MUSEUM ACQUISITIONS | THE HERBERT F. JOHNSON MUSEUM OF ART, NEW YORK

Sama Alshaibi, Wasl, 2017. Video, Edition 1/3. Courtesy of Ayyam Gallery. Collection of the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University

SELECTIONS delves into the world of acquisitions, exploring what museums and galleries have been adding to their collections in the past five years as well as featuring images and summaries of works and artists.

SAMA ALSHAIBI
Bio: Iraqi, b. 1973
Title: Ma Ijtama’t Aydina ala Qabdih illa wa-Kanat
Mu-attalah (What Our Hands Joined Was Broken), 2014
Medium: Chromogenic print mounted on Diasec
Size: 120 cm in diameter
Edition 1/3
Acquired by: The Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, New
York
Artist represented by: Ayyam Gallery, Dubai
Acquisition date: 2017
Acquired through the Jarett F. Wait, Class of 1980, and
Younghee Kim-Wait Endowment for Contemporary Islamic
and Middle Eastern Arts; 2017.058

Title: Wasl, 2017
Medium: Video
Edition 1/3
Acquired by: The Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, New
York
Artist represented by: Ayyam Gallery, Dubai
Acquisition date: 2018
Acquired through the Jarett F. Wait, Class of 1980, and
Younghee Kim-Wait Endowment for Contemporary Islamic
and Middle Eastern Arts; 2018.053

“Inspired by the nomadic traditions of Bedouins and the writings of 14th-century Moroccan explorer Ibn Battuta, Silsila (Arabic for ‘chain’ or ‘link’) depicts the artist’s journey through the significant desert areas and bodies of water that connect North Africa and West Asia to the Maldives, an island nation located in the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean. Performing at various sites in North Africa and West Asia, Alshaibi has composed a body of work that describes the desert as a place of enduring paradox. As Alshaibi demonstrates with visual poetics and laden imagery, the desert can serve as the starting point for a broader cultural reading, revealing the mystical and historical importance of such environments, through which the region, even more broadly, the world, can re-imagine an uncertain ecological future.

With a series of photographs and video works in which diverse settings are the backdrops for symbolic performances representing purification, transcendence,and renewal, Alshaibi connects North Africa and West Asia—where water sources are threatened and Bedouin life is disrupted by encroaching environmental and political crises—with the Maldives—where rising waters stand to swallow its coral atolls. In doing so, the artist considers Ibn Battuta’s exploration of culturally linked lands as a means to acquiring knowledge. The evident search for continuity amidst diverse environments that characterised his life’s work can also be identified as the underlying theme of Alshaibi’s own contemplative journey. The artist is shown in sweeping, uninhabited landscapes where her gesturing body becomes a visually anchoring force that seems to move in unison with the shifting surfaces of her surroundings. At certain intervals of the videos, Alshaibi’s spiritually minded gestures are amplified with references to the mystical symbolism of Islamic aesthetics, which is based on growing geometric patterns and continuous symmetry alluding to infinite, divine creation that surpasses the actions of humankind.”

Courtesy of Ayyam Gallery
Credit line: Collection of the Herbert F. Johnson
Museum of Art, Cornell University

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