Hassan Sharif: Works 1973-2011
Launched just a couple of weeks ago at the Venice Biennale, this 320-page monograph of the UAE’s most prominent contemporary artist provides an unprecedented insight into his life and works. The book comes on the back of a critically lauded three-month solo show in Abu Dhabi (his first in the capital), in which his chaotic sculptures – mostly made from violently manipulated household items – took over a large space next to Al Hosn Fort. But this hefty tome is more than simply a companion to the exhibition. As well as glossy photographs from the show, there’s also a comprehensive look at the performance art, sketches and cartoons that preceded Sharif’s fascination with the concept of organised chaos. This isn’t something that’ll simply look good on your coffee table, but also a chance to peer into the mind of the country’s most thought-provoking creative talent.
Dhs210. Available online at www.hatjecantz.de
Unveiled: New Art from the Middle East
When this eponymous exhibition opened at London’s Saatchi Gallery back in 2009, it caused quite a stir. Exhibitions of purely Arabic work at such high-profile venues are extremely rare indeed, and British broadsheets were falling over themselves to sing its praises, with some even going so far as to call it the hit of the year. As a visual companion to the show, this book retains every ounce of clout that made it so popular; depicting installations, sculptures and images that tackle themes of religion, politics and social oppression in brave, unambiguously satirical terms. The cover image (top right) and star of the show is a piece by Algeria’s Kader Attia entitled ‘Ghost’ – a roomful of hollow, kneeling, semi-grotesque silver figures made from what looks a lot like tin foil. The piece was deservedly hailed as a brilliant, impactful comment on the perceptions of women in Middle Eastern nations.
Dhs90 (plus postage). Available at www.amazon.com
Art of the Middle East
A fantastic access point for those looking for an introduction to the styles, themes and forms of art from the Arab world, covering works from 1945 right up to the modern era. There’s a distinct focus on artists at the sharp end of the scene today, with a good wodge of pages given over to Farhad Moshiri – an Iranian artist represented by Dubai’s Third Line Gallery. Though his works vary greatly in style, most take aim at the spread of consumerism in the Middle East region, with works such as ‘Barbie in a Burka’ and the pop-arty ‘Operation Supermarket’ among the book’s most provocative works.
Dhs249. Available at Jashanmal Book Stores, Mall of the Emirates (04 340 6789)
Contemporary Art in the Middle East
As well as providing a solid foundation in the region’s most significant modes of artistic expression and photography, this is also recommended for those keen to explore some of the theories behind contemporary Arab art. It’s packed with lengthy essays from some of the world’s biggest experts in Middle Eastern arts, with TJ Demos’s focus on output from war-torn Palestine and Lebanon the highlight. Best of all, though, the book avoids classifying Middle Eastern creativity on the basis of Western concepts and ideals, treating it as a vibrant, thriving scene in its own right – and rightly so.
Dhs188. Available at Jashanmal Book Stores, Mall of the Emirates (04 340 6789)
Opening the Doors
Another great resource for those seeking an entry point to the local art scene, this was originally published alongside an exhibition of the same name, held at Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi late last year. One of the book’s most interesting images – Rokni Haerizadeh’s ‘Godzilla versus Geedora’ – is wrapped around the front and back cover, depicting a Lowry-esque panorama of the 2009 Abu Dhabi Art Fair, with Jeff Koons’ giant red ruby and one of Louise Bourgeois’ spider-like sculptures both visible.
Price TBC. Available from Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage (02 657 6171)