[P6443] What is 'Islamic' Contemporary Art?

Created by Michelle Al-Ferzly
Friday, 12/03/21 11:30 am


In the late 19th to mid-20th century, art moved increasingly away from the religious towards the secular. While this characterization rested on notions of modernity defined by a canon that reified Euro-American (and Christian) practices, theorizations, and methodologies, the same considerations were instilled within analyses of artworks from other geographies and cultures. As such, Islamic art is frequently thought of as an art of the past, with references to modern and contemporary Islamic art gesturing towards regional rather than religious specificity. Although recent scholars challenge this presumption, there is still a tendency across the arts to consider the contemporary in opposition to the religious and traditional.
Expanding on the question Wendy M. K. Shaw poses in the title to her recent book, “What is ‘Islamic’ Art,” which challenges Islamic art historians to incorporate Islam into their study of Islamic material culture, this panel asks, “What is ‘Islamic’ Contemporary Art?” Following Shaw’s prompt, this panel includes papers that examine elements of Islamic art practices by contemporary artists (late 20th-21st c.). These involve, but are not limited to the incorporation of religious mythological stories, aesthetic practices, or material lineages. How are artists using elements from historic Islamic art in contemporary artistic practices? How do these works, if at all, tie in with ritual and faith for the maker or the viewer? And finally, how does the use of ‘Islamic’ narratives and themes in contemporary works mediate and expand upon the definition of Islamic art?
By focusing on the recent work of artists of Muslim descent or from the Muslim world, the four papers in this panel contextualize contemporary artistic production within thematics of medieval and early modern Islamic texts and art histories, as well as questions of Shari’a law and larger of themes of spirituality, and visuality. In doing so, this panel aims to both broaden previous definitions of an ‘Islamic’ contemporary art by investigating its’ relationship to-- and departure from-- historical modes.


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


Art/Art Hist; Art/Art Hist




Sascha Crasnow

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

Hamed Yousefi Koupai

(Northwestern University)
Hamed Yousefi is a filmmaker and PhD candidate in art history at Northwestern University. He researches interactions between modern art, Islam, and 'erfan (Iranian-Islamic mysticism) in the latter twentieth century. His writings have appeared in numerous...
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;

Michelle Al-Ferzly

(University of Michigan)
Panel Participating Role(s): Chair; Organizer; Presenter;

Kylie Gilchrist

(University of Manchester)
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;

Valerie Behiery

(Al Faisal University)
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;