The NYU Abu Dhabi Art Gallery’ Maya Allison on the Modernisms exhibition

Shedding new light on famed artists such as Parviz Tanavoli, Fahrelnissa Zeid and M.F. Husain.

Undoubtedly art poses many questions, yet the Covid-19 pandemic and the ensuing periods of lockdown brought to the fore a new set of questions. “It enabled us to think about what art means to people if you aren’t able to gather in person at an exhibition,” says Maya Allison, Executive Director and Chief Curator at NYU Abu Dhabi Art Gallery.

As restrictions gradually ease and in-person exhibitions are again accessible, Maya has been pondering on the concepts of “why we gather in person, what we do together when we were in person. Now we get to ask that question ‘Why are we coming together to see art’ and the answer comes to you when you are there.”

Modernisms: Iranian, Turkish, and Indian Highlights exhibition from New York University’s Abby Weed Grey Collection, curated by Lynn Gumpert, is the first physical exhibition at The NYU Abu Dhabi Art Gallery since it moved to virtual programmes in the spring of 2020 due to the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Abby Weed Grey was a North American collector who made multiple trips abroad in the 1960s and early 1970s, to explore and collect modern art from across Asia. She made eight trips to Iran, and four trips each to India and Turkey, where she acquired the prints, drawings, paintings, and sculpture that came to form the nucleus of the Abby Weed Grey Collection of Modern Asian and Middle Eastern art, housed at New York University’s Grey Art Gallery.

“To reopen with this show is really wonderful for us because this is the kind of art that you really need to see in person. It’s the texture of the paint; the quality of the colours, the form,” says Maya.

The exhibition itself sheds new light on famed artists such as Parviz Tanavoli, Fahrelnissa Zeid, and M.F. Husain, and also includes the collector’s personal letters, journals, invoices, catalogues, invitations, and photographs from the Abby Weed Grey Papers in the NYU Archives.

With artists coming from Asia, could the exhibition be considered a homecoming? “In a way, it’s coming home to one of its homes because the population here [in Abu Dhabi] includes many Iranians, Indians, and Turkish people; where we are here is an active dialogue with those three cultures,” says Maya.

On how Maya expects audiences to react to the works, she says that it is something that cannot be predicted. “I can bring the art and I am asking the audience a question. When I bring an exhibition like this, I want the audience to meet me there and let’s learn together about what we see.”


Running until 5 February 2022, for more information and to book your tickets, nyuad-artgallery.org/



Image source NYU Abu Dhabi Art Gallery

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