British Museum and V&A Join Forces to Set Up UK's First Major Collection of Middle Eastern Photography

British Museum and V&A Join Forces to Set Up UK's First Major Collection of Middle Eastern Photography
Hassan Hajjaj. Saida in Green, 2000
(V&A, Art Fund Collection of Middle Eastern Photography at the V&A and the British Museum)

The British Museum and the Victoria & Albert Museum have teamed up to establish a collection of Middle Eastern photography, it was announced this morning.

The selection is decidedly contemporary: all the photographs in the collection have all been taken during the last thirty years, several of them during the Arab Spring of 2011. The BM and the V&A's joint initiative currently gathers 80 works by 22 artists from the so-called MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region — including Youssef Nabil, Walid Raad, Taysir Batniji, and Newsha Tavakolian.

 

More than three years in the making, the project has benefited from £150,000-worth of support from the charity Art Fund. Most of the new acquisitions will be presented to the public in the exhibition "Light from the Middle East: New Photography" opening at the V&A next November.

This new initiative attempts to address the under-representation of Middle Eastern photography in British collections, whose images of the region are often cast from a Western perspective. It also further demonstrates the growing appetite that Britain has for art from the Middle East, fuelled, in parts, by wealthy collectors established in London.

Both the BM and Tate have acquisitions committees devoted to art from the region. Last year, the BM appointed Louisa Macmillan as its first curator of modern and contemporary Middle Eastern art thanks to the support of the Eisler Foundation, headed by Maryam Eisler, who is also the head Tate's MENA acquisitions committee.

After its London showing, "Light from the Middle East: New Photography" will tour the country. Further details are yet to be announced. 

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