Politics of Modern Middle Eastern Art
Feb 12, 2020
Sultan Sooud Al Qassemi will be discussing the political undertones of iconic artworks of the 20th century in the Arab world. From the Baathist regimes of Syria and Iraq to Egypt’s pan-Arabism under Gamal Abdel Nasser, paintings and sculptures in addition to film and performance have been employed by various governments as a tool of soft power to propagate their policies to the public not only in their respective states but throughout the region and beyond.
Despite this government patronage of the arts, many artists have chosen to challenge their authorities through their art practices. This talk is an attempt to shed light on an often neglected dimension in the modern history of the Arab world, and other parts of the Middle East.
Sultan Sooud Al Qassemi is an Emirati columnist and researcher on social, political and cultural affairs in the Arab Gulf States. Sultan’s tweets became a major news source during the Arab Spring, rivaling the major news networks at the time, until TIME magazine listed him in the “140 Best Twitter Feeds of 2011.” In 2018 Sultan ranked 19th on the “Arabic Thought Leader Index” by the Gottlieb Duttweiler Institute.
Sultan was a practitioner-in-residence at the Hagop Kevorkian Center of Near East Studies at New York University in the Spring of 2017, a 2018 Yale Greenberg World Fellow and a lecturer at the Council of Middle East Studies in Yale University then an Adjunct Instructor at the Center of Contemporary Arab Studies at Georgetown University in 2019.
Sultan is also the founder of the Barjeel Art Foundation, an independent initiative established in 2010 to contribute to the intellectual development of the art scene in the Arab region by building a prominent and publicly accessible art collection in the United Arab Emirates. In 2018, 100 works from the collection were hosted on a long-term basis at the Sharjah Art Museum.
Sultan is currently conducting research for a book that documents the modern architecture of the city of Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates, and teaching a course on “Politics of Modern Middle Eastern Art” at Boston College.