While recently in LA, I decided to stop by one of the city’s most famous institutions: LACMA (Los Angeles County Museum of Art). LACMA is in fact one of the few American institutions with an active contemporary Middle Eastern Art Department. This department, titled ‘Art of the Middle East’ is headed by the highly knowledgeable and dedicated Linda Komaroff, whose interest and knowledge of Middle Eastern art is commendable. Her efforts to promote and collect contemporary Middle Eastern art on behalf of the LACMA is commendable. She is bringing much needed attention to Middle Eastern art in the USA. The Art of the Middle East department is only around five years old, however these past few years have seen the department grow significantly. Check out the department’s website here: http://www.lacma.org/art-middle-east
One of the last frontiers for Middle Eastern art is the USA, and we need more people like Ms. Komaroff to promote the region’s artists. We need more people to donate and join the contemporary Middle Eastern art departments at American institutions where they exist. The only way to garner American public interest in the topic of Middle Eastern art is through large institutional shows by the likes of LACMA and the Met.
Linda Komaroff is also the curator of Islamic Art at LACMA, and has used her role there to highlight the influence Ancient Islamic Art has had on some contemporary Middle Eastern artists today. I toured the Islamic Art Department and was intrigued to find 3 works by contemporary Middle Eastern artists displayed alongside Ancient Islamic artifacts. It is an interesting way of drawing a connection between the two periods. It highlights that the region’s art history is somewhat steeped in the world of Islamic Art.
In this specific case, the artists whose works were being exhibited were Ali Omar Ermes (Libyan) and Sadegh Tirafkan (Iranian). Ali’s beautiful works are inspired by Arabic scripture and calligraphy, a strong component of Islamic Art. Sadegh Tirafkan’s two works also played around with scripture. I really enjoyed the way these works were displayed alongside Ancient Islamic artifacts, and hope to see it done more often in the future.