« But a Storm Is Blowing from Paradise (Una Tempesta Dal Paradiso) » – Galleria d’Arte Moderna, Milan (Exhibition of the Guggenheim UBS MAP Global Art Initiative) – April 11—June 17, 2018 – Opening April 11.

From April 11 through June 17, 2018, Galleria d’Arte Moderna (GAM), Milan; the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; and UBS present But a Storm Is Blowing from Paradise: Contemporary Art of the Middle East and North Africa (Una Tempesta dal Paradiso: Arte Contemporanea del Medio Oriente e Nord Africa) in Milan. The exhibition marks the final presentation of the Guggenheim UBS MAP Global Art Initiative, a historic collaboration between the Guggenheim and UBS representing the largest international research, collection-building, and presentation initiative the museum has undertaken to date. MAP’s distinctive, artist-driven program, which began in 2012, underscores a mutual commitment by the Guggenheim and UBS to support contemporary art and education through a total of eight international exhibitions, more than 125 acquisitions, curatorial scholarship from three global regions, and extensive public programming.

Organized by Sara Raza, Guggenheim UBS MAP Curator, Middle East and North Africa, in collaboration with Paola Zatti, Chief Curator, Galleria d’Arte Moderna, and Omar Cucciniello, Curator, Galleria d’Arte Moderna, the exhibition features a range of artistic voices and critical concerns from a rapidly evolving region and its international diaspora. Works by thirteen artists explore the intersecting themes of migration, displacement, architecture, geometry, and history through a range of mediums, including works on paper, installation, photography, sculpture, and video. But a Storm Is Blowing from Paradise was first shown at the Guggenheim Museum in April 2016.

“This exhibition presents challenging ideas and uncompromising artistic strategies, all of which help us to reflect upon a vital region of today’s world,” said Richard Armstrong, Director, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and Foundation. “The culminating Milan presentation celebrates the extraordinary influence of a group of artists whose works and ideas have helped shape contemporary art. It is our hope that the impact of the works themselves, the relationships fostered through the MAP project, and the ideas articulated in its multiple presentations continue to resonate thanks to MAP’s unprecedented reach. We are grateful to our visionary collaborator UBS and to our colleagues at partner institutions around the globe, including our friends at GAM. By working on the ground with artists, arts professionals, and audiences, we can tell a richer, more expansive history of modern art and more faithfully represent the art of our time.”

“The Middle East and North Africa are at the center of sweeping global change,” said Fabio Innocenzi, UBS Italy Country Head. “We are proud to be able to help bring this exhibition to the Galleria d’Arte Moderna so that our clients, employees, and the public can participate in intercultural conversations through contemporary art on society and global issues. We have a long history of supporting cultural endeavors around the world, and for many years in Italy, and continue to use contemporary art to bring together ideas, inspiration, and opinion to shape richer lives.”

But a Storm Is Blowing from Paradise, which features sixteen works by thirteen artists, is installed in the ground-floor gallery of GAM. The title of the exhibition comes from an artwork by Rokni Haerizadeh, which references a passage from an essay by German philosopher Walter Benjamin. Haerizadeh’s But a Storm Is Blowing from Paradise (2010) is a suite of works on paper based on images appropriated from mainstream news sources. By overlaying photographs of collective gatherings with gesso, ink, and watercolor, the artist transforms individuals into animal-human hybrids, and renders a grotesque view of downward descending contemporary events promulgated by the mass media.

Other works that implicitly challenge existing representations of the Middle East and North Africa include Latent Images, Diary of a Photographer, 177 Days of Performances (2015) by Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige, an installation of 354 books displayed on 177 metal shelves that purport to contain written descriptions of pictures taken by a fictional photographer, Abdallah Farah, during the Lebanese Civil War, to illustrate the fine line between mythmaking and reality.

Among the works that address the urgent subject of the migration of people and ideas is Gülsün Karamustafa’s Create Your Own Story with the Given Material (1997), which features an arrangement of thirty child-size white cotton shirts the artist has sewn shut with black thread. The work is a meditation on the plight of immigrant children in Turkey, for whom safe passage into the country and subsequent freedom of movement remain open to question.

Fictional narratives and history intersect in a video by Lida Abdul titled In Transit (2008). In this work, a group of boys near Kabul play in the shell of a bombed-out Soviet warplane, engaged in the futile but boundlessly optimistic act of attempting to repair it with cotton and rope. Together, the children become an allegory for the perceived impossibility of rebuilding Afghanistan, but also for Abdul’s idea that “anything is possible when everything is lost.”

A hybridized view of past and present is shown in Ahmed Mater’s Disarm 1–10 (2013), ten light boxes with photographs taken by the artist from the cockpit of a Saudi military helicopter scouting for unauthorized pilgrims approaching Mecca, highlighting an urban landscape undergoing rapid structural and social change. In Iman Issa’s Heritage Studies #10 (2015), a copper model of a column and accompanying caption that reads “Column from the Great Colonnade of the Newly Founded Capital Samarra” reinterpret the historical object on an intimate scale.

Architecture appears as a key element in the formation of modernism in the region and is prevalent in several works, including Untitled (Ghardaïa) (2009) by Kader Attia, a scale model in cous cous of the

World Heritage Site of Ghardaïa, Algeria, whose traditional buildings influenced modernist Le Corbusier; Building (2009) by Susan Hefuna, nine drawings that suggest both cartographic diagrams and sketches of architectural elements such as the mashrabiya, a traditional latticed window; and Bank Bannister (Banque Bannister, 2010) by Hassan Khan, a sculptural reproduction of the handrail outside the Banque Misr, the first Egyptian-owned bank in Egypt. Abbas Akhavan’s Study for a Monument (2013–16), a series of bronze casts of plants native to the Tigris and Euphrates river system arranged on the floor atop white sheets, proposes alternative ideas around the culture and dissemination of public monuments. In his series Trembling Landscapes (Paysages Tremblants, 2014–16), Ali Cherri presents ink-stamped aerial maps of Algiers, Damascus, Erbil, Makkah, and Tehran, highlighting fault lines that have resulted in catastrophic earthquakes, and juxtaposing them with instances of political unrest and architectural development. Ergin Çavuşoğlu invites visitors to walk across an anamorphic floor drawing in his site-specific installation Dust Breeding (2011). The artwork is based on a model of a cement factory in Turkey; visitors’ movements are captured on a nearby monitor, in which they appear to be standing inside a three-dimensional sculpture.

Artists Represented in the Exhibition
Lida Abdul (b. 1973, Kabul; lives and works in Los Angeles and Kabul)
Abbas Akhavan (b. 1977, Tehran; lives and works in Toronto)
Kader Attia (b. 1970, Dugny, France; lives and works in Berlin)
Ergin Çavuşoğlu (b. 1968, Targovishte, Bulgaria; lives and works in London)
Ali Cherri (b. 1976, Beirut; lives and works in Beirut and Paris)
Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige (both b. 1969, Beirut; live and work in Beirut and Paris)
Rokni Haerizadeh (b. 1978, Tehran; lives and works in Dubai)
Susan Hefuna (b. 1962, Berlin; lives and works in Düsseldorf)
Iman Issa (b. 1979, Cairo; lives and works in New York)
Gülsün Karamustafa (b. 1946, Ankara; lives and works in Istanbul)
Hassan Khan (b. 1975, London; lives and works in Cairo)
Ahmed Mater (b. 1979, Tabuk, Saudi Arabia; lives and works in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia)

image: Art map, Joana Khalil, exhibition at Milan – copyright the artist / Guggenheim

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