DANCE OF THE SEVEN VEILS : Contemporary works from the Middle East




Chromogenic print on 3 mm D-bond, Face-in 3 mm plexiglass

Floating in custom artist's frame, Image size: 180 x 120 cm

Courtesy of the artist and Side by Side Gallery Akim Monet GmbH

Halim Al Karim / Dhafer Al Shehri / Amira Behbehani / Shadi Ghadirian / Abdulnasser Gharem / Majida Khattari / Tahmineh Monzavi / Shirin Neshat


September 20 to December 14, 2013 / Side by Side Gallery Akim Monet GmbH / Berlin

Dance of the Seven Veils refers to the beheading of St. John the Baptist demanded by Salome. Interestingly, this tale has antecedents both in the Old Testament and in Assyrian and Babylonian religions, thus revealing a connection between the West and the Middle East, an undercurrent of the exhibition itself.

As the title suggests, it's all about the veil – a controversial topic not just in the Middle East, but also in the West. One need only think of the recent clash between Muslim protesters and riot police in a Paris suburb after attempts were made to fine a woman for wearing a full Islamic veil. Or one need only recall any number of incidents in the Middle East where so-called religious police beat women for not wearing the veil.

But the veil is just the tip of the iceberg. This article of clothing has become a symbol of women's rights – the right to drive, to education, to appear without a male relative in public, to work, to vote…. Paradoxically, the question of the veil reveals gender issues even as it conceals the female form.

"Our mission is to be a catalyst for contemplation and a platform for artists of significant merit. Consistent with our commitment to relevancy and dialogue, we have chosen works for Dance of the Seven Veils which are both contemporary and provocative but which, in the final analysis, transcend their anecdotal and historical content. It is this quality of transcendence that distinguishes, for example, a photograph from a photographic work of art. When form overtakes content, craft becomes art, and timely becomes timeless. Or to put it another way, as a colleague art dealer once said, "Subject matter is only an excuse to make a great work of art."

Dance of the Seven Veils pulls on that thread, first sewn in the previous exhibition, which featured the works of Saudi artist Abdulnasser Gharem and launched his Amen Art Foundation. The Foundation went on to the Venice Biennale this year, where Abdulnasser Gharem brought Dhafer Al Shehri, one of the artists featured here.

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