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Art Dubai’s Summer Reading List: 7 Books on Art & Artists from the Region

From architecture in Sharjah, abstract art from across the Arab world and an experimental book on Hassan Sharif – here is your summer reading list on art and culture from the Middle East, selected by the Art Dubai team.

Building Sharjah edited by Sultan Sooud Al Qassemi & Todd Reisz

Building Sharjah tells the history of architecture in Sharjah, from an oil discovery in 1972 to today. One of the most engaging and thorough examinations of the city’s architectural history, it is illustrated by hitherto unseen photographs and documents, giving new insights into how locals and expats built and shaped the city.

The book is the result of an intensive five-year research project to document Sharjah’s urban landscape and identity, including projects and buildings that no longer exist.

The NYU Abu Dhabi Art Gallery: 2014-2020 edited by Maya Allison

The NYUAD Art Gallery was launched alongside the main university in 2014 and has since received presented museum-quality exhibitions and contributed to the growth of the cultural landscape in Abu Dhabi and beyond.

This bilingual (English & Arabic) publication tells the story of the institution, with contributions by the founders and collaborators. Contributors include Sam Bardaouil, Guido Comis, Emily Doherty, Anthony Downey, Till Fellrath, Scott Fitzgerald, Bana Kattan, Salwa Mikdadi, H.E. Zaki Nusseibeh, Alistair Rider, Beatrix Ruf, Slavs and Tatars, and Mariët Westermann.

Al-Fan el Arabi el Hadtih: Zuhour el Lawha by Charbel Dagher

Al-Fan el Arabi el Hadtih: Zuhour el Lawha looks into the history of modern Arab art and the appearance of the first painting. In this book, Charbel Dagher recounts the history of the painting from the beginning of the Ottoman period to the stage of colonisation in the Arab world. More specifically, the book explores the history of the Arab painting, addressing the problems and difficulties it encountered across political, religious, artistic, and social realms.

Art in the Age of Anxiety edited by Omar Kholeif

In Art in the Age of Anxiety, artists and writers share one of the first-ever analyses of our post-COVID-19 world. Looking at a wide range of topics, from the future of money, the role of art in society, and mental health in a digital age, the book includes contributions by Anonymous, Saira Ansari, Cory Arcangel, Jeremy Bailey, Douglas Coupland, Simon Denny, Heather Dewey-Hagborg, Aruba Khalid, Omar Kholeif, Norman M. Klein, W. J. T. Mitchell, Todd Reisz, Danko Stjepanovic, and Marc Tuters.

The Extreme Self by Shumon Basar, Douglas Coupland and Hans Ulrich Obrist

The sudden arrival of the pandemic pushed the world faster and further into the 21st century. Now, life is dictated by two forces we can’t see: data and the virus. Published on the occasion of ‘Age of You’ which was held at Jameel Art Centre earlier this year, The Extreme Self asks whether we are built for so much change, so quickly, touring through fame and intimacy, post-work and new crowds, identity crisis and eternity. This is an eye-opening, provocative portrait of what’s happening to us.

Hassan Sharif: I Am a Single Work Artist by Hoor Al Qasimi

Hassan Sharif: I Am The Single Work Artist is the exhibition catalogue of the eponymous show at Sharjah Art Foundation in 2017-18, curated by Hoor Al Qasimi. The book includes research by the Foundation into Sharif’s long career and multidisciplinary practice as well as lost works, and previously unpublished English translations from his journalistic and experimental writings. An experimental work, rather than traditional exhibition catalogue, this book beautifully reflects Hassan Sharif’s practice as well as including personal narratives from various points of his life and career.

Taking Shape: Abstraction from the Arab World, 1950s-1980s edited by Suheyla Takesh and Lynn Gumpert

Taking Shape: Abstraction from the Arab World, 1950s–1980s traces the emergence and development of abstraction in the Arab World through paintings and sculpture dating from the 1950s through the 1980s. Drawn from the collection of the Barjeel Art Foundation in Sharjah, this book features nearly ninety works by a diverse group of artists whose creative visions stretched beyond the boundaries of representation. Taking Shape raises a fundamental question: How do we study abstraction across different contexts, and how can we rethink art-historical canons to expand the discourse around global modernism.

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