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

E-05++
Fall/Winter 2022-23


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

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

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

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

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



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


E-04++ 
Spring/Summer 2022


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Curator Interview March 21st, 2022

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

E-03++
Fall/Winter 2021-22


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

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

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

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

Exhibition Review February 11th, 2022
AUH Woman as a Noun, and a Practice: “As We Gaze Upon Her” at Warehouse421
Curator Interview October 15th, 2021
IST “Once Upon a Time Inconceivable”: A Review and a Conversation

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

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

Exhibition October 5th, 2021
DXB
Engage101 Presents “Connected, Collected” at Sotheby’s Dubai

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

E-02++
Spring/Summer 2021


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

E-01++
Fall/Winter 2020-21


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

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

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

Exhibition Review
November 23rd, 2020


AUH SEAF Cohort 7 at Warehouse 421 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Map August 16th, 2020
BEY GAD Map: Arts & Culture Relief for Beirut

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7. Strangers to the Museum Wall: Kehinde Wiley’s Venice Exhibition Speaks of Violence and Portraiture


By Anita Shishani

Published on September 5th, 2022  

       I didn't know what to expect when I boarded the ferry to St. Giorgio island to see the show, An Archaeology of Silence. A friend was working at the exhibition and told me to stop by, so I did. It was Kehinde Wiley’s solo exhibition, organized by the Musée d’Orsay in Paris as a collateral event to the 59th Venice Biennale, and curated by Christophe Leribault. Of course, I googled the artist, Kehinde Wiley, beforehand and realized that I had seen his work before. It was the official U.S. presidential portrait of former President Barack Obama, which was presented in 2018 at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery. Wiley did a formidable job with Obama’s portrait, adding a layer of humility and humanity to the presidential figure through his body language, his steady gaze, and the forest behind him, all while maintaining his prestige, education and power. Obama’s portrait was my only impression of Wiley’s work and style, until An Archaeology of Silence.

1. Installation view, Kehinde Wiley: Archeology of Silence, at Fondation Cini, Venice, 2022. Photo © Ugo Carmeni.


The first surprise was the effect of the repertoire of subjects that Wiley could paint, much different to Obama’s presidential portrait. Seeing Wiley’s show made it clear to me that his real talent is in exalting ordinary people to positions of power. As part of his practice, Kehinde asks Black strangers on the street (usually in Harlem, New York), to come into his studio and pose for him, recreating their choice of a European classical painting or sculpture from Kehinde’s art books. In a video series by the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Kehinde recalls that the catalyst for his style of portraiture was a mugshot profile that he found while walking around in Harlem in New York, featuring a photograph of a young Black man who seemed “incredibly young and sympathetic”, paired with details such as his address, birth date, and his offenses. For Kehinde, this piece of paper with “all of these markings–that said something about him, very specifically [of] a place and time”–this paper provided Kehinde with a snapshot of the man’s story. Seeing Kehinde’s works in-person brings this anecdote to life. The models for his paintings and sculptures were asked to come in exactly as they were, so they become immortalized in their choice of Nike or Adidas sneaker, or typical Christian cross necklaces, or headphones around their neck, and their daily updo hairstyles. These personal outfit choices by the sitters reflect a form of authentic self-expression that is clearly communicated to the outside world, whilst also revelatory of the subconscious choices that slip through their presentation to the outside world. The close attention he pays to real people, essentially strangers, is what makes his portraits so powerful.


The models for his paintings and sculptures were asked to come in exactly as they were.



For this exhibition, Wiley focused on corpses and the dead human body, through painting and bronze sculptures. Although key aspects of his style such as his extravagant and baroque use of color and the attention to the background are still present, this exhibition explored a much darker theme. This exhibition reflects directly on the injustice of police brutality in the United States. Although, in his own words, this violence is not specific to the U.S.– Wiley stated that the archeology he is “unearthing” is the “specter of police violence and state control over the bodies of young Black and Brown people all over the world.” 


2. Installation view, Kehinde Wiley: Archeology of Silence, at Fondation Cini, Venice, 2022. Photo © Ugo Carmeni.


This exhibition reflects directly on the injustice of police brutality in the United States. Although, in [the artist’s] own words, this violence is not specific to the U.S.



The first room transported me back to May 2020, the frenetic moment after the murder of George Floyd, an African American civilian, by the U.S. police, triggering Black Lives Matter marches and protests nationwide and globally. Images of police abusing, hurting, killing young Black men and women were being shared constantly and circulated on social media for what seemed like a month or two. While social media is a powerful tool to spread awareness and start social movements, to see such violence acted out on young African-Americans again and again was a kind of violence of its own. I was especially disturbed by how unprepared and unarmed the battered bodies looked–they were ordinary people, in ordinary outfits, accessories, hairstyles, going out on the street, not knowing that these would be their last ordinary choices.

Why would an artist with the goal to highlight the power of Black people depict them at what one would imagine was their least powerful moment? That leads me to the second surprise. I began my visit walking into the dark and I was immediately faced by two small bronze sculptures–corpses of young Black men. Each body represented a picture of quiet despair and stillness. Together, they seemed so small, alone, still and unnaturally frozen that to disturb them in their crypt felt disrespectful. I could not bring myself to take photos of the fallen heroes, laying in their only peace.

3. Installation view, Kehinde Wiley: Archeology of Silence, at Fondation Cini, Venice, 2022. Photo © Ugo Carmeni.


As I walked through the exhibition, the sculptures got larger and larger. In interviews, Wiley often discusses the significance of scale to him, and the curator, Cristophe Leribault, seems to have understood how to maximize the effect of the scale of the works through the curation of the physical space. I almost felt like I had been fooled in the first room with the smaller sculptures. There is, of course, a necessity to show pain and injustice in such a way, however, that is not the route that Wiley followed. I was shocked to see the sculptures repeated in the next room, but in almost triple the size. Suddenly, I was not disturbing the peace of two little figures, but instead walking between corpses of muscular martyrs. Their human scale size brought the full weight of their bodies to the viewer, bringing this vision closer to life. I was surprised by how present the figures felt even when it was supposed to be a depiction of corpses. The bodies did seem broken and vulnerable, but they still felt warm, as though they might start to respire at any moment. I could feel the eyes from the massive portraits hanging around the sculpture as they watched their fellow broken bodies. 


I was shocked to see the sculptures repeated in the next room, but in almost triple the size.



A central question, discussed in many articles and videos about the artist’s practice, is “who deserves to be on the great museum wall?” The effect of this motivating problematic was clearer to me once I reflected on my own background and emotional response to the artworks. As a Chechen, I am familiar with the importance of preserving memories of fallen warriors when the majority of media representation around my people place them within a binary; minorities that crave and fight for their true and total freedom are sorted into one of two roles: aggressive barbarians or victim corpses. What has been erased is a sense of nobility as neither aggressors, nor victims are seen as noble. Yet, Wiley’s figures are noble when they are alive, and noble when they die, which is the most significant achievement of this exhibition in my eyes. Their deaths are not failures, and their cause is not lost.

By allowing Black bodies to take the spotlight, while they had traditionally been effaced from that ‘great museum wall’, Wiley communicates their nobility. Noble, as in they are selflessly fighting for the greater causes of freedom and justice.


Wiley’s figures are noble when they are alive, and noble when they die, which is the most significant achievement of this exhibition in my eyes.



The curation of the exhibition by Leribault complemented Wiley’s theme perfectly, by paying close attention to what Wiley was trying to achieve through the scale he worked on and understanding the language of power that he was referring to. Leribault has a long working relationship with Wiley as they originally worked together in 2016 for Wiley’s first exhibition in France (Kehinde Wiley: Lamentation), and it is apparent. Leribault was the Director of the Petit Palais in Paris at the time and he now works at the Musée d’Orsay. Wiley is as much an artist as he is a student of Art History, with references comprising largely of Western European art history, so his working relationship with Leribault makes sense as he is an art historian specializing in 19th-century European painting with a profound comprehension of the art historical context of Wiley’s work and his consideration of scale.

In the final room of the exhibition stands the terrifying apotheosis of the exhibition. I was greeted by a bronze horse’s mouth the size of my face, with a fiery glow, which grew into a monumental sculpture of a limp man lying askew on a rearing horse that towered over me, maybe three times over. In opposition to the relatively tiny sculptures in the first room, which had seemed reserved to their sad but quiet fate, this man’s energy and fury must have transferred to the horse on its hind legs, ready to crush the observer in its path. His vulnerability in his limp, shirtless body is as present as his struggle, immortalized and forever moved forward by the mare.

It sounds like a radical feat to bring power to the vulnerability of a corpse. That is, until we think of European art history teeming with glorifications and memorials to fallen heroes, martyrs and warriors.

The island of San Giorgio Maggiore is five minutes by ferry from St Mark's Basilica in Venice. The basilica’s facade includes the Horses of Saint Mark, most likely dating back to classical antiquity, around the fourth century. The bronze statues show four giant horses trotting forwards. Another example of equestrian portraiture is on the Venetian promenade, Riva degli Schiavoni, almost directly facing the Fondazione Giorgio Cini. The Victor Emmanuel II National Monument was named after King Victor Emmanuel II of Savoy, who gave himself the epithet of Padre della Patria as he was the first king of unified Italy. He is shown on a horse sitting on a massive base, almost the size of the statue itself, which must be around 3 meters tall.

4. Installation view, Kehinde Wiley: Archeology of Silence, at Fondation Cini, Venice, 2022. Photo © Ugo Carmeni.


Wiley’s sculpture of the man on the horse and the monument of King Victor could be about the same size, but their physical placements could not be any different. A closed, dark exhibition room, illuminated only by a spotlight overhead, does not have the same effect as a promenade. Wiley takes on the tradition of equestrian portraiture, at the core of military power, and in both sculptures the horse is another reminder that the figure atop it is worth remembering and revering. However, the crucial difference is that King Victor depicts a man to be celebrated, while the unnamed hero by Wiley is being mourned. Insistence on and dedication to the memory of an innocent’s suffering represent a form of justice.

It is a tad disconcerting to see the language of domination of the oppressors used to lift up alternative heroes. This lexicon of power has been deeply ingrained within the lens with which we regard art, which is the reason for Wiley’s extremely successful practice and communication. Nevertheless, I wonder if there are new alternative depictions of power that could prove equally effective, especially as we consider a new type of historiography. Perhaps Wiley’s focus on martyrs, highlighting the relationship between power, nobility and vulnerability, is a step in that direction.


I wonder if there are new alternative depictions of power that could prove equally effective, especially as we consider a new type of historiography.



Perhaps occasional puzzlement in regards to the choice of paintings and sculptures referenced in Wiley’s works adds to the strength of the pieces as it forces viewers to think through all the possible connections within the art historical context it is placed in, and reimagine our idea of the singular historical narrative reflected in the arts, especially in the European and US academic canons. A similar idea was proposed by Ulrich Baer in an article for Hyperallergic about the destruction of certain historical monuments in the US and the commissioning of new ones. Specifically in regards to the monument Rumors of War (2019) by Wiley, which was originally placed in Times Square and then moved near Monument Avenue in Richmond, Virginia – where the rider now confronts the statues revering the Confederate cause – Baer states that this statue’s point is not “replacing historical figures with previously overlooked individuals in an endless cycle of one-up-manship that views history as a battle for one’s viewpoint.” Rather, “these works …transform this polemic over who owns the past into dialogue, a linear version of history into a “postcolonial constellation,” …the monuments debate is a battle not over historical truth, but over who has the power to define what’s true and what values are embodied by our symbols and our art.”

Wiley’s equestrian portraits in Times Square, Virginia or in Venice, next to monuments from centuries earlier created by colonial powers produce the exact effect that Baer described. To me, however, they all felt foreign. From personal experience, I noticed that the contemporary arts in the UAE do not carry such focus on portraiture in sculptural or monumental form. Whereas many viewers of Wiley’s works in Venice might have had a response influenced by a deep-rooted familiarity with centuries of Western art history, including a physical familiarity with monumental three-dimensional portraits in their daily lives, I did not come from the same point of view. Nevertheless, the language of power that Wiley speaks in his pieces, which includes the sturdiness and immovability of the bronze as well as having to look up at giant human figures (as Wiley places the viewer just below the sitters’ eye level) elicited a natural response, rendering me feeling tiny, and in awe.

I came across An Archaeology of Silence by chance, but it is an exhibition that has stuck with me for the ability of Kehinde Wiley and Cristophe Leribault to make me feel like I am at a wake and a rally simultaneously. The unexpected sheer scale of the artworks underlined Wiley’s theme in a visceral way, and I went from wanting to tread lightly around the smaller sculptures, to being afraid of being tread on by the horse, which is due largely to the curatorial structure. I left the exhibition wondering what would happen if Wiley’s horse and rider were moved to the Riva degli Schiavoni promenade.


I left the exhibition wondering what would happen if Wiley’s horse and rider were moved to the Riva degli Schiavoni promenade.





Kehinde Wiley: An Archaeology of Silence ended July 24, 2022, at Palazzo Cini, Island of San Giorgio Maggiore.

Anita Shishani is a painter, curator and researcher, raised in Al Ain and of Chechen origin. She holds a  B.A. in Art History from New York University Abu Dhabi where she specialised in Arab and Iranian modern and contemporary art. Anita is dedicated to archiving the artworks and lives of contemporary UAE-based artists through her podcast, Khosh Bosh. From the vantage point of a unique cultural crossroad, she is committed to empowering creative thinkers based in the UAE, helping them find their voice, tell their story, and strengthen their foothold in the global landscape. Anita currently works as a curator for Dirwaza Curatorial Lab. Anita recently completed the Venice Internship with the National Pavilion of the UAE for the 59th Venice Biennale.