Ahmed Mater's Desert of Pharan at the #cometogether exhibition.
LONDON - The title says it all: #come together. Edge of Arabia has again succeeded in impressively showcasing important art by 32 established and emerging artists from the Islamic world – this time in a stunning 2000-metre warehouse in the middle of pulsating Brick Lane. Not curated, yet thoughtfully marshaled, these boldly emblematic and sometimes challenging works define the edge of what is fast becoming a vibrant art scene.
In its 5th year, EoA has come full-circle and is about to make Battersea its home. Co-founder Stephen Stapleton and his colleagues should be applauded for their choice of location, the articulate exhibition leaflets and the many elements that made this a dynamic start to the MENA presence at Frieze 2012.
Larissa Sansour's A Space Exodus.
For me, it was undoubtedly the impact of the two dominating works – Artificial Light/Desert of Pharan by Saudi artist Ahmed Mater, and the Capitol Dome by Abdul Nasser Gharem – that caught my eye. The Dome referenced many themes: from the noose around the neck of Crawford’s goddess of Freedom, to the interior ‘mosque’ inscription invoking following the righteous path, to ‘lifting the lid’ on the realities of Western values – it is a work that provokes as well as delights with its perfect architectural execution of the neo-classical style. Mater’s Artificial Light guilelessly imposes yet another symbolism on top of the multitude offered up by Islam itself – that of a Makkah fast resembling its nemesis, Manhattan, in a glittering nightscape. In fact the uneasy relationship with the symbolism of Manhattan skyscrapers/US domination could be seen elsewhere – in the works of Mounir Fatmi and Babak Golkar, leaving little to the imagination.
Abdul Nasser Gharem's The Capitol Dome.
As with any art show, there are lesser works that don’t provoke or inspire in the same way as others, but Tate Modern’s Chris Dercon and Venetia Porter of the British Museum offer valuable insights and commentaries in their catalogue contribution, which highlight the mammoth task EoA has achieved in its short life. With VIP personalities showing up to a full house, we are left in little doubt that art from this region has arrived, and arrived in style.