beirut

Muhamad Arabi, Mahmoud el Zohbi, 1950, gelatin silver print, 3 1/8 × 5 1/8".

“The Arab Nude”

AUB Art Galleries | Byblos Bank Art Gallery

Muhamad Arabi, Mahmoud el Zohbi, 1950, gelatin silver print, 3 1/8 × 5 1/8".

THE SUMMER OF 2016 was not a particularly auspicious time in the Arab world for art deemed sexually explicit. It was in many ways a terrible season all over the world, marked by intense spasms of violence. It was also a summer when the strain of living in close proximity to so many grueling conflicts and situations (the protracted wars in Syria and Iraq; a revanchist military dictatorship in Egypt; an unrelenting refugee crisis sending men, women, and children to their deaths on the Mediterranean Sea; a violent coup attempt and crackdown in Turkey; and the hyperconservative, medieval ideologies of various militant groups) began to show in some of the more tolerant corners of the region. Until then, the area of overlap in the Venn diagram of contemporary art and political activism had remained a safe haven for transgressive ways of being.

In July, the activist Ahmed Ben Amor, who

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