“It’s A Man’s World” – the story of the shortest art exhibition in Kuwait

March 12, 2012

Hieronymus Bosch, "The Cure of Folly (Extraction of the Stone of Madness)", circa 1475 , oil on panel, 48 x 35 cm, Museo del Prado, Madrid

“There is no sin except stupidity.” Oscar Wilde, (The Critic as Artist, Part II)

It is imperative to clarify our position: Art should not be censored regardless of whether or not you like work or even if you are in complete disagreement with the artwork – art is the basis of human civilization, it is part of our culture and a mirror to the world we live in, a reflection of our progression. It gives us hope for the future and keeps our history and our name alive.

In the last few days, over one week after the opening and closure of the exhibition, many articles on the Internet and newspapers have been published. However, most of them contain wrong information about names, facts and details. I can only imagine how difficult it was for some people to have an accurate view of what happened, especially when some of these people didn’t even attend the exhibition.

Starting from the beginning to correct the facts:


1 – ARTISTShurooq Amin, Kuwaiti nationality (for those most curious she has a Syrian mother and Kuwaiti father). Multitalented from a young age: participated in her first art exhibition at the age of 10, nowadays she is teaching at Kuwait University.
2 – ARTWORKS – Since 2011, the artist Shurooq Amin has worked on a series of new artworks that explore the world of Arab men in the Middle East and specifically, men in the Arabian Gulf. After completing this series of 17 artworks she decided to present them in the exhibition.
3 – EXHIBITION – was set up with the title “It’s A Man’s World” at an art gallery:
4 – GALLERY – AL M. Gallery (opened in 2011 by Kuwaiti art collector Khaled Al Asfour) has organized an exhibition of these works.

The Exhibition “ It’s A Man’s World” by Shurooq Amin opened on the 5th of March at 7 pm, with the intention of being be on display until the 1st of April, 2012 but closed at 10pm. The day after, the Gallery was reopened at 10am, with no artworks (catalogue and flyers) of Shurooq Amin.
Why? What happened in these 3 hours?

Exhibition had an absolute record of attendance and everybody enjoyed the show, visitors expressed so much appreciation to the artist, except one person who found something that he didn’t like, without saying nothing to the Gallery owner or to the artist he left the Gallery and called a police. ( We don’t know the name of the person who complained and if this fact really had place – that’s what policeman said to explain why he came to the gallery). Policeman arrived at 9pm, starting with normal question: who is the owner, where is the license, what is this etc. After 1 hour, 4 officers from the Ministry of Commerce and the Ministry of Interior came. They have inspected each of the paintings and wrote an order to the Gallery owner that exhibition should be closed because of inappropriate content. 20 people inside the gallery (friends and relatives of the artist and the Gallery owner) who attend these last events before the exhibition was closed, tried to defend the artworks and made many calls – the best advise received was : to remove all the paintings in the safe place, because the day after police can return with the order to confiscate them and destroy.

So, now finally we can say : yes, it was the case of brutal and shameful censorship – against the art, against the freedom of artistic expression and this kind of actions could damage the image of the country.

 

Epilogue

I suffered these days because I cannot read Chinese. What’s the matter with Chinese? – you may ask me. Oh, it was just a curiosity to find some traces of the artists in China (if they have ever existed) who agreed with the government when the studio of Ai Weiwei was demolished and he was arrested. If you still don’t get my point: that’s what is happening these days in Kuwait. People are divided in 2 parts: the most progressive intellectuals, artists and writers are showing their support towards the artist whose exhibition was shut down; meanwhile, some artists are rushing to write or to release their statements about how it was correct to shut down the exhibition and how they disagree with the idea of her works.

It seems to me that the motivations behind these actions do not stem from the argument of whether or not an artist’s work should or should not be censored. Rather from negative emotions such as bitterness or jealousy. These actions were certainly not taken from an objective intellectual standpoint. Those who felt the show should be shut down don’t care about the artist’s sufferance, about the difficulties that the gallery is still facing – those artists want to turn the light on themselves.

Stop. Reflect. Is it really a normal occurrence that artists should speak and write critically and pass judgments, especially about their colleagues? No, they should make art, if they call themselves Artists, they should speak through their art.

Read more: Exhibition of Shurooq Amin “It’s a Man’s World” was shut down 3 hours after the Opening

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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Dunia Al Beshara March 12, 2012 at 8:56 AM

Thank you so much for clarifying that matter.
Unfortunatly Its saddens me to see our country retrieving backwards everyday infront of my eyes. Art is part the country’s culture and should be embraced and encrouged .
I havent seen the paints myself , however I was looking forward to it.
I really think we should be vocal about this and speak up.

to Shurooq Amin, as a Kuwaiti Artist you inspire me so much and i wish u all the best and please don’t get discouraged by this.

all the best

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ArtKuwait March 12, 2012 at 9:53 AM

Thank you Dunia, for your comment. Shurooq Amin is the ray of light in the darkness and we also send her our the best wishes.

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Husain March 12, 2012 at 1:33 PM

Thank you for this informative statement, its really bad that some people are spreading some false claims and rumors about the show i gues this statement will clarify what happened, keep us posted about any updates and good luck

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ArtKuwait March 12, 2012 at 1:57 PM

Thank you Hussain. Yes, some journalists work not professionally, write articles without contact the Gallery or the Artist. As some people (artists) who judge the artworks without even see them – incredible !

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Zak March 13, 2012 at 7:48 AM

Why am I NOT suprised? its amazing how ONE person can cause all this damage (due to his disapprovement of the artworks)…!!

Anyhoo…I Hope Shurooq doesn’t feel discouraged with all this hooplah!! I know her work, i know how good it is…so good luck to her in future exhibitions.

Maybe her next exhibit should be titled: “F the Police” – Gangsta Style!! I’m kidding…love those cell phone usin (while on the job) police officers!!

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ArtKuwait March 13, 2012 at 8:10 AM

Zak, unfortunately it is not only one person, because after one who complained – arrived a policeman than 4 inspectors. Those people who are very far from any kind of arts, without any general knowledge about art and without any wish to enlarge their vision – they are deciding the destiny of art exhibitions – and this absurd fact cannot be acceptable.

It’s like somebody who cannot read, because doesn’t know alphabet will decide for the others which books are good for them and which are not.
(???)

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Anna Maria Ferraro March 13, 2012 at 10:16 AM

the closure of the exhibition of Shurooq Amin was a strong action, but has produced an important effect: it created a lot more attention to the world of art as much unfortunately there is a daily, proclaiming the Art capable of changing the world in which we live and making to Shurooq the merit of having given a slap in the hypocrisy and the power of the male. The work of Shurooq is able to shake the conscience asleep in a kind of coma. Artists, intellectuals, free thinkers, we should all be in solidarity with and support the work of Shurooq and the galleries courageous as Al M gallery! the kuwait can not move back!

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ArtKuwait March 13, 2012 at 10:51 AM

Unfortunately, if the majority will decide to move country back – there will be nothing to do…

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Ali July 19, 2014 at 10:20 PM

The same thing happened at my university. There was a concert that had occured that was issued by the dean. A student, who was obviously religious, had called the ministry and got the University in a lot trouble. The issue is the religious members of the community enforce The. ideology onto other people which isn‘t fair to those who don‘t share the same views. I feel that sometimes this community is highly closed-minded and intolerant towards different views and beliefs. That‘s how I see it sometimes. There are definately some exceptions so I can say that this community can also be appreciative.

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