Painting by Mehrdad Mohebali
Mehrdad Mohebali's painting The Last Supper II (From Mr. Passive exhibition). © Mehrdad Mohebali
Painting by Mehrdad Mohebali
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Last updated: April 29, 2013

The five hottest artists from the Middle East today

Banner Icon Interest in Middle Eastern art has grown in recent years with individual pieces selling for millions of dollars. We asked Joobin Bekhrad, founder of REORIENT and artclvb, to pick the hottest artists from the region.

Mehrdad Mohebali
Mehrdad Mohebali is a Tehran-based Iranian artist and university lecturer. Known for his vivid images, which most often feature himself as a character in a series of complex, multi-layered scenes in light and dark tones, Mohebali’s work – which has often been described as a documentation of life in Iran, and a portrayal of East-meets-West - has been received with much acclaim, both at exhibitions worldwide, and at auctions in the Middle East.

Mohebali’s latest exhibition, Mr. Passive, was recently showcased at Dubai’s Etemad Gallery this past January.

Khaled Akil
Khaled Akil is a self-taught photographer living in Aleppo. Although he briefly left Syria a few months ago for Istanbul, he returned to his city – amidst the bloodshed and turmoil – to serve his countrymen and play his part in the country’s defining moment in history.

Khaled’s recent work – a series of black and white photographs entitled The Unmentioned – deals with, in the artist’s own words, ‘the real problems they should be aware of’, and is an artistic response to the political situation in Syria, produced in 2011 – only a short while before the recent string of devastating incidents in Syria, particularly in Aleppo.

Khaled’s works have been displayed both in Syria, and around the world, most recently at London’s Lahd Gallery.

Nermine Hammam
An Egyptian photographer living and working in Cairo, Nermine Hammam is one of the foremost artists of her country’s generation. Hammam recently had her debut UK solo exhibition in London, Cairo: Year One, which was hosted at the Mosaic Rooms between July and August 2012.

Hammam’s latest two series, Uppekha and Unfolding, take a look at various participants in the aftermath of the Egyptian revolution. In Uppekha, we see boyish Egyptian soldiers set against colourful picturesque landscapes, revealing a more human and sentimental side to the country’s militant youth, while Unfolding features – more or less – the same characters, albeit at their most violent and savage, against traditional Japanese landscapes and backdrops.

Shurooq Amin
Dr. Shurooq Amin is a Kuwaiti artist, poet, and university professor, whose work largely deals with sociocultural issues in Arab society, as well as the role of women and men therein. Last year, her It’s a Man’s World exhibition – which featured ‘controversial’ paintings of Arab men – was stormed and closed by the police after only two hours, and Amin’s work was later criticised as being ‘pornographic’.

Amin’s works have been exhibited and auctioned around the world, and her latest series – which will be unveiled shortly – will deal with the impact of censorship in the Middle East, and freedom of expression in the region.

Farhad Moshiri
Often dubbed the ‘Iranian Jeff Koons’, Farhad Moshiri (not to be confused with the billionaire of the same name) is one of Iran’s most successful visual artists. Famous for his colourful and playful brand of pop art, his use of unique materials and media, and his grandiose installations, it would not be an understatement to say that he has become a household name among contemporary art collectors worldwide.

In addition to producing highly collectible works which can be viewed at leading galleries around the globe, Moshiri has also partaken in a series of unique artistic ventures, such as a recent collaboration with French fashion house Louis Vuitton, which saw him breathe fresh life into the display windows of their Dubai and Abu Dhabi stores, in an exclusive, one-off partnership. 

Joobin Bekhrad
Joobin (BBA, MSc.) is the Founder and Editor of REORIENT, as well as the Co-Founder of artclvb, an online platform for contemporary Middle Eastern art. He is also the author of a new translation of Omar Khayyam's poems from Persian into English.
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