Ahmed Albahrani, Iraqi Army, 2017, Bronze, D 75 cm, Edition 1/5

Iraqi artist Ahmed Albahrani explores the violence that has torn the Arab world apart through a series of exhibitions based on historic coins.

Iraqi artist Ahmed Albahrani has lived in exile for many years, a victim of the recurrent cycles of conflict and destruction that have devastated vast swatches of the Arab world for decades. In his latest solo show at Anima Gallery in Qatar, Flip a Coin, he explores the violence that has blighted the Middle East through a symbolic series of coins, each based on historic currency from the Arab world. Drawn to the motifs used to adorn coins, which he sees as proud representations of the all-powerful state, he subverts their nationalist messages by deforming them. By melting, scarring or piercing his coins with bullet holes, he undermines their idyllic vision, replacing it with forgotten narratives of violence.

Ahmed Albahrani portrait
Ahmed Albahrani portrait

The symbolism of the coin simultaneously encourages reflection on the economy of war, the profit-driven heartlessness of the weapons industry and the hypocrisy of foreign invaders who mask financial motives behind metaphors of selflessness.

Ahmed Albahrani, His Highness Sheikh Tamim Emir of Qatar, His Highness The Father Emir, 2017, Bronze, D 110 cm Edition 1/5
Ahmed Albahrani, His Highness Sheikh Tamim Emir of Qatar, His Highness The Father Emir, 2017, Bronze, D 110 cm Edition 1/5

Q: The concept of flipping a coin suggests two possible outcomes. Is it intended to evoke a sense that whatever the future holds, it is bound to be divisive?

AA: The title Flip a Coin is connected to my childhood memories when we played with coins in a game of chance. The probability of the coin is determined in the air. Today’s Arab world is based on the equivalent probability of the coin flipping game, frightened by the fate of a new day. These vast, unpredictable adjustments in our life that came to us by surprise have left me at a stage of instability. The disruptive future made me stateless. I no longer feel I have a country.

Ahmed Albahrani, Iraqi Army, 2017, Bronze, D 75 cm, Edition 1/5
Ahmed Albahrani, Iraqi Army, 2017, Bronze, D 75 cm, Edition 1/5

Q: How did you approach the design of each coin? Are they based on real historic coins?

AA: Behind the coinage lays an artist’s skills and idea of portraiture, and I respect it, therefore I decided to keep every detail as it is. These coins are symbolic representations of our history, which should not be neglected but reinterpreted to portray the collapse of Arab history… Change is what we wanted, a new clean slate to reassure us, but due to the irrational consequences we are once again put in the same position of despair. The outcome of the coin is the product of war and what the Arab region is left with today.

Ahmed Albahrani, Iraqi Army, 2017, Bronze, D 75 cm, Edition 1/5
Ahmed Albahrani, Iraqi Army, 2017, Bronze, D 75 cm, Edition 1/5

Q: Can you share with us one or two examples of figures or motifs you have chosen and their significance?

AA: I would begin with King Faisal, who for me is an important figure in Iraq’s history. He was the last king before the country became a republic. It was the beginning of hope for the country, a new young leader with an intuition to guide the country. But once the king was killed in his youth, Iraq slowly moved towards a problematic and unsettled path. I used the melting process on this coin to portray the beginning of a decaying state.

Ahmed Albahrani, King Faisal II of Iraq, 2017, Bronze, D 75 cm, Edition 1/5
Ahmed Albahrani, King Faisal II of Iraq, 2017, Bronze, D 75 cm, Edition 1/5

The Palestine coin is likewise a necessary coin to have in this collection. This coin from 1948 united the Arabic, English and Hebrew languages on the coin. Palestine was a country with three Abrahamic religions, cultures and history that once united them all together. After the 1948 invasion, the Israeli government began the war of annihilation. They denounced the existence of Palestinians by obliterating their identity in order to create their own. In the Palestine coin I have similarly used the melting effect, making the word
Palestine and the olive leaf the only visible elements. I removed their identity in order to regain Palestine’s, as Palestine remains the land of all religions and can never be monopolised by one.

Ahmed Albahrani, Palestine 2017, Bronze, D 75 cm, Edition 1/5
Ahmed Albahrani, Palestine 2017, Bronze, D 75 cm, Edition 1/5

Ahmed Albahrani’s Flip a Coin continues at Anima Gallery until March 31

By India Stoughton 

SUBSCRIBE TO OUR NEWSLETTER

selections-arts-logo

SELECTIONS is a platform for the arts, focusing on the Arab World.

Selections editorial presents a quarterly print magazine and weekly online publication with high quality content on all subjects related to Art and Culture. Full of world-leading artworks, exquisite brand imagery, original creative illustrations and insightful written articles.
Selections Viewing Rooms presents carefully curated online art shows aiming not only to shed light on contemporary art executed by living artists, but also for viewers to buy contemporary fine art, prints & multiples, photography, street art and collectibles.
Discover the previous and current shows here.
Cultural Narratives foundation is an extensive collection that is travelling the world by leading established and emerging talents aiming to reflect the culture of the region in their works.

RANDOM READS

WHAT TO EXPECT AT CONTEMPORARY ISTANBUL 2022

Contemporary Istanbul in its 17th edition, in partnership with Akbank,…

Paul Guiragossian in preparation for the Corcoran Gallery exhibition, Washington D.C. in 1970. P.G. Foundation Archives.

ARTIST ESTATES: PAUL GUIRAGOSSIAN

PAUL GUIRAGOSSIAN B.DECEMBER 25, 1926, JERUSALEM, D.NOVEMBER 20, 1993, BEIRUT,…

Beirut and Lebanon. 19th century photographs century, presented by the Semitic Museum of Harvard University House of the Future, Naccache and Archaeological Museum of AUB – American University of Beirut, May 15 – 30, 1983

CATALOGUE D’AFFICHES D’EXPOSITIONS 1975-1990

Expo d’expos 1975-1990, curated by Gregory Buchakjian showed a collection…

AS_terraform_2022_exhibition views_green room

WALKTHROUGH TERRAFORM WITH ANIA SOLIMAN

“The drawings of Ania Soliman constitute a complex body of…

Marwan Kassab-Bachi, Extract from Correspondence with Abdel Rahman Munif, 1990 - 2004. Watercolour on Paper. Courtesy of the artist.

MAJOR MODERN ARAB EXHIBITIONS 2012 – 2022 | CORRESPONDENCES, ABDEL RAHMAN MUNIF, MARWAN KASSAB-BACHI

Correspondences Abdel Rahman Munif, Marwan Kassab-Bachi Location: At BIEL, Beirut,…

INTERVIEW WITH DR PIERRE EL KHOURY, ATTORNEY AT LAW, LEGAL CONSULTANT AND IP SPECIALIST LAWYER

There is no definition of an artist estate in Lebanese…

september 2022

05marAll Day09octFAHD BURKI | DAYDREAMS

14aprAll Day04sepDominique Gonzalez-Foerster | Alienarium 5

18mayAll Day05sepIN THE FOOTSTEPS OF CAI LUN II | SELECTED WORKS ON PAPER