking to The Art Newspaper, Raad expanded on Preface to the First Edition:

These works are part of a larger, ongoing project that proceeds from the acceleration in the building of this new infrastructure for the arts in the Gulf, particularly in Abu Dhabi and Qatar. I don’t know that much about Islamic art. All this is very new to me, but some of these objects I see in the display in the Louvre and at the Met – their lines, their forms and their colours – have been very productive for me. I saw the opening for a new kind of concept, a new creative act.

The Louvre’s collection, entitled “Islam”, holds 18,000 objects dating from the seventh to the nineteenth centuries and, according to the museum, is the largest collection of Islamic art in Europe. The Louvre plans to open a second institution in Abu Dhabi in 2014, where it will house some of the exhibits.

 CN/KN/HH

Related Topics: Lebanese artists, video art, sculptureinstallation art, Islamic art

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