Archive for December, 2014

Van Leo – Master Cairo Portrait Photographer


Van Leo (a.k.a. Leon Boyadjian) was known as the photographer of the stars of the silver screen during Egypt’s golden age of cinema.  He also photographed a significant number of Cairo’s elite society from the 1940s-1990s. From Roushdy Abaza, Faten Hamama, Samia Gamal, Omar Sherif to lesser knowns, Van Leo made unique black and white portraits – many of which requested hand-coloring when there was no Kodachrome or color printing available – from his famed studio on Sharia Fouad (present day 26th July Street).  Van Leo also made passionate and avant garde self-portraits that are widely acclaimed – during the whirl and buzz of WWII Cairo.For this endeavor, he drew the wrath of his father for being a waste of film, time and money.

After 50 years of continuously running a studio photography business during both turbulent and quiet times in Cairo, Van Leo called it quits in 1998.  He bequeathed his entire collection of over 20,000 negatives and prints to the American University in Cairo (AUC) for safekeeping and preservation of his great legacy.

All of the photographs in this exhibition are traditionally made gelatin-silver fiber prints, printed in the darkroom from the original negatives.

Accompanying the photographs will be the forty-minute documentary film “The Many Faces of Van Leo” (2001), written, produced and directed by Fatma Bassiouni. The film examines in detail the intricacies of Van Leo’s life, including interviews with Van Leo in the last years of his life, that further allows one to understand the creative genius of master photographer Van Leo.

This exhibition is curated by Barry Iverson.

Exhibition dates : 20th January – 12th February, 2015



Adel Abidin : Cover – Up!


The exhibition, Adel Abidin’s first in Kuwait, will bring together two video installations Cover Up (2014) and Three Love Songs (2010) with a series of new text‐based sculptures related to Three Love Songs (2014).

Adel Abidin is a visual artist whose projects, whilst focused on global social, political, and cultural issues inspired by his Iraqi heritage, are playful and ironic. His video and sculptural installations often reference pop culture, racial stereotypes and traditional icons, designing tense situations of confrontation and dialogue that truly engage the viewer.

Abidin’s critically acclaimed Three Love Songs was a highlight of the inaugural exhibition at Mathaf Arab Museum of Arab Art, Doha in 2010 and has gone on to be shown in other venues around the globe. The installation is made up of three stylised music videos (lounge, jazz and pop) displayed on neighbouring screens, each featuring an archetypal western chanteuse: young, blond and seductive. Sung in Iraqi dialect Arabic, the singers do not understand the words to the songs they sing; told they are traditional, passionate love songs when in fact they were commissioned by Saddam Hussein to glorify his regime. With lyrics such as ‘By Allah we owe our lives to your mustache…’ ‘Oh father of the two lions, oh father of virility…’ the clash between the beguiling, soft images and the aggrandizing, triumphalist words is powerful and unsettling. This uncomfortable juxtaposition and manipulation is typical of Abidin’s practice. Displayed alongside will be wall‐mounted sculptures, re‐moulded quotations from the lyrics in Arabic script made in copper. Taken out of the context of the video but made into beautiful objects, these sculptures add a fresh perspective to the overall project.

Cover-Up was produced in August 2014 as part of a larger commission from the annual Flow Festival, Helsinki where Abidin was named Artist of the Year. Displayed on two screens back to back, Cover-Up is again a video installation of a seductive figure in close up. Filmed in black and white, the project replicates the iconic image of Marilyn Monroe in a white dress standing above a subway grating which haphazardly blows the dress up, a scene from the 1955 film The Seven Year Itch. Replacing Monroe with an Arab man and the white dress with a Kandora, Abidin plays with our assumptions on attractiveness, the art of seduction and propriety. The title, which can be read in a number of ways, comments on the hypocrisy rife in contemporary society, mistakes and bad decisions that are hidden, but hinting that their exposure is all to easy.

About the artist, Adel Abidin : 

Adel Abidin (b. Baghdad, 1973) received a bachelor’s degree in Painting from the Academy of Fine Arts in Baghdad in 2000 and a Master’s degree in Media and New Media Art from the Academy of Fine Arts in Helsinki, Finland in 2005 where he continues to live and work.

Abidin has exhibited in numerous group and solo exhibitions, in 2014: ‘Simple past, perfect futures’, Le CENQUATRE‐PARIS, Paris; ‘Music Palace’, Boghossian Foundation, Villa Empain, Brussels; ‘Shifting Identities’, MACRO, Rome; ‘Collective Reaction, Station Museum, Houston; ‘Here and Elswhere’, New Museum, New York; ‘Songs of Loss and Songs of Love’, Gwangiu Museum of Art, South Korea; ‘Late Modern and Contemporary Art’, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne. Previously he has taken part in The Helsinki KIASMA Museum of Contemporary Art, The DA2 Domus Atrium 2002 Centre of Contemporary Art (Salamanca), Location One Gallery in New York City, Arab Express, Mori Art Museum, Tokyo (2012), the 17th Sydney Biennale, Aksanat (İstanbul), ‘ I Love to Love’, Forum Box Gallery, Helsinki; the Biennale of Contemporary Art of Bosnia; Hauser & Wirth Gallery, London; Singapore Art Museum; Museum of Anthropology, Vancouver; MOCCA, Toronto;Mead Gallery, UK; Espace at Louis Vuitton, Paris; MAC‐VAL Museum, Paris; the 10th Sharjah Biennial and 52nd Venice Biennale, where he represented Finland and the Iraqi Pavilion at the 54th Venice Biennale; held solo shows at L’Institut du Monde Arabe, Paris; Kunsthalle Winterthur, Switzerland; Darat al‐Funun; Amman and Wharf: Centre d’Art Contemporain de Basse, Normandy.

In 2012 Abidin received a Five Years Grant from The Art Council of Finland and was a nominee for the Ars Fennica Prize in 2011.

He has frequently shown his work in the Gulf. In March 2013 Lawrie Shabibi hosted the critically acclaimed solo exhibition ‘Symphony’ curated by Basak Senova, which included the ambitious sculpture Al Warqaa commissioned by the Barjeel Art Foundation. The same month he held a solo exhibition ‘Blueprint’ at Maraya Arts Centre, curated by Sara Raza. In 2011 he was part of Sharjah Biennial 10 and his video installation Three Love Songs was a highlight of the inaugural exhibition at Mathaf Arab Museum of Arab Art, Doha, ‘Told/Untold/Retold’ curated by Sam Bardouil and Till Fellrath.

Adel Abidin will hold his second exhibition at Lawrie Shabibi, Dubai Life is Short: Lets have an affair from 4‐12 March, 2015. An aptly short show (held to coincide with the opening of Sharjah Biennial 12) this exhibition is a sound installation and documentation of a trial that the artist faced in Amman, Jordan for allegedly committing adultery. The exhibition was first shown at MUU, Finland in July 2014. Interestingly, although the case was dropped at the time, on a recent visit to Amman he was arrested on the basis of a technicality and spent one night in jail.

Upcoming shows:

Glasstress collateral event at the 56th Venice Biennale, International KIASMA premiering his recent video work “Michael”.


Exhibition dates : 

16th December – 8th January, 2015