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In Between Places: Making Contemporary Art in the Middle East

Jananne Al-Ani, Shadow Sites II, 2011. Single-channel HD video projection, color, with sound, 8:38 min. Jointly owned by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (Accessions Committee Fund purchase) and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 2014. © Jananne Al-Ani.


Harvard Art Museums, 32 Quincy Street
Cambridge MA

Annual Henri Zerner Lecture

Contemporary art in the Middle East can be seen as the continuation of a historical tradition of Islamic art or as a radical break with the past; as a market-driven phenomenon fueled by the wealth of a new Persian Gulf–based clientele or as a searing critique of the social and political conditions of the region.

In this lecture, Glenn D. Lowry, director of New York’s Museum of Modern Art, uses the idea of “in between-ness” as a social, political, and geographical metaphor to suggest how many artists from the region, including Bouchra Khalili, Oraib Toukan, Wael Shawky, Walid Raad, and Rania Stephan, among others, have developed strategies to make art that is at once rooted in local concerns and engaged with universal issues. Lowry argues that the Middle East is not an isolated and foreign place but is a case study for how we locate ourselves in time and space in a rapidly changing world, one where social and cultural mores are in flux.

Lowry became the director of the Museum of Modern Art in 1995. Leading more than 750 staff, he continues the museum’s legacy of enriching public life through exhibitions, educational programs, publications, and digital tools that challenge conventional ideas about modern and contemporary art and design. He also launches initiatives that bring MoMA’s renowned collection and research to audiences worldwide.

Lowry has significantly developed the museum’s holdings in all mediums, adding entire collections of contemporary drawings, Fluxus, and conceptual art, along with the archives of Frank Lloyd Wright. A strong advocate of contemporary art and artists who are shaping current art practice, he has overseen recent acquisitions of works by Matthew Barney, Louise Bourgeois, Marcel Broodthaers, Paul Chan, Lygia Clark, David Hammons, Rachel Harrison, Zoe Leonard, Steve McQueen, Bruce Nauman, Robert Rauschenberg, Gerhard Richter, Mira Schendel, Richard Serra, Sophie Taeuber-Arp, and Cy Twombly, among others. His major initiatives include the creation of a new curatorial department, Media and Performance Art, in 2009; the establishment of the Contemporary and Modern Art Perspectives in a Global Age Initiative (C-MAP), a research program for the exchange of knowledge and ideas between arts experts around the world, in 2009; and the successful merger of the Museum of Modern Art and P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center (now MoMA PS1), in 1999, all of which support the contemporary, global work that Lowry and the museum have long championed.

The lecture will take place in Menschel Hall, Lower Level. Please enter the museums via the entrance on Broadway.

Doors open at 5pm. Guests are welcome to visit the galleries until the lecture begins at 5:30pm.

Free admission, but limited seating is available. Tickets will be distributed beginning at 5pm at the Broadway entrance. One ticket per person.

Complimentary parking available in the Broadway Garage, 7 Felton Street, Cambridge.

This program is sponsored by Harvard’s Department of History of Art and Architecture and the Harvard Art Museums and through the generosity of alumni and friends in establishing the Henri Zerner Lecture Fund.

Modern and contemporary art programs at the Harvard Art Museums are made possible in part by generous support from the Emily Rauh Pulitzer and Joseph Pulitzer, Jr., Fund for Modern and Contemporary Art.