The Newport Art Museum will welcome two new exhibitions to its galleries this fall, Lalla Essaydi’s From “Converging Territories” to “Harem Revisited” and a group show entitled The Shapes of Birds: Contemporary Art of the Middle East and North Africa. An Opening Reception for both shows will be held on Friday, September 28, from 5 – 7 pm. Museum members are welcomed free, non-members are asked for a $10 suggested donation. Cash bar and light refreshments will be available. The Newport Art Museum is located at 76 Bellevue Avenue, Newport, RI. Visit or call 401-848-8200 for details.

(Photo above: Lalla Essaydi, Harem #39, 2012. Chromogenic print mounted on alumnium, 40 x 30 inches. Courtesy of the artist and Howard Yezerski Gallery, Boston and Edwynn Houk Gallery, NY. From the Harem Revisited series.)

Lalla Essaydi
From “Converging Territories” to “Harem Revisited”
September 28, 2018 – February 17, 2019

Lalla Essaydi is an internationally renowned artist who works in painting, installation, and photography. Born and raised in Morocco, she moved to the United States and earned her M.F.A. at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts / Tufts in 2003. As she explains, her artistic endeavors originated with the desire to examine her personal experience—to revisit her childhood in Morocco and consider the “converging territories” of her present life as a North African-born artist and woman living in America. This exhibition includes photographs spanning from the artist’s earliest series “Converging Territories” to the more recent series “Harem Revisited.” Bringing together photographs from different periods of the artist’s career, this exhibition illustrates Essaydi’s enduring engagement with culture, gender, and identity.

For her photographic work, Essaydi constructs narratives, often within Islamic architectural spaces. By drawing on imagery reminiscent of Orientalist paintings, Essaydi underscores Western fantasies about the East, and Arab women in particular. At the same time she undermines these fantasies by clothing her female subjects and inscribing them with calligraphy, a sacred Islamic art form accessible only to men in the Arab world. Using henna for this calligraphy, Essaydi re-asserts the role of women in art and writing (henna is a form of art and adornment practiced by women). According to the artist, “By reclaiming the rich tradition of calligraphy and interweaving it with the traditionally female art of henna, I have been able to express, and yet, in another sense, dissolve the contradictions I have encountered in my culture: between hierarchy and fluidity, between public and private space, between the richness and the confining aspects of Islamic traditions.” Exploring these contradictions and disrupting stereotypes about women of the East, Essaydi’s work promotes a timely discussion of cultural perspectives and gender.

Lalla Essaydi has widely exhibited her work nationally and internationally. Her recent shows include solo and group exhibitions at the: San Diego Museum of Fine Arts (CA), Carnegie Museum of Fine Arts (Pittsburgh, PA), Bahrain National Museum, Iris & Gerald Cantor Center for Visual Arts at Stanford University (CA), Museum of Modern Art, Baku (Azerbaijan), and Smithsonian African Museum of Art (Washington DC). She has work in many museum collections around the world including the Louvre (Paris, France), National Gallery of Art (Washington DC), Los Angeles County Museum of Art (CA), Arab Museum of Modern Art (Qatar), The Art Institute of Chicago (IL), Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MA), Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (TX), Museum of Contemporary Photography (Chicago, IL), RISD Museum (Providence), George Eastman House (Rochester, NY), and Harvard University Art Museums among others.

Essaydi is represented by Howard Yezerski Gallery in Boston and Edwynn Hook Gallery in New York.

The Newport Art Museum is grateful to U.S. Trust, Bank of America Private Wealth Management for their support of the fall exhibitions.

The Shapes of Birds: Contemporary Art of the Middle East and North Africa
September 15 – December 30, 2018

Over the past few decades, the Middle East and North Africa have experienced immense political, ideological, and sociological changes. In 2010, the world watched as the Tunisian Revolution became the “Arab Spring.” With the use of social media, activists and protestors organized protests, resisted their governments, and made the world aware of crimes against humanity. In the art world, recent years have brought an unprecedented number of exhibitions devoted to Islamic art and art of the “Arab World and Iran” or the “Middle East.” Museum initiatives, collectors, foundations, and art fairs have also led to new patronage and audiences for Middle Eastern art and have stimulated the increased international interest in art of the Middle East and North Africa.

Borrowing its title from a line in the poem “A Lesson in Drawing” by Syrian writer  Nizar Qabbani, “The Shapes of Birds” showcases the work of contemporary artists from, or with roots in, the Middle East and North Africa. Working in a wide array of media—sculpture, installation, video, photography, painting, and illustration—the artists in this show both embrace older artistic traditions while exploring new media, ideas, and technologies. As a title, “Shapes of Birds” evokes Qabbani’s poem about memory, loss, disconnection, and creativity. It also speaks to the broader themes of migration—the migration of people and ideas. Though from different countries, and with different stories, the artists in this exhibition create works that deal with identity, history, tradition, memory, and renewal.

PARTICIPATING ARTISTS INCLUDE: Adel Abidin, Dana Aljouder, Samira Alikhanzadeh, Zeina Barakeh, Gohar Dashti, Minoo Emami, Faig Ahmed, Shadi Ghadirian, Mohamad Hafez, Pouran Jinchi, Arghavan Khosravi, Basim Magdy, Rania Matar, Azita Moradkhani, Youssef Nabil, Saman Sajasi, Larissa Sansour, Hadieh Shafie and Patricia Sarrafian Ward.

The Newport Art Museum is grateful to U.S. Trust, Bank of America Private Wealth Management for their support of the fall exhibitions.

About the Newport Art Museum
Founded in 1912, the Newport Art Museum is one of the oldest continuously operating and most highly regarded art museums and schools of its kind in the country. The Art Museum offers a provocative diversity of creative voices and experiences at its historic Newport setting. Visitors can expect to enjoy treasures of American art from the late 19th century to the present from the permanent collection, as well as rotating exhibitions of contemporary art and outdoor sculptures. Museum docents are available to offer guided tours of the campus and educate visitors on the Museum’s architecture, artwork and history. Artists’ talks, film screenings, lectures and performances are scheduled throughout the year.

The Museum operates from a three acre, three-building campus, the main building being a National Historic landmark, the John N.A. Griswold House. This former private house was designed by architect Richard Morris Hunt and completed in 1864. The building remains the premier example of Modern Gothic, or American “Stick-Style” architecture. Richard Morris Hunt went on to design Marble House, The Breakers, Ochre Court, Belcourt Castle, and other architectural landmarks in Newport and New York, including the base for the Statue of Liberty. Adjacent to the Griswold House is the Cushing Memorial Gallery, dedicated to the artist Howard Gardner Cushing and completed in 1919 by the firm Delano and Aldrich. In 1990, the Sarah Rives Lobby and Nathalie Bailey Morris Gallery were added, providing additional exhibition spaces. This climate-controlled building also houses the Museum’s growing permanent collection.

Completing the three-building campus is the Art Museum’s School, the Coleman Center for Creative Studies, which offers year-round art and design classes, summer youth camps and workshops for all ages and experience levels. Classes incorporate the Museum’s collection, current exhibitions and historic architecture into its curriculum.

The Newport Art Museum is fully accredited by the American Alliance of Museums.

Public hours are Tuesday through Saturday from 10 am to 5 pm, Thursdays April – December until 7 pm, Sunday from noon to 5 pm, and from 10 am to 9 pm every second Thursday of the month for the Art After Dark programming. The Museum is closed to the public on Mondays. Museum membership levels and benefits, art school classes and registration, exhibition schedules, public programming, special events, and more can be found at Phone: (401) 848-8200.