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26 February 2024

A stroke of history in words

By Staff Writer



Connoisseurs of art have a reason to rejoice – the British Museum and Dubai Holding inaugurated the famous Word into Art exhibition at the Dubai International Financial Centre last week.


The exhibition, which was opened by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, celebrates the creativity of Middle Eastern artists by focusing on the way writing has been utilised in art.


From traditional Arabic scripts to present-day graffiti, artists across the region have found innovative ways of using words in their work. They write verses from the Quran, lines of poetry, use texts to highlight their preoccupation with politics, or simply show their delight in the shape of the Arabic letter. It is this rich diversity of approaches that this exhibition examines.


Mohammad Al Gergawi, Executive Chairman of Dubai Holding, says: “I’m glad that Dubai Holding has taken this opportunity to partner with the British Museum. Dubai Holding is committed to encouraging innovation in all aspects of our society and developing the talents of the artistic community in the region is a very important part of this goal. This exhibition demonstrates just how impressive these talents are”


Following a successful run at the British Museum in May 2006, which was the first time the museum displayed the impressive collection it has built up over a quarter of a century, the exhibition features works acquired from artists from the Middle East and North Africa since the mid 1980s.


Neil MacGregor, Director of the British Museum, says: “This is the first time that the British Museum has sent an exhibition to the Middle East. Dubai is the perfect choice as it is a thriving centre of contemporary art.”


The Word into Art exhibition is divided into four sections – Sacred Script, Literature and Art, Deconstructing the Word and Identity, History and Politics.


Sacred Script provides an insight into the relationship between Arabic script and Islam, showing the enduring vitality of the calligraphic tradition in the modern era.


With Literature and Art, you can experience the appeal of ancient and modern Arabic and Persian poetry.


While Deconstructing the Word examines the use of script in abstract art from mid 20th century to present day, Identity, History and Politics looks at the ways in which the words embedded in these works can provide us with real snapshots of history as well as revealing reactions to the region’s devastating conflicts.


More than 80 artists have contributed to this collection. Those looking to take this experience home can grab a copy of an illustrated book written by Venetia Porter, curator of Word into Art, which is available from Dubai Holding.


-- Word into Art Exhibition runs at the Dubai International Financial Centre until April 30. Admission is free