With a population of just eight million, the kingdom of Jordan has more than 2.7 million refugees, including 655,000 Syrians. In 2016, worsening conditions at the crowded camps and a suicide bombing by ISIS in June led Jordanian officials to seal the border with Syria, creating a large settlement on the Syrian side.
The Jordan National Gallery of Fine Arts in Amman is known for its exhibitions of established figures in Arab art. The year’s highlight was a show of Fouad F. Hattar’s picturesque paintings of the ancient desert city, “Petra: Color Symphony” (9/19–10/15).
The center of the contemporary art community in Amman is the nonprofit Darat al-Funun – The Khalid Shoman Foundation, which runs an active program of musical performances, artist residencies and conversations, as well as exhibitions in its hilltop campus. For the third Qalandiya International (10/5–31), Darat al-Funun commissioned seven Palestinian artists residing in Amman to make new artwork based on the theme of “This Sea Is Mine.” Darat al-Funun hosted the Sharjah Art Foundation-organized Arabic-language version of Hans-Ulrich Obrist’s “Do It” exhibition, comprising instructional artworks by more than 60 regional artists, and marked the death of Syrian painter Marwan Kassab-Bachi, who taught at Darat al-Funun’s summer academy from 1999 to 2003, with an exhibition of works by Marwan and several students (11/8–12/30).
Neighboring Makan Art Space closed its doors on January 1 after 13 years of operation. In downtown Amman, curators Toleen Touq and Noura al-Khasawneh moved the third edition of their nomadic arts residency program, Spring Sessions, to a new permanent location.
Artists Ala Younis and Raed Ibrahim teamed up, in partnership with the Jordanian Ministry of Culture and NGOs, to organize “About Culture in Jordan” (4/10–12), a display presenting the diverse output of cultural initiatives, held at Ras al-Ain Gallery & Hangar.
Amman has several commercial galleries. With the backing of Jordanian princess Wijdan al-Hashemi, Nabad Art Gallery featured mixed-media artworks by US-born, Amman-based Iraqi artist Sina Ata (11/1–30). Hayan Maani exhibited calligraphic sculptures in “In Arabic” (9/3–9) at Dar al-Anda Art Gallery. Orient Gallery displayed Syrian-born Jazla Husseini’s bronze, clay and mixed-media artwork (3/8–31).
Abroad, Palestinian-Jordanian Saba Innab’s plaster interpretation of Gibraltar’s geography was shown at the 6th Marrakech Biennale (2/24–5/8); she then tapped into memories of Kuwait, her birthplace, for “Al Rahhalah (The Traveler)” (9/13–12/30) at Marfa’ Projects in Beirut. Anees Maani was a participant in Malaysia’s Shah Alam Biennale (9/24–10/1), where he showed one of his wood sculptures. Ala Younis’s project about a Le Corbusier-designed gymnasium, Plan for Greater Baghdad (2015), was featured in the Guggenheim Museum’s UBS MAP exhibition, “But a Storm Is Blowing from Paradise” (4/29–10/5), in New York.
In June 2017, the Tate Modern will exhibit the syncretic artwork of midcentury Turkish modernist Fahrelnissa Zeid, who is also a beloved figure in Jordan after she married into the royal family.
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