Bassam Kahwagi, Untitled, acrylic on canvas, 110 x 485 cm, 2021. Courtesy of Saleh Barakat Gallery (Beirut).

ARVIMM Seminar 2021-22 "Histoires de l’art au Maghreb et au Moyen-Orient XIXe-XXe siècle"

Abstraction, the Parisian environment and artists from the MENA region

Groupe de recherche sur les Arts Visuels du Maghreb et du Moyen-Orient 19e-21e siècles


After World War II, Paris continued to  attract artists from the MENA region. The form of abstraction that was developing then in Paris, particularly in the artistic networks gravitating around the Salon des Réalités Nouvelles, created in 1946, could, for certain aspects, echo living traditions that were familiar to them. The general historiography of gestural/lyrical abstraction and Art informel is rather silent about these artists and traditions. When analysing the works of Georges Mathieu, Hans Hartung or Jean Degottex, it rather refers to East Asian arts. The works of these artists from the MENA region — some of whom were trained in calligraphy — are most often studied in terms of the "cultural area" they originated from, be it Hurufiyya ("letterism" in Arabic), the production of the Turkish school in Paris, or the work of the Iranian Charles Hossein Zenderoudi. 

In 2021-2022, the seminar will continue the work initiated in the previous year exploring more deeply an important research field still largely uninvestigated. We will carry on with our study of the artistic context and the Parisian abstract art scene in the post-WWII period, of the sources allowing us to trace the presence of artists from the MENA region, and the rediscovery of these artists who were essential contributors to abstract art.

To access the program, click here