New York University Abu Dhabi has opened its Arab Center for the Study of Art, which is dedicated to research on the visual art and photography of Western Asia and North Africa. Headed by NYUAD art history professor Salwa Mikdadi, social research and public policy professor May Al-Dabbagh, and literature and visual studies professor Shamoon Zamir, and located on the university’s Saadiyat campus, the center will support the development of publications and post-doctorate fellowships and symposia, according to a report by the National. It will also house and digitize archival materials related to the art histories of the Middle East and North Africa.
The Arab Center for the Study of Art intends to play an active role in the local art scene. It will produce audio and video interviews with artists and arts professionals, and it will support artists’ residencies, conferences, workshops, and other programs. According to a description of its purposes on NYU’s website, the center aims to be “a nexus for conversations and partnerships open to scholars and to art practitioners from across the region and from around the world.”
“We need to set our own standards, our own historical narrative about this region from this region,” Mikdadi told the National. “We’re looking at revising the canon of art history for this region.”
The center is organized into three focused segments: Mawrid, which is directed by Mikdadi and devoted to the development of new frameworks for studying visual arts in Western Asia and North Africa; Haraka: Experimental Lab for Arab Art and Social Thought, which is led by Al-Dabbagh and which will use social scientific methodologies to explore the production and movements of culture and knowledge in the region; and Akkasah, an archive of some 33,000 images through which Zamir will lead research on the history of photography in the region and contemporary practices in the field.