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Think It Forward: selections from the Elie Khouri collection

February 2021 – June 2021
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The collection of Elie Khouri represents a touchstone for international, contemporary, and cutting-edge excellence in art—not only in the Middle East, but around the world. Intellectually curious and aesthetically bold, Khouri seeks out works of art that embrace a kaleidoscopic range of ideas and media and collectively offer a nuanced, multifaceted reflection of the current moment. Among the many issues artists in his collection address are globalisation, identity politics, and the effects of new technology on perception and communication, as well as enduring considerations of truth, beauty, and the natural world. As evidenced by the paintings on display at The Arts Club, Khouri is drawn to both abstract and figurative practices that offer fresh perspectives on traditional media and contemporary themes.

British artist Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, whose enigmatic portraits of fictitious people in pared down, chiaroscuro settings, invite viewers to project their own subjective interpretations, raising issues of identity and representation in the process. The recipient of numerous museum exhibitions and awards, Yiadom-Boakye currently has a solo show at Tate Britain in London. Increasingly renowned for her figurative paintings is Mexican-American artist Aliza Nisenbaum who, in contrast to Yiadom-Boakye, spends many hours getting to know her subjects, learning about their lives and becoming part of their communities. Typically portraying subjects frequently overlooked by most, such as undocumented migrants in the US, or London Underground workers for a commission in Brixton, Nisenbaum’s portraits are fundamentally meditations on intimacy, shared between artist and sitter, and then with the viewer.

American artist Arcmanoro Niles also paints works in a figurative mode, usually basing his subjects on family and friends, but laces them with fantastical colours and sparkles that elevate mundane scenes with a sense of magical realism. In the Khouri Collection work, Where No One Cares if you Hide and Cry, the objects—an unmade bed with sheets and clothes strewn in a haze of absinthe and forest greens—tell the story. Together these and the many other narrative works in Khouri’s collection reveal a compelling vision of the many desires, needs, and individuals that make up the patchwork of contemporary life.

Sticks and Stones, a fiercely expressionistic contemporary take on landscape painting by Shara Hughes, comes wholly from her imagination. The hyper-saturated colours and bold abstract shapes create familiar yet impossible vistas that may at first appear as luscious paradises, but on closer observation become strange and unearthly spaces. With its richly hued approximations of trees and jagged meadows and precipices, Sticks and Stones exemplifies Hughes’s subversion of traditional realism in favour of more psychological and spiritual realms, working at the boundary between representation and abstraction.

Fully abstract painting is also a great love of Khouri’s, and we are fortunate to have choice examples in this show by both the late German master Günther Förg as well as the highly sought-after mid-career American artist Matt Connors. Throughout his career, Förg studied, toyed with, criticized, and paid homage to a modernist aesthetic in a post-modern age. With multicoloured groups of painterly vertical lines that emerged out of an obsession with grids, Förg’s Untitled from 2007 is a superb example of his ‘spot’ paintings, an unapologetic expression of the artist’s dedication to sensual abstraction. Connors similarly delves into the power of form and colour, drawing on the history of painting and process, evoking lyrical, poetic, and intuitive responses with his dancing shapes and saturated hues.

Also included in this show are works by artists Henry Taylor, Derrick Adams, Jesse Mockrin, Paulina Olowska, Nicolas Party, Maryam Hoseini, and Julie Curtiss, selected from the much larger list of contemporary masters in the Khouri Collection. Every work has its unique and important place in tomorrow’s art history, together providing a snapshot of the most profound currents running through contemporary art today. It’s an achievement for any collector, and we are extremely glad to share this selection with the members and guests of The Arts Club.

About Elie Khouri: Having worked in marketing services and advertising for over 30 years, Elie Khouri is currently the Chairman & CEO of Omnicom Media Group, the media services division of the global marketing communications company Omnicom Group in MENA. Khouri is an ardent supporter of the regional and global art community; he is a member of the Media and Performance Committee of the Museum of Modern Art, New York, as well as the Tate’s Middle East and North Africa Acquisitions Committee. He has been consistently collecting contemporary art for over a decade and is working towards establishing the Elie Khouri Art Foundation, which he hopes will serve as a leading global and independent centre for the research into collecting and collecting practices, provoking discourse on how, why and where collections are curated, displayed and disseminated into the public.

We are extremely grateful to Ranya Ghandour of Ruth Catone for her tireless help in putting together this show.

(featured work)

Aliza Nisenbaum
Julie, 2018
Oil on linen
119.38 x 109.22cm

(this page, top to bottom, left to right)

Paulina Olowska
Mesmerized, 2018
Oil on canvas
260 x 200cm

Julie Curtiss
L’entre-acte, 2019
Oil, acrylic, and vinyl paint on canvas
228.6 x 106.68cm

Derrick Adams
Interior Life (Figure 9), 2019
Acrylic paint, pencil, fabric on paper
60.48 x 45.36cm

Shara Hughes
Sticks and Stones, 2018
Oil and acrylic on canvas
172.72 x 152.4cm

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