E-Issue 07 –– AUH
Winter 2023-24

January 29th, 2024

  1. Editor’s Note
  2. What’s On in Abu Dhabi/Dubai
  3. Cover Interview: Shaikha Al Ketbi on Darawan
  4. Rapport: Public Art in the Gulf and a Case Study of Manar Abu Dhabi
  5. Hashel Al Lamki’s Survey Exhibition Maqam Reflects on a Decade of Practice in Abu Dhabi
  6. “You Can’t Stand on a Movement”: Michelangelo Pistoletto Interviews Benton Interviewing Pistoletto

Winter/Spring 2024

Curators Interview May 14, 2024
AUH Embracing Change through an Open System: Maya Allison and Duygu Demir on “In Real Time” at NYUAD Art Gallery

About ––

    What We Do
    Editorial Board

Interviews ––

    Selected Archive

Open Call ––

    E-08 Seoul

Newsletter ––

Chronological Archive ––

    Selected Archive

Artist Interview November 18th, 2016
AUH Raed Yassin in Abu Dhabi

Editorial March 1st, 2018
AUH Abu Dhabi Is The New Calabasas

Exhibition Listing May 22nd, 2018
DXB Christopher Benton: If We Don't Reclaim Our History, The Sand Will

Artist Interview June 15th, 2018
TYO An Interview with BIEN, a Rising Japanese Artist

Artist Interview July 17th, 2018
TYO Rintaro Fuse on Selfies and Cave Painting

Artist Interview August 28th, 2018
BER Slavs and Tatars: “Pulling a Thread to Undo The Sweater”

Artist Interview September 1st, 2018
NYC Shirin Neshat In Conversation with Sophie Arni and Ev Zverev

Artist Interview September 1st, 2018
PAR Hottest Spices: Michèle Lamy

E-Issue 01 –– AUH/DXB
Summer 2020

August 1st, 2020

  1. Editor’s Note
  2. What’s On in the UAE
  3. Pop(Corn): Hashel Al Lamki
  4. Tailoring in Abu Dhabi
  5. Rapport: Dubai
  6. Michael Rakowitz From the Diaspora

Fall/Winter 2020-21

Artist Interview August 23rd, 2020
LHR/MCT Hanan Sultan Rhymes Frankincense with Minimalism

Artist Interview August 24th, 2020
DXB Augustine Paredes Taking Up Space

Artist Interview August 26th, 2020
AUH Sarah Almehairi Initiates Conversations

Market Interview August 28th, 2020
AUH/DXB 101 Pioneers Ethical and Curious Art Collecting

Exhibition September 1st, 2020
DXB Alserkal Arts Foundation Presents Mohamed Melehi

Market Interview September 4th, 2020
DXB Meet Tamila Kochkarova Behind ‘No Boys Allowed’

Artist Interview September 7th, 2020
DXB Taaboogah Infuses Comedy Into Khaleeji Menswear

Artist Interview September 10th, 2020
LHR/CAI Alaa Hindia’s Jewelry Revives Egyptian Nostalgia

Curator Interview September 14th, 2020
UAE Tawahadna Introduces MENA Artists to a Global Community

Exhibition Review September 24th, 2020
MIA a_part Gives Artists 36 Hours to React

Artist Interview September 27th, 2020
AUH BAIT 15 Welcomes New Member Zuhoor Al Sayegh

Market Interview October 14th, 2021
DXB Thaely Kicks Off Sustainable Sneakers

Exhibition Review October 19th, 2020
DXB Do You See Me How I See You?

Exhibition October 22nd, 2020
TYO James Jarvis Presents Latest Collages at 3110NZ

Exhibition Review October 22nd, 2020
AUH Ogamdo: Crossing a Cultural Highway between Korea and the UAE

Book Review October 28th, 2020
DAM Investigating the Catalogues of the National Museum of Damascus

Exhibition Review November 13th, 2020
Kanye Says Listen to the Kids: Youth Takeover at Jameel Arts Centre

Exhibition Review November 16th, 2021
DXB Melehi’s Waves Complicate Waving Goodbye

Exhibition Review November 19th, 2020
DXB Spotlight on Dubai Design Week 2020

Exhibition Review November 21st, 2020
DXB 101 Strikes Again with Second Sale at Alserkal Avenue

Exhibition Review
November 23rd, 2020

AUH SEAF Cohort 7 at Warehouse 421

Exhibition Review December 9th, 2020
SHJ Sharjah Art Foundation Jets Ahead on the Flying Saucer

Curator Interview January 25th, 2021
DXB Sa Tahanan Collective Redefines Home for Filipino Artists

Exhibition Review February 21st, 2021
GRV MIA Anywhere Hosts First Virtual Exhibition of Female Chechen Artists  

🎙️GAD Talk Series –– Season 1 2020

November 1st, 2020
1. What is Global Art Daily? 2015 to Now

November 16th, 2020
2. Where is Global Art Daily? An Open Coversation on Migration as Art Practitioners

November 29th, 2020
3. When the Youth Takes Over: Reflecting on the 2020 Jameel Arts Centre Youth Takeover

December 20th, 2020
4. Young Curators in Tokyo: The Making of The 5th Floor

January 27th, 2021
5. How To Create Digital Networks in The Art World?

E-Issue 02 –– NYC
Spring 2021

February 21st, 2021

  1. Editor’s Note
  2. What’s On in NYC
  3. Pop(Corn): Zeid Jaouni
  4. You Can Take The Girl Out Of The City
  5. Rapport: NYC
  6. Kindergarten Records Discuss The Future of Electronic Music
  7. Sole DXB Brings NY Hip-Hop To Abu Dhabi
  8. Wei Han Finds ‘Home’ In New York
  9. Vikram Divecha: Encounters and Negotiations

Spring/Summer 2021

Exhibition Review March 3rd, 2021
DXB There’s a Hurricane at the Foundry

Exhibition Review March 7th, 2021
AUH Re-viewing Contrasts: Hyphenated Spaces at Warehouse421

Curator Interview March 21st, 2021
DXB Permeability and Regional Nodes: Sohrab Hura on Curating Growing Like a Tree at Ishara Art Foundation

Exhibition March 28th, 2021
DXB Alserkal Art Week Top Picks

Exhibition Review April 1st, 2021
DXB A ‘Menu Poem’ and All That Follows

Exhibition Review April 5th, 2021
DXB A Riot Towards Landscapes

Exhibition April 16th, 2021
RUH Noor Riyadh Shines Light on Saudi Arabia’s 2030 Art Strategy

Artist Interview April 26th, 2021
CTU/AUH/YYZ Sabrina Zhao: Between Abu Dhabi, Sichuan, and Toronto

Exhibition Review April 27th, 2021
TYO BIEN Opens Two Solo Exhibitions in Island Japan and Parcel

Artist Interview April 28th, 2021
DXB Ana Escobar: Objects Revisited

Exhibition May 9th, 2021
LDN Fulfilment Services Ltd. Questions Techno-Capitalism on Billboards in London

Artist Interview May 11th, 2021
BAH Mihrab: Mysticism, Devotion, and Geo-Identity

Curator Interview May 20th, 2021
DXB There Is A You In The Cloud You Can’t Delete: A Review of “Age of You” at Jameel Arts Centre

Market Interview May 26th, 2021
TYO Startbahn, Japan’s Leading Art Blockchain Company, Builds a New Art Infrastructure for the Digital Age

Exhibition June 11th, 2021
TYO “Mimicry of Hollows” Opens at The 5th Floor

Exhibiton Review June 20th, 2021
AUH “Total Landscaping”at Warehouse 421

Artist Interview June 30th, 2021
OSA Rintaro Fuse Curates “Silent Category” at Creative Center Osaka

Exhibition Review August 9th, 2021
DXB “After The Beep”: A Review and Some Reflections

E-Issue 03 ––TYO
Fall 2021

October 1st, 2022

  1. Editor’s Note
  2. What’s On in TYO
  3. Pop(Corn): Nimyu
  4. Ahmad The Japanese: Bady Dalloul on Japan and Belonging
  5. Rapport: Tokyo
  6. Alexandre Taalba Redefines Virtuality at The 5th Floor
  7. Imagining Distant Ecologies in Hypersonic Tokyo: A Review of “Floating Between the Tropical and Glacial Zones”
  8. Ruba Al-Sweel Curates “Garden of e-arthly Delights” at SUMAC Space
  9. Salwa Mikdadi Reflects on the Opening of NYU Abu Dhabi’s Arab Center for the Study of Art

Fall/Winter 2021-22

Market Interview October 6th, 2021
RUH HH Prince Fahad Al Saud Discusses Saudi Arabia’s Artistic Renaissance

Exhibition October 7th, 2021
RUH Misk Art Institute’s Annual Flagship Exhibition Explores the Universality of Identity

Curator Interview October 15th, 2021
IST “Once Upon a Time Inconceivable”: A Review and a Conversation

Exhibition Review October 16th, 2021
AUH Woman as a Noun, and a Practice: “As We Gaze Upon Her” at Warehouse421

Exhibition Review February 11th, 2022

Artist Interview February 26th, 2022
TYO Akira Takayama on McDonald’s Radio University, Heterotopia, and Wagner Project

Artist Interview March 10th, 2022
DXB Prepare The Ingredients and Let The Rest Flow: Miramar and Zaid’s “Pure Data” Premieres at Satellite for Quoz Arts Fest 2022

Exhibition March 11th, 2022
DXB Must-See Exhibitions in Dubai - Art Week Edition 2022

Exhibition Review March 14th, 2022
DXB Art Dubai Digital, An Alternative Art World?

E-Issue 04 –– IST
Spring 2022

March 15th, 2022

  1. Editor’s Note
  2. What’s On in IST
  3. Pop(Corn): Refik Anadol
  4. Rapport: Istanbul
  5. Independent Spaces in Istanbul: Sarp Özer on Operating AVTO

Spring/Summer 2022

Curator Interview March 21st, 2022

Market Interview March 28th, 2022
DXB Dubai's Postmodern Architecture: Constructing the Future with 3dr Models

Exhibition April 23rd, 2022
HK Startbahn Presents “Made in Japan 3.0: Defining a New Phy-gital Reality”, an NFT Pop-Up at K11 Art Mall

Exhibition May 6th, 2022
Istanbul’s 5533 Presents Nazlı Khoshkhabar’s “Around and Round”

Artist Interview May 13th, 2022
“We Are Witnessing History”: Ramin Haerizadeh, Rokni Haerizadeh and Hesam Rahmanian On Their Retrospective Exhibition at NYU Abu Dhabi Art Gallery

Artist Interview June 13th, 2022
DXB “Geometry is Everywhere”: An Interview and Walking Tour of Order of Magnitude, Jitish Kallat’s Solo Exhibition at Dubai’s Ishara Art Foundation

Exhibition June 21st, 2022
DXB Art Jameel Joins The World Weather Network in a Groundbreaking Response to Global Climate Crisis

Exhibition June 27th, 2022
What’s On in the UAE: Our Top Summer Picks

Curator Interview July 9th, 2022
IST Creating an Artist Books Library in Istanbul: Aslı Özdoyuran on BAS

E-Issue 05 –– VCE
Fall 2022

September 5th, 2022

  1. Editor’s Note
  2. What’s On in VCE
  3. Pop(Corn): UAE National Pavilion
  4. Rapport: Venice
  5. Zeitgeist of our Time: Füsun Onur for the Turkish Pavilion at the 59th Venice Biennale
  6. GAD’s Top Picks: National Pavilions
  7. Strangers to the Museum Wall: Kehinde Wiley’s Venice Exhibition Speaks of Violence and Portraiture
  8. Questioning Everyday Life: Alluvium by Ramin Haerizadeh, Rokni Haerizadeh and Hesam Rahmanian at OGR Torino in Venice

Fall/Winter 2022-23

Market Interview June 28th, 2022
How Pearl Lam Built Her Gallery Between China and Europe

Exhibition November 11th, 2022
“Atami Blues” Brings Together UAE-Based and Japanese Artists in HOTEL ACAO ANNEX

Exhibition December 2nd, 2022
TYO Wetland Lab Proposes Sustainable Cement Alternative in Tokyo

Artist Interview December 9th, 2022
DXB Navjot Altaf Unpacks Eco-Feminism and Post-Pandemic Reality at Ishara Art Foundation

Artist Interview January 8th, 2023
TYO Shu Yonezawa and the Art of Animation

Artist Interview January 19th, 2023
NYC Reflecting on Her Southwestern Chinese Bai Roots, Peishan Huang Captures Human Traces on Objects and Spaces

Exhibition Review February 9th, 2023
DXB Augustine Paredes Builds His Paradise Home at Gulf Photo Plus

Artist Interview February 22nd, 2023
DXB Persia Beheshti Shares Thoughts on Virtual Worlds and the State of Video Art in Dubai Ahead of Her Screening at Bayt Al Mamzar

E-Issue 06 –– DXB/SHJ
Spring 2023

April 12th, 2023

  1. Editor’s Note
  2. What’s On in the UAE
  3. Pop(Corn): Jumairy
  4. Rapport: Art Dubai 2023
  5. Highlights from Sharjah Biennial 15
  6. Is Time Just an Illusion? A Review of "Notations on Time" at Ishara Art Foundation
  7. Saif Mhaisen and His Community at Bayt AlMamzar

DXB Christopher Joshua Benton to Debut Mubeen, City as Archive at The Third Line Shop in Collaboration with Global Art Daily

🔍 Legal

2015-24 Copyright Global Art Daily. All Rights Reserved.


Investigating the Catalogues of the National Museum of Damascus

By Sophie Arni

Published on October 28, 2020

        Published on the occasion of the centennial of the foundation of the Damascus National Museum (1919-2019), Prefaces to a Book for a Syrian Museum is a collection of prefaces of the museum’s catalogues spanning eighty years of its curatorial history. Edited by Mathilde Ayoub, curator and researcher at the Institut National du Patrimoine, with contributions from Michel Al-Maqdissi and Salam Kawakibi, Prefaces was published by Zamân Books & Curating in a trilingual edition (French, English and Arabic) earlier this month, and is the product of years of in-depth research and archival labor.

The Damascus National Museum temporary closed from 2012 to 2018 as a result of the ongoing Syrian civil war. Yet the museum boasts one of the most significant archaeological collections in the world, and has served many roles for the Damascene art scene throughout its century-long history. Prefaces draws subtle conclusions about the museum’s role as a vessel for the transmission of cultural heritage and tradition amidst Syria’s turbulent modern history.

Prefaces highlights the importance of museum catalogues towards the formulation of a research agenda. Described as a “re-edited palimpsest,” Prefaces presents the museum’s history through annotated prefaces and archival documents. It documents the different incarnations of the museum across the numerous political regimes and shifts which have marked modern Syrian history.

Described as a “re-edited palimpsest,” Prefaces presents the museum’s history through annotated prefaces and archival documents.

Presented in chronological order, the various featured prefaces offer readers the opportunity to discern the different periods marking the museum’s shifts in curatorial perspectives across the decades since its inception. The idea of compilation and collection, to be sure, is central to the curatorial vocation. However, applying this systematic approach to the prefaces of museum catalogues is a heretofore unexplored endeavor.

The idea of compilation and collection, to be sure, is central to the curatorial vocation. However, applying this systematic approach to the prefaces of museum catalogues is a heretofore unexplored endeavor.

Ayoub first discovered the existence of the museum’s catalogue from an edition published in 1969 in a flea market in Buenos Aires. This prompted her to start researching available prefaces from all previously published catalogues, much like a curatorial exercise of exhibition-making. She accessed prefaces dating from 1919, the date of museum’s foundation, to 2019, and compiled them under this book-collection. Ayoub views each preface as “evidence,” or “exhibits” from which she subtly crafts an overall narrative for the museum’s century-long history. “How does the history of a museum emerge from texts that it itself produced?” she asks.

“How does the history of a museum emerge from texts that it itself produced?”

- Mathilde Ayoub

“This book project started as a quest, but quickly became a full-on investigation.” Ayoub started to collect seemingly minor traces of the museum’s history, such as postcards and stamps. Through these exhibits, she could trace a richer vision of the museum’s evolution through the decades, one that more closely reflected the museum’s impact on its Damascene audience.

“The catalogues have left traces behind,” explains Ayoub. The one-to-two pages prefaces are short and standardized, which allows for detailed comparisons and analyses. “We can discern variations between the prefaces, an evolution in the curatorial speech.”

“Before Syrian independence, we can sense a “civilizational” necessity for the museum and the archeological artifacts it hosts. After the 1950s, the museum served more as a bridge between the Syrian population and their shared cultural heritage. The preface published in 1969, after the 1967 war, suggests the museum shifted towards a protectionist role, one of an educator for the postwar generation. The following prefaces have a more official, institutional tone, with an emphasis on showing cultural activity throughout Syria and not just in the capital.”

“This book project started as a quest, but quickly became a full-on investigation.”

- Mathilde Ayoub

The totality of the archive includes overlapping thematic elements. To begin with, as one might expect, a common theme includes the glorification of Syrian history and Syrian heritage. But some ideas put forward in the prefaces are much more nuanced and relevant to today’s context.

Ayoub describes a strong anti-colonial sentiment found in-between the lines of the prefaces. The museum’s leadership was indeed trying to distance itself from the French mandate, and this continued to reverberate even after Syria’s independence. There is a certain reticence from the museum’s chief curators towards the French mandate, an example of which is the publication of the first museum catalogue in 1931, which, incidentally named the museum the “first museum of a state under mandate” when in fact the mandate had been declared a full 11 years earlier in 1920.

There is also the ever-relevant question of repatriation. The museum’s catalogue prefaces throughout the past century have repeatedly dealt with the issues of looted Syrian heritage. “This issue is still facing the museum to this day,” describes Ayoub. An additional theme is the notable omission of any mention of the museum’s modern art collections which documents Syria’s journey towards independence and its arrival at its contemporary situation. 

The museum occupies a special position in the nascent Syrian national consciousness for many reasons. Certainly not least among them is the support the museum gave to Damascene artistic community. “The museum does not just comprise of exhibition halls,” Ayoub explains. It had a library and a large conference room welcoming concerts and poetry recitals. In 1971, the “Congrès de Damas” was held in that same room, which gave rise to the Union of Panarab Artists. The efforts of the museum to engage younger generations of artists and create cross-generational dialogues was also felt with the collaboration with Fares Helou, Syrian actor, who invited many regional and international artist to exhibit in the museum gardens.

Even though the National Museum of Damascus reopened in 2018, its future remains uncertain. Ayoub shares that this book does not have “any oracle value” for the future of the museum. But she also shares more about the critical role of the institution in protecting Syrian heritage. “We have to draw attention to the critical state of Syrian cultural heritage, without attracting bad faith. Many important antiquities from Palmyra are currently under restoration inside the museum.” 

“We have to draw attention to the critical state of Syrian cultural heritage, without attracting bad faith.”

One cannot help but ask what kind of Syria will emerge from the rubble of its more recent history and how the museum will, in exercising its vocation of archiving Syria’s history, propose the tentative prospect of a future.

Prefaces to a Book for a Syrian Museum
Edited by Mathilde Ayoub
Texts by Mathilde Ayoub, Michel Al-Maqdissi, Salam Kawakibi
Graphic design by Tom&Delhia
Photographs: Maxime Leyvastre
All images are courtesy of Zaman Books & Curating

Order the book here
Trilingual edition: French, Arabic, English, 24,00€⁠

Follow Zamân Books & Curating on Instagram

Published by:


A Global Art Daily Agency FZ-LLC subdivision.
Copyright, 2015-2023.
For reproduction, please contact us.