Shanghai’s Rockbund Art Museum will this April host the final leg of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum’s group show of contemporary art from the Middle East, But a Storm is Blowing from Paradise (until June 11). It marks the largest exhibition of contemporary art from the region to show in mainland China, as well as Rockbund’s first major collaboration with a Western institution.
But a Storm is Blowing from Paradise debuted last April in New York and is the third phase of the Guggenheim UBS MAP Global Art Initiative, which also exhibited and acquisitioned contemporary art from Latin America and South and Southeast Asia. “I find it very interesting to return full circle to the project’s point of origin and explore some of the intersections between geographies, people and ideas, especially those pertaining to the Global South,” says Guggenheim UBS MAP Curator, Middle East and North Africa Sara Raza. “Recontexualising the exhibition from within an Asian view becomes a way for East Asia, namely China, to rethink and reimagine its neighbors from greater Asia…I imagine that this exhibition’s perception will differ greatly to that of New York, as the relationship and proximity are not rooted in a complicated physical or conceptual colonial history.”
Rockbund will present works by 15 artists: Lida Abdul, Abbas Akhavan, Kader Attia, Ergin Çavuşoğlu, Ali Cherri, Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige, Rokni Haerizadeh, Susan Hefuna, Iman Issa, Nadia Kaabi-Linke, Gülsün Karamustafa, Mohammed Kazem, Hassan Khan, and Ahmed Mater. Along with a larger space, alterations to the show include references to West Asia and North Africa rather than the Western-specific framework of the Middle East, and supplemental educational programming including film screenings, literary forums, and a food festival, says Rockbund senior curator Li Qi. “For example, there is a work made with couscous,” Kader Attia’s architectural construction, “which is [a food] quite strange to the general public here.”
Li says the collaboration was initiated by Guggenheim’s senior Asian art curator Alexandra Munroe, who sits on Rockbund’s advisory board. “A group show like this has never shown in China. The absence means it is very important to bring, to make [the region] visible – to audiences and art professionals here.” Li compares Chinese awareness of the Middle East to “how the West thought about China a few decades ago”—with a context limited to the headlines. “People are now more aware of the subject, we presume, on news and online, the topic is pretty hot. I hope it will be intriguing for them to come and explore something different from their expectations and presumptions.”