By Sylvia Smith

M is a fictional character the James Bond films and books. As head of the Secret Intelligence Service, Ian Fleming’s character is an amalgamation of different people he knew in different parts of British intelligence. M has appeared in 24 James Bond films.

In the case of Art Dubai there is nothing secret about “M”  – it is the key letter standing for Modernism, Misk and Mohammed (as in bin Salman Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia). Misk Art Institute is focused on establishing itself as an artist-centred cultural innovator, it will have its headquarters in Riyadh and an artist residency focused centre in Abha, located in Saudi Arabia’s southwest region of Asir. The Institute’s program will incorporate exhibitions and events, artist-led communications and an arts education program aimed at training and investing in the career development of young artists.

Well ahead of the modernist art learning curve, Misk sponsored the section devoted to the artistic movement with lectures and debates and paid for the publication of a book entitled That Feverish Leap Into The Fierceness of Life to accompany an exhibition curated by Sam Bardaouil and Till Fellrath. The show looks at five artistic groups in five Arab cities across five decades. Loans from  the Arab world and beyond took the show out of the relams of nostalgia, enhancing its educational nature which in turn had the academic rigour of art historian Nada Shabout to give it body and substance.

It was a special show, possibly never to be seen again. Its premise dovetailed with the publication of the book Modern Art in the Arab World: Primary Sources. What better place to give Arab modernism centre stage than Art Dubai?
M can only add to the understanding of a movement that is gradually emerging as a subject of study in its own right.



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