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Middle East Institute highlights art and culture in new gallery

Institute’s first gallery in D.C features a contemporary art exhibit focused on identity

The Middle East Institute, a non-partisan thinktank and policy center, opened its first permanent gallery devoted to Middle Eastern art and culture in D.C. on Sept. 14. The exhibition will run through Nov. 23.

Greeters waited on the steps of the Middle East Institute’s historic headquarters in Dupont Circle on Sept. 14 to welcome curators, policy experts, members of the U.S. government, academics, art-lovers and artists to the monumental opening night of the first permanent gallery in the District devoted to Middle Eastern art and culture. 

The inaugural exhibit, “Arabicity | Ourouba,” features two decades of contemporary art from the greater Arab world, curated by the London-based Rose Issa. Regarded globally as a champion for Middle Eastern visual arts and film, Issa has worked as a curator, writer and producer for more than 30 years.  

According to Lyne Sneige, MEI’s director of arts and culture, the exhibition grapples with the challenges facing the region while illuminating its humanity.

“The exhibition touches on themes of memory, identity, war, reconstruction, displacement and a host of other issues affecting the region at this critical time with sensitivity, depth, beauty and even humor,” Sneige said. 

“Arabicity | Ourouba” features diverse works by artists, including Egyptian pop culture artist Chant Avedissian, Lebanese painter Ayman Baalbaki and Morrocan contemporary artist Hassan Hajjaj.

The opening of the gallery space was also the first public viewing of their newly-renovated building. According to MEI’s press contact Katrina Weber Ashour, the institute hopes to expand upon its role as a policy institution and move toward providing art-focused programming and opportunities for conversation, panels and film screenings. 

“We want to provide a platform for the Middle East’s leading and emerging artists to engage with U.S. audiences and the local D.C. community,” said Kate Seeyle, MEI’s vice president for arts and culture. “With thoughtfully curated and accessible exhibitions, free talks and film screenings, it’s a welcoming place for people to discover a new perspective on the region and to celebrate its rich culture.” 

“Arabicity | Ourouba” is free and open to the public on weekdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. MEI also provides the opportunity to become a member of the gallery, which features a discounted student rate.

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