Contemporary Art in the Middle East | Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design, Jerusalem

Contemporary Art in the Middle East

Total Hours
Semester A
Course Day
Time 14:00 - 15:30

This course explores the history, aesthetics and discourse framing the art of the Arab world, Iran and Turkey from the late twentieth century to the present. With a focus on building the skills of visual analysis, lectures and discussions will explore the intersection of material media, technique, subject matter, artistic discourse and political and social conditions as codetermining factors in art objects. To this end, lectures and discussions are built around close (albeit virtual) looking at individual art objects and installation views while readings will center voices of artists in developing interpretive models for the work.


Representing many nations spread across the Caucuses, western Asia, and northern Africa, each with a distinct political and cultural history, the Middle East is multiethnic, multireligious, and complexly interconnected place, one whose influence in the art world has steadily grown throughout the last thirty years. Reflecting the region’s international reach, collectors from the Middle East’s artistic centers rank among the art scene’s power players and there is a steady and rising stream of exhibitions dedicated to artists from the region in European and American museums and galleries. Meanwhile, biennials, art fairs, new exhibition spaces and major museums are opening throughout the countries of the Arab world, Iran and Turkey to support established and emerging talent locally and invest in the culture economy as a part of developing national infrastructures. Rather than focus on themes that treat the region as a cohesive unit, this course will dedicate each meeting to a specific subject—geographic locale, historical event, or art world development—within the greater Middle East. This multifaceted focus foregrounds the distinctive histories, contemporary conditions, and artistic discourses and practices that make up this region and its diasporas. Each class will combine a lecture and a discussion of selected art and readings. Special emphasis will be placed on developing critical thinking skills via visual, oral, and written analysis.