British Museum and Tate expand focus on Middle East
Both set up acquisition committees
By Gareth Harris. News, Issue 208, December 2009
Published online: 16 December 2009
LONDON. The British Museum and the Tate in London have formed special acquisitions committees that should substantially increase their collections of work by artists from the Middle East. The Tate is also in the process of appointing a curatorial adviser based in the Middle East.
Its 22-member Menaac group (Middle East North Africa Acquisitions Committee) “will meet formally twice a year. They principally consider acquisitions from 1960 to the present day made by artists originating from the region. Artists from diasporic communities are considered equally alongside those who remain within their countries of birth,” said a Tate spokeswoman. The new panel will be modelled on Tate’s Latin American Acquisition and Asia-Pacific Acquisition Committees.
The Menaac committee is co-chaired by Maryam Homayoun-Eisler, a Tehran-born, London-based collector who owns more than 200 contemporary Iranian works by artists such as Farhad Moshiri and Darioush Gharazad. She was curatorial director for the publication Different Sames: New Perspectives in Contemporary Iranian Art (Thames & Hudson, 2009). Her co-chair, Maya Rasamny, is a judge of the Dubai-based Abraaj Capital Art Prize. The first Menaac acquisitions will be in the next annual report in September 2010.
At the British Museum, Venetia Porter, the assistant keeper of the Middle East department, says that its new acquisitions group will focus on works on paper, adding that this “does not exclude other material. We are looking for work that speaks of its time, avoiding very abstract pieces. The group members contribute funds and will work with us to help choose and purchase works.”
Initial acquisitions backed by the group, whose supporters include Homayoun-Eisler and Rasamny, include a series of prints, “35 Years of Occupation” (2002), made by Palestinian and Israeli artists such as Karim Dabah and Michal Rovner. Frances Morris, Tate’s head of collections (international art), added: “Before we commit, we double-check to verify that we are not chasing the same work” to avoid clashes between the two institutions.
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