LONDON – For those of us who have the privilege of knowing Sultan Sooud Al Qassemi, it is evident that the mission of the Barjeel Art Foundation is synonymous with his own forward-looking, inclusive vision of the role of art. It is, therefore, always with interest and eager anticipation that I look forward to Barjeel Art projects – and the upcoming Whitechapel exhibition is no exception. Curated by the articulate and intellectual Omar Kholeif the project, aptly called Imperfect Chronology promises to be – in the words of Sultan himself – “a ground breaking series of four shows that present a selection of some ofthe best artworks produced in the Arab world over the past century.” 

 

Kadhim Hayder, Fatigued Ten Horses Converse with Nothing (The Martyrs Epic), 1965.
Acquired by Barjeel Art Foundation from Sotheby's, via Meem Gallery in 2011.

Situated in the Maraya Art Centre in Al-Qasba Sharjah, the 475-square-meters space that is Barjeel features a selection of more than 500 pieces of Sultan’s personal collection. Through rotating exhibitions each show is able to represent different political, social and cultural themes that have transformed the Arab world.

 

Shakir Hassan Al Said, Untitled, 1963.
Acquired by Barjeel Art Foundation from Sotheby's London, via Meem Gallery.

At Whitechapel, for the first time a Western audience will be able to view Arab art in a rich, comprehensive context. As Sultan explains, “it will be a crowning achievement that coincides with the Foundation’s fifth anniversary. Our mission is to make available works by artists whose country of origin is one of the 22 Arab states, and to make this a launch pad for the Foundation to expand its network with other museums and institutions across the world.” As a poet, writer, thinker and cultural figure, Sultan is uniquely placed to do this. A major, 270-page publication will accompany the exhibition, with essays by leading scholars of Arab art.

 

Abdul Hadi El-Gazzar, The Light from Within the Green, 1958.
Acquired by Barjeel Art Foundation from Sotheby's London, via Meem Gallery, 2014.

With the explosive growth of art in the Arab world, it goes without saying that Whitechapel Gallery will be hosting a landmark initiative to which Londoners will no doubt give a warm welcome.

 

Inji Efflatoun, Prisoners, 1957. Acquired by Barjeel Art Foundation from Meem Gallery, 2012.