Yazan Halwani, “Beirut’s Banksy”
Originally a street artist, Halwani’s work has matured significantly since he first embraced calligraffiti in his teens. In recent years, calligraphy has begun to fire the imagination of a new generation of young artists who are striving to create street art with an Arab identity. They ignore the rules of traditional calligraphy, instead combining its unique visual language with the conventions of graffiti. A predominantly Western art form has thus been co-opted to create counter-cultural Arab street art.
Halwani seeks to solidify the link between the people of Beirut, their culture, and the Arabic language, creating popular murals of Fairouz, Asmahan, Khalil Gibran, Mahmoud Darwish…
The 25-year-old has quickly become one of Lebanon’s brightest young artists and his work is already part of the city’s fabric.
Referred to as “Beirut’s Banksy” by Arab media outlet Al-Arabiya, Halwani has also produced artwork for international street art events, and his work has appeared in Germany, Singapore and Paris. By taking his calligraphy outside the Arab region, Halwani says, he wants to instigate “cross-cultural conversations” and to inspire a “positive view of the Arab world.
Inside the Louvre Abu Dhabi
Since 2007 when the French government confirmed it would rent the name, art treasures and expertise of the Louvre to a new museum in Abu Dhabi, the prestigious institution has been at the heart of the discussions. The Louvre finally opened his doors in 2017, after ten years of construction.
Designed by French architect Jean Nouvel, the museum showcases hundreds of works of art from around the world. Divided in twelve galleries, the Louvre tells the story of humanity, ranging from prehistoric artefacts to contemporary artworks. Since the project kicked off, the United Arab Emirates has already acquired 400 major works, operations that considerably stimulated the art market between 2007 and 2013, particularly at auction, as it has an annual purchasing budget of some $55 million over ten years.
The collection belongs to the museum but about 300 works are also rent to dozens of French state institutions (the Musée d’Orsay, the Centre Pompidou, the Bibliothèque Nationale, etc.) for a decade. This will give the new museum time to assemble a permanent collection. The ambition behind is to acquire high-quality works and build up a first-class collection worthy of international recognition.
Louvre Abu Dhabi hosts four temporary exhibitions per year, they will follow the same thematic approach as the permanent collections in the Museum Galleries, highlighting comparisons, influences and shared ideas across civilisations and cultures.
The prestigious institution will among others exhibit artworks from Pierre Gauguin, Pablo Picasso, Claude Monet, Vincent Van Gogh, Ai Weiwei, Ibrahim el Salahi, Ahmad Ibn Majid, Piet Mondrian, William Henry Fox Talbot, Ibn al- Haytham …
Moreover, from September 2018, Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi will be shown at the Louvre Abu Dhabi. People have been speculating on the purchase of this masterpiece, sold for $450 Million at Christie’s New York in November 2017. United Arab Emirates claimed that its own Department of Culture and Tourism bought it through a proxy buyer, whereas The New York Times reported it was purchased by a Saudi Prince. The mysterious Christ painting will be incorporated as a centrepiece of the collection.
Having an institution of this calibre on the doorstep will allow collectors and enthusiasts to gain a deeper understanding of art history; as the Middle Eastern art market already has an appetite for contemporary and 20th-century pieces. Moreover, United Arab Emirates hope the credibility it lends the region will have a positive impact for both buyers and sellers.
Meet Monique & Max Burger
Monique and Max Burger have started their collection in the 90’s. The swiss couple at the time acquired boundless artworks whenever they travelled, without following trends or specific themes. However, they have always been attracted to artists who had and expressed a strong opinion about societal topics.
In 2005, after moving to Hong Kong, aiming to reach a wider audience, the Burger made their collection available for view online on their website. But Monique ambition to make art accessible couldn’t stop here, therefore she decided in 2009 to launch a four-part exhibition untitled Quadrilogy and shown in different countries. The Burger Collection has notably been exhibited in Berlin and Hong Kong.
Today, Monique and Max Burger are among the 200 most influential art buyers in the world, along with Roman Abramovich and Paul Allen. The Burger collection boasts more than 1,000 artworks, perfect blend of international and local talents such as Ng Ka-Chun and Lam Tung-pang. Some of them are currently highly rated and much sought-after artists. They are also actively collaborating with prestigious institutions and museums including the Centre d’ Art Contemporain in Lyon, Singapore Art Museum, Palais de Tokyo in Paris…
Committed philanthropists, they support a selection of art projects and local foundations such as Para Site, Asia Art Archive and engage in publications and conferences worldwide.
Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art
At the heart of Iran Capital, Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art houses the greatest collection of modern Western masterpieces outside Europe and North America.
Inaugurated in 1977 by Empress Farah Pahlavi, the building itself is considered as an example of contemporary art. Designed after the traditional Persian architecture, the interior is however inspired by Guggenheim Museum in New-York. At the time of the construction, the museum was a controversial project in a climate of dictatorship.
When the Iranian Revolution broke out, a few artworks were destroyed including a Warhol painting. Thereafter, Western art was taken out of the collection and about 1,500 artworks stored away until the first post-revolution exhibition in 1999, a pop art exhibit featuring works by Hockney, Lichtenstein, Rauschenberg, and Warhol.
Most of the exhibited art pieces have been selected by the former Empress herself and fund by The National Iranian Oil Company.
Today, it is said that there is approximately £2.5 billion worth of modern art and about 3,000 artworks held at the museum. The collection gathers paintings, prints, drawings and sculpture featuring artists such as Picasso, Rodin, Monet, Pissarro, Chagall, Georges Braque, Toulouse-Lautrec…
From time to time, the institution also organizes exhibitions by local artists.
Meet Mohammed Afkhami
The Iranian-born and financier started collecting in 2004 during a travel to his homeland. At the time, his first acquisition was a work by Sirak Melkonian that he bought for only $500.
According to Mohammed Afkhami, art is a family affair as his mother and grandfather compiled one of the most significant private collections of calligraphy in Iran.
His own collection totals about 600 pieces of art, mostly gathering works by Iranian contemporary artists including Shirin Neshat, Farhad Moshiri, Parvis Tanavoli and Anish Kapoor. In 2017, some of his artworks were on display at the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto for the exhibition “Rebel, Jester, Mystic, Poet: Contemporary Persians”, focusing on works which exemplify the main discursive ingredients of Iranian contemporary art: gender, politics, religion, and spirituality.
Mohammed Afkhami is a founding member of the British Museum’s Middle East and North Africa Art Acquisition Committee, a member of the Guggenheim Museum’s Middle East and North Africa Art Acquisition Committee, and serves on the advisory board of Art Dubai.
Today, he is highly renowned for his contribution to the promotion and preservation of modern art from the Middle East.