Une histoire parmi d’autres — Les mondes de l’art au Yémen


Mixed media

Une histoire parmi d’autres
Les mondes de l’art au Yémen

Past: April 15 → May 6, 2017

By tracing both personal and collective trajectories to question the role of the artist in Yemeni society, One of Many Stories seeks to restore the multiple art worlds in contemporary Yemen.

This sociological question is articulated throughout the constellation of documents and artworks presented in the exhibition and through different approaches: how does one become an artist in Yemen? How is this process historicized? What is the relationship between Yemeni artists and state institutions? How do they attempt to contest or circumvent authoritarian power? How do Yemeni artists relate to the rest of the world?

Yemen, situated at the South Western point of the Arabian Peninsula, is one of the poorest countries of the region and is historically marked by great political instability. Today, it is branded by the media coverage of violence, terrorism and civil war. Often, the question “is there Yemeni art?” is a summary of the various interrogations that emerge in organizing an exhibition about Yemen’s art worlds. The question itself reveals a lack of available tools to appreciate modern and contemporary Yemeni visual art, particularly when the observer is foreign, understands different aesthetic valorizations, and when there is a virtual absence of sources on this field. The documents gathered in this exhibition thus seek to rectify this, by presenting a rich, varied and eclectic source of documents.

Carton medium
Abdallah Al Ameen, Sans titre Invitation card from the al-Ameen Gallery (Aden, 1986- ?). Courtesy : Abdallah al-Ameen

Collected during fieldwork conducted from 2008 to 2011 as part of a doctorate in political sociology, the exhibited documents were given either by artists or were part of materials that were recorded, photographed and archived during this research. By studying and exhibiting these documents and by proposing to observe through them the interdependences between artists and political actors, the exhibition proposes a different image of Yemen. These collaborative and competitive interdependencies reveal underlying relations of domination, whose mechanisms can be, and have been, creative and productive. While indeed state institutions play a fundamental role in the emergence of artistic scenes in Aden and Sana’a, artists equally accompany this creation, consolidation and questioning of political regimes. For instance, certain artists represent the ideals of the Socialist political project in former South Yemen; they project and materialize Yemen’s unity through paintings and posters, or they document through photography the contentious mobilizations of 2011.

Other elements emerge from the gaps that appear while reconstructing a history of art worlds and their interactions with political powers and social order. The personal trajectories Yemeni artists are one of such elements — the journey of Hashem Ali and Ali Ghaddaf to Kuwait in the 1970s, Elham al-Arashi’s education in Moscow in the 1980s, the creation of the al-Halaqa group in Sana’a in the 1990s, Jameel Subay’s involvement in the contentious mobilizations of 2011, the ongoing street art campaigns initiated by Murad Subay. These micro-histories, which are retraced using a series of documents, highlight singular individualities and complex and cosmopolitan artistic trajectories.

The exhibition implicitly reveals the complexities of retracing an art history of a country stuck in war — the escalation of armed conflict since the end of 2014 and the beginning of 2015 has developed into a civil war, intensified by the military intervention led by Saudi Arabia and a coalition of countries supported by France among other states. Some of the exhibited documents and artworks bear the mark of their history — Amna al- Nassiri’s slightly damaged painting and Talal al-Najjar’s drawings that were forced to be preserved outside of Yemen — and, equally, the absence of others underlines the difficulty of continuing field work in such a context. With the impossibility of knowing what remains from the current bombings in Yemen, a simple photocopy thus changes its status, becoming as valuable as an original document, facing the same possibility of destruction.

Curator: Anahi Alviso-Marino

15 Paris 15 Zoom in 15 Paris 15 Zoom out

21, avenue du Maine

75015 Paris

T. 01 43 25 88 32


Montparnasse – Bienvenüe

Opening hours

Tuesday – Saturday, 11 AM – 7 PM

Admission fee

Free entrance

The artists

  • Hashem Ali
  • Abdallah Al Ameen
  • Boushra Almutawakel
  • Yasser Al Ansi
  • Elham Al Arashi
  • Archives Du Journal 14 Octobre – Aden
  • Nasser Al Aswadi
  • Ali Baraas
  • Mohamed Abdo Dail
  • Ali Al Dharhani
And 30 others…