Contemporary Islamic art: an investigation of current art practices and their framing in exhibiting contexts.

In the last few years, an increasing number of exhibitions on “Contemporary Islamic art” have appeared in the Middle East, Europe, and America. Exhibitions on contemporary Islamic art portray the art on display as both Islamic and contemporary, bringing together artists’ works with either a regional or religious background that fall into the purview of the regions studied by Islamic art scholars. At the same time, an interest in modern and contemporary forms of Islamic art has emerged that recognizes the terminological, temporal, and methodological of contemporary Islamic art. To date, little scholarship produced detailed examinations of contemporary art exhibitions that relate contemporary art to Islamic art traditions. The result is a fragmentary understanding of what constitutes contemporary Islamic art and how galleries, museums, and exhibitions have framed this art. This project remedies this lack of engagement by analyzing how these exhibitions and the art on display shape a conceptual and analytical understanding of contemporary Islamic art.


This investigation is embedded in a context of new museum landscapes and renewed interest in Islamic art itself, further probing the term “Islamic art” as such. The project’s main focus lies on selecting and developing methods to analyze the audio-visual components of artworks, as many artworks are video- and audio-works. Researching the constitution of contemporary Islamic art contributes to the ongoing debate of what constitutes Islamic art in its historical dimension, a debate initiated in the 1970s by Islamic art historian Oleg Grabar (1987 [1973]).


The project focuses on artists who have participated in such exhibitions and self-define or find their work defined as contemporary Islamic art. By analyzing their works, combined with examining catalog texts, critics’ statements, curators, and artists’ opinions on their work, the project seek to understand contemporary Islamic art's defining parameters.

This project has received funding from the Holzhausen Legat of the Austrian Academy of Sciences (ÖAW). The project will be conducted at the Phonogrammarchiv of the ÖAW.