Sheikha Hoor being briefed during her visit to the exhibition in Sharjah. WAM
Sheikha Hoor Al Qasimi, President and Director of Sharjah Art Foundation, and Manal Ataya, Director of Sharjah Museums Authority, inaugurated the region’s first retrospective exhibition showcasing the works of the late artist Aref El Rayess (1928-2005).
Running from Feb.26 to Aug.7, 2022 at Sharjah Art Museum, the exhibition is organised by Sharjah Museums Authority (SMA) and Sharjah Art Foundation (SAF).
Present during the opening was Sheikha Hind Bint Majid Al Qasimi, Chairperson of the Sharjah Business Women's Council (SBWC), and Sheikha Nawar Bint Ahmed Al Qasimi, Vice President of Sharjah Art Foundation, and the late artist’s daughter, Hala El Rayess.
Sheikha Hoor said, "It is with great pleasure that Sharjah Art Foundation and Sharjah Museums Authority are partnering on the first major institutional exhibition of this important Arab Modernist."
"We are also grateful to the Aref El Rayess Foundation for their support in this presentation that will offer local, regional and international audiences an opportunity to appreciate and reassess his practice. We hope this exhibition will encourage much needed new research into El Rayess’ remarkable career," she added.
The exhibition presents an extensive selection of paintings, drawings, sculptures and collages that together reveal the rich and complex artistic practice of this important Arab modernist.
"We are pleased to once again partner with Sharjah Art Foundation to bring the works of one of the most influential Arab artists to public attention. The exhibition is part of our continuous joint efforts to celebrate the contribution of prolific Arab artists to the development of the art scene in the Arab world and to offer a platform for established and emerging artists to share their unique artistic experiences and gain the exposure they deserve," said Manal Ataya, Director General of Sharjah Museums Authority.
Numerous portraits included in this exhibition reflect how El Rayess’ travels in West Africa, and specifically Senegal in the late 1940s through the 1950s, were key influences on his early work.
A series of works that are also showcased in this institutional retrospective illustrate the modes of abstraction the artist explored after his move to the United States then again to Mexico.
The exhibition exemplifies El Rayess’ eclectic work in different mediums throughout his 57-year long career and how his travels across Africa, France, Italy, the USA and Saudi Arabia influenced his artworks.
A deeply political artist, the strength of his conviction is seen in the 1960s paintings from his time in Italy that decry the brutality of the Algerian War of Independence. Perhaps nowhere is this more evident than in his ‘Blood and Freedom’ series painted shortly after the Arab defeat in the Arab-Israeli Six-Day War of June 1967.
A selection of works from this series is included in the exhibition along with later work from the 1970s and large-scale collages from the 1990s that demonstrate the artist’s ongoing concern with the political, social and cultural conditions of the Arab world.
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