Sarah Daher—Curator, Writer, Researcher


November - December 2018

The show, Within/Without, is a small jewel of works of contemporary and modern Arab art, focusing in the main on portraits. There are, as one might expect, works by Marwan, the great Syrian scholar of the face, in whose hands the visage assumes landscape-like properties — ravines and peaks and troughs.

Melissa Gronlund, The National

Exhibition Publication

The National
NYU Abu Dhabi
The Eye of Arabia

The face in art is typically seen as a sign of the self, and the faithful representation of physical appearance has been understood as synonymous with the truth of individuality. But what happens when portraiture’s commitment to verisimilitude is stripped away and personhood is detached from physical appearance?

Within/Without presents the work of artists, predominantly Arab, who have explored the connections and disconnections between the interior and exterior selves over the last five decades. From Bashar Alhroub’s ‘Here and Now’ photographs to Marwan Sahmarani’s painting ‘The Wolf is Crying Like a Child’, the artworks stretch across a wide spectrum of formal innovation, from new forms of figuration to expressionist abstraction.

In an age when people across the globe seem more and more obsessed with appearance, the artworks here remind us that artists from a variety of cultural traditions have for a long time been putting the self into question and challenging us to look at ourselves anew. The exhibition offers a welcome reprieve from the hyper self-focused images we are bombarded with every day.

Within/Without was curated by the Curatorial Practice class at NYUAD, taught by Professor Salwa Mikdadi: Nadia Al Hashmi, Alia Al Jallaf, Valentín Benoit, Niccolò Acram Cappelletto, Sarah Daher, Sakurako Naka, Penelope Peng, Giulia Turchetti, Vuk Vukovic. All the artworks in the exhibition were chosen from the private collection of HE Dr. Zaki Nusseibeh and displayed publicly for the first time.