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« Présences arabes »

Even at 86 years old, Nil remains quite active in the art world. While she is currently preparing a performance to be presented in Italy this summer and recently created posters for the artistic project of curator Lorenzo Benedetti, the exhibition “Présences arabes” opened this week at the Musée d’Art Moderne de Paris, where Nil is exhibiting some of her pieces. She had mentioned it to me a few weeks ago, and now that the exhibition is officially open to the public (since April 5th), I wanted to mention it here. It is worth noting that 50 years ago, it was in this same museum that Nil, under the impetus of Suzanne Pagé, presented her famous work Topak Ev for the first time.

Image 1 : Nil in 1973, installing Topak Ev at the Musée d’art Moderne de la Ville de Paris

« Présences arabes » highlights more than 200 artworks from 130 Arab artists who lived, studied, exhibited, or advocated in Paris between 1908 and 1988. Thus, an exhibition that adopts a historical perspective. It is worth recalling that Nil settled in Paris in 1965, a time marked by decolonization movements and the globalization of modern Arab art. As a pioneering feminist artist in Turkey, Nil chose to settle in the heart of a vibrant cultural environment, a city that throughout the 20th century asserted itself as a major crossroads for access to what would be called “modernity”, criticism of colonialism, and a place of multicultural encounters.

From the information I have gathered about the exhibition, I am particularly satisfied with the approach of the curators Odile Burluraux, Morad Montazami, and Madeleine de Colnet: it presents Paris not only as a welcoming place but also as a site of exclusion where Arab artists have had to face severe social discrimination. They have had to deploy ingenious strategies to circumvent systemic racism and the unequal structures of Parisian society. I am eager to see how these themes, particularly delicate in the French paysage and easily sources of discords, will be addressed.

As for Nil’s exhibited works, I do not have specific information about them - which works were chosen by the curators? I assume the emblematic ones. I plan to attend the exhibition this week, as the opening took place last Friday. I am impatient to discover her pieces – and those of the other renowned artists, of course! - and especially to appreciate them in person. As you know, I am becoming familiar with Nil's body of work, but so far, I have had very few opportunities to admire her physical creations.

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