Fahrelnissa Zeid

by Thursday, August 17, 2017

Turkish Princess and artist Fahrelnissa Zeid is best known for her large-scale abstract compositions blending Byzantine, Islamic and Western influences. To better understand the artist’s inspirations, we travel to Jordan to meet Fahrelnissa Zeid’s family and friends who recount her exceptional character and multifaceted life ahead of this first major retrospective exhibition at Tate Modern opening June 2017. She was an artist of such “force and originality”, says Tate Modern, that it is astonishing that Fahrelnissa Zeid should have been practically forgotten. Now, in the first retrospective of its kind in the UK, Tate Modern hopes to lift the pioneering Turkish artist out of obscurity to ensure that she does not become yet another female artist forgotten by history. For Frances Morris, director of Tate Modern, the show is “momentous”, a key reflection of her ongoing ambitions for the gallery to be a place that champions artists, particularly women, who have been neglected by an art world still heavily skewed towards European males. Morris described how she first encountered Zeid’s work on a 2008 visit to Istanbul, where she saw her paintings hanging in the historic section of the Istanbul Modern Museun. “We were stunned to encounter for the first time in our lives, these huge, ornate, decorative, multifaceted, brilliantly coloured, swirling abstract paintings,” recalled Morris. “We’d never seen her work in our lives and we’d never seen anything like it. It was a really exciting moment.” Born in Istanbul in 1901, Zeid led a life as extraordinary and colourful as her vast, vibrant paintings. She was one of the first women to go to art school in Istanbul, and, after marrying into the Iraqi royal family, she was part of the avant-garde art movements in Istanbul, pre-war Berlin and post-war Paris. During her life she was celebrated in multiple exhibitions in Paris, New York and London, including at the ICA in 1954. In the 1970s she moved to Amman, where she set up an art school and is credited for transforming the perception of art in Jordan. She died in 1991, and despite her illustrious career, has now been all but forgotten by most major arts institutions, particularly in Europe. All but one of the works in the Tate Modern exhibition were loaned from abroad, but the gallery bought one of the paintings, Untitled C, “so she can now be part of our narrative,” said Morris. The show’s co-curator Kerryn Greenberg said the fact that Zeid was a woman and a Muslim, and had also moved away from Europe in her latter years, were key reasons for her descent into obscurity. The retrospective was a particularly moving moment for her son, Ra’ad bin Zeid, head of the royal houses of Iraq and Syria, who lives in exile in London and Paris.


No Comments Yet.

What do you think?

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *