[P4900] The Islamic and the Modern in the Twentieth Century Visual Middle East

Created by Nada M. Shabout
Sunday, 11/19/17 10:30am


The intellectual and artistic life of the Middle East during the twentieth-century has been characterized by two currents: on the one hand, a rediscovery or renewal of the Islamic tradition, and on the other, the introduction of new means of expression in the field of the visual arts, architecture, design and cinema. Rarely, however, are these two currents thought together outside of the frame of a conflict.

The prevailing understanding had been that to be a modern artist, one had to look for resources outside of tradition. Thus, modern artists mostly shied away from the artistic traditions of Islam. The debate that ensued about tradition and modernity in much of the Middle East during the mid of the twentieth-century was centered around a call for authenticity. At stake in authenticity was not only a need for self-assertion in in a postcolonial context, but equally a search to establish art historical continuity. The debate was at best apologetic and at worse deprived artists of creative possibilities.

The relationship between the aesthetics of Islamic art and modernism in the Middle East, however, has been negotiated by artists and architects in more complex and nuanced ways. This panel explores the interaction between elements of the Islamic tradition and the development of new forms of art practice in the visual arts and architecture. Papers presented aim to understand the ways in which the Islamic tradition has offered formal and conceptual resources to modern artists and architects confronted with a crisis of representation provoked by the region's political history.


Association for Modern and Contemporary Art of the Arab World, Iran, and Turkey (AMCA)


Art/Art Hist




Nasser O. Rabbat

Nasser Rabbat is the Aga Khan Professor and the Director of the Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture at MIT. An architect and a historian, his scholarly interests include the history and historiography of Islamic architecture and cultures, urban...
Panel Participating Role(s): Discussant;

Nada M. Shabout

(University of North Texas)
Nada Shabout University of North Texas, Department of Art Education and Art History, College of Visual Arts and Design: Professor of Art History (2014-Present); Associate Professor of Art History (2008-2014); Director of the Contemporary Arab and Muslim...
Panel Participating Role(s): Organizer; Presenter;

Elizabeth Rauh

(University of Michigan)
Panel Participating Role(s): Discussant;

Sarah-Neel Smith

(Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA))
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;

Saleem Al-Bahloly

(Johns Hopkins University)
Panel Participating Role(s): Organizer; Presenter;