“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.



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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