Modernisms: Iranian, Turkish, and Indian Highlights from NYU’s Abby Weed Grey Collection




L-R: Parviz Tanavoli, ibex, 1970, G1975.55 © Panviz Tanavoli: Mansour Ghandriz, Simurg, c. 1961-64 (detail) G1975.94; Bedri Rahmi Eyuboglu, full Moon, 1961: G1975.293; Maqbool Fida Husein, Virgin Night, 1964 (detail): G1975.158. All works are from the Abby Weed Grey Collection of Modern Asian and Middle Eastern Art, New York University Art Collection

Drawing on its remarkable collection of modern Iranian, Indian, and Turkish art, the Grey Art Gallery at New York University presents Modernisms: Iranian, Turkish, and Indian Highlights from NYU’s Abby Weed Grey Collection. Featuring approximately thirty to forty artworks from each country, the exhibition examines the artistic practices in Iran, Turkey, and India, from the 1960s and early ’70s via selections from the Abby Weed Grey Collection of Modern Asian and Middle Eastern Art.

The first major museum exhibition to bring together modern works from these nations, Modernisms sheds new light on how the featured artists created works that drew on their specific heritages while also engaging in global discourses around key issues of modernity. Assembled by Lynn Gumpert, Director of the Grey Art Gallery, this exhibition illuminates our understanding of modern art created outside of the West.

Of the nearly 4,800 works housed at the Grey Art Gallery, New York University’s fine arts museum, approximately 700 comprise the Abby Weed Grey Collection of Modern Asian and Middle Eastern Art. This collection—an unparalleled and unique art historical resource—represents some of the largest institutional holdings of Iranian and Turkish modern art, and the foremost trove of modern Indian art in an American university museum. Along with an endowment to establish the Grey Art Gallery, the collection was donated to New York University in 1975 by Abby Weed Grey, a self-described “dyed-in-the-wool Midwesterner” from St. Paul, Minnesota. In the 1960s and early ’70s, when few other American collectors were attuned to art being made in the Middle East and Asia, Mrs. Grey traveled extensively in these regions, steadily acquiring works by contemporary local artists. Intent on self-education and optimistically embracing the notion of “one world through art,” she believed firmly in the power of art to stimulate dialogues between people of different cultures. This vision arose at a moment when, due to the shifting dynamics of the Cold War, America held a broader interest in fostering intercultural dialogue that was motivated, in part, by foreign policy strategy.

“The time seems right to reexamine Mrs. Grey’s trailblazing efforts toward cultural exchange,” notes Gumpert. “These artworks represent a wide range of responses to unique, regional histories and to a rapidly changing modern world. Combining them in one exhibition allows viewers to understand how artists of various nationalities melded local traditions with international trends and, in so doing, identifies global art as a central component of modernity.”

Although works from the collection have been shown at the Grey on numerous previous occasions—in exhibitions such as Global Local 1960–2015: Six Artists from Iran (2016), Abby Grey and Indian Modernism: Selections from the NYU Art Collection (2015), Modern Iranian Art (2013), and Between Word and Image: Modern Iranian Visual Culture (2002)—selections from the Iranian, Turkish, and Indian modern art holdings have never been presented together in a cross-cultural study. Bringing together works from three different countries, Modernisms will make significant contributions to current dialogues which are actively seeking to expand narrow, Eurocentric narratives of modern art.

Modernisms is on view from September 10 through December 7, 2019 at Grey Art Gallery/NYU located at 100 Washington Square East, NYC

After debuting at the Grey Art Gallery at New York University, Modernisms will be on view at the Block Art Museum at Northwestern University from January 21 through April 5, 2020. The exhibition will travel to the New York University Abu Dhabi Art Gallery in fall 2020.