Is contemporary art Eurocentric or a product of “Western civilization”? The answer to this provocative question is certainly negative – it’s not; contemporary art goes far beyond imaginary borders of the so-called “Western civilization”. The fact that the vast majority of contemporary art movements were born in Europe or the US does not implicate that contemporary art should be defined as a cultural product of the “West”. But, one might ask: what about Arabic art or African art – why don’t “we” (“Westerners”) see the works of Arabic or African artists on auction sales, in exhibitions, art fairs? To be honest, we do see them, and those who regularly follow the developments in the world of contemporary art know that there is a big number of Arabic, African, Latin American artists who are among the most popular artists in the world. In this article, we will focus on Arabic art and its artists, and we can pose a question: Where are these artists on contemporary art scene?
As we already mentioned, there is a perception that Arabic art is marginalized on contemporary art scene, together with the one from Africa, and some others non-Western art scenes. And, yes, that’s true – there are many Arabic artists who are well-known to a wider audience, it is true that there is a certain level of misrepresentation of artists coming from Arabic countries. There are several reasons for that: first, the majority of Arabic countries were colonized by the European colonial powers – after the decolonization processes, many of these counties maintained close ties with their former colonizers, while wealthy intellectuals and artists emigrated to the “West”. As a consequence, production resources moved to the “West”, while it’d become quite difficult for emerging artists (especially if they aren’t from wealthy families) to make a breakthrough on international stage. Secondly, we cannot ignore political and social context – we all know that the Arab spring, unfortunately, led to a number of deadly conflicts. This certainly affected the contemporary Arabic art. On the other hand, there are examples, such as United Arab Emirates, Morocco, or even Saudi Arabia (we recently wrote an article about Saudi Arabia contemporary art scene) who managed to maintain a high level of stability of their local art markets.
Finally, all art lovers know about famous Arabic calligraphy and other characteristic of Arab art. Of course, this does not mean that all representatives of Arabic art use exclusively Islamic motifs or Arabic traditional art or motifs from Quran and Islam religion; but, it certainly influences the practice of many of the famous Arabic artists. It is also important to mention that it wouldn’t be fair to make direct parallel between Arabic art and Islamic art. Iranian art is not Arabic, but it is Islamic, just like many Lebanese artists are Arabic, but they are not Islamic. In this article, we want to present ten Arabic artist whose practice you should follow. It’s always difficult to make lists like this, but this is only the beginning – this list presents only some of the artists whose work should be followed, as it’s impossible to present all remarkable Arabic artists in one short article.