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But a Storm Is Blowing from Paradise (Una Tempesta Dal Paradiso) Opens April 11 At Galleria d’Arte Moderna, Milan

Exhibition of Contemporary Art from the Middle East and North Africa marks the eighth and final exhibition of the Guggenheim UBS MAP Global Art Initiative


Venue: Galleria d’Arte Moderna Milano (GAM)
Location: Villa Reale, Via Palestro, 16, 20121 Milano MI, Italy
Dates: April 11—June 17, 2018

From April 11 through June 17, 2018, Galleria d’Arte Moderna (GAM), Milan; the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; and UBS present But a Storm Is Blowing from Paradise: Contemporary Art of the Middle East and North Africa (Una Tempesta dal Paradiso: Arte Contemporanea del Medio Oriente e Nord Africa) in Milan. The exhibition marks the final presentation of the Guggenheim UBS MAP Global Art Initiative, a historic collaboration between the Guggenheim and UBS representing the largest international research, collection-building, and presentation initiative the museum has undertaken to date. MAP’s distinctive, artist-driven program, which began in 2012, underscores a mutual commitment by the Guggenheim and UBS to support contemporary art and education through a total of eight international exhibitions, more than 125 acquisitions, curatorial scholarship from three global regions, and extensive public programming.

Organized by Sara Raza, Guggenheim UBS MAP Curator, Middle East and North Africa, in collaboration with Paola Zatti, Chief Curator, Galleria d’Arte Moderna, and Omar Cucciniello, Curator, Galleria d’Arte Moderna, the exhibition features a range of artistic voices and critical concerns from a rapidly evolving region and its international diaspora. Works by thirteen artists explore the intersecting themes of migration, displacement, architecture, geometry, and history through a range of mediums, including works on paper, installation, photography, sculpture, and video. But a Storm Is Blowing from Paradise was first shown at the Guggenheim Museum in April 2016.

“This exhibition presents challenging ideas and uncompromising artistic strategies, all of which help us to reflect upon a vital region of today’s world,” said Richard Armstrong, Director, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and Foundation. “The culminating Milan presentation celebrates the extraordinary influence of a group of artists whose works and ideas have helped shape contemporary art. It is our hope that the impact of the works themselves, the relationships fostered through the MAP project, and the ideas articulated in its multiple presentations continue to resonate thanks to MAP’s unprecedented reach. We are grateful to our visionary collaborator UBS and to our colleagues at partner institutions around the globe, including our friends at GAM. By working on the ground with artists, arts professionals, and audiences, we can tell a richer, more expansive history of modern art and more faithfully represent the art of our time.”

“The Middle East and North Africa are at the center of sweeping global change,” said Fabio Innocenzi, UBS Italy Country Head. “We are proud to be able to help bring this exhibition to the Galleria d’Arte Moderna so that our clients, employees, and the public can participate in intercultural conversations through contemporary art on society and global issues. We have a long history of supporting cultural endeavors around the world, and for many years in Italy, and continue to use contemporary art to bring together ideas, inspiration, and opinion to shape richer lives.”


But a Storm Is Blowing from Paradise, which features sixteen works by thirteen artists, is installed in the ground-floor gallery of GAM. The title of the exhibition comes from an artwork by Rokni Haerizadeh, which references a passage from an essay by German philosopher Walter Benjamin. Haerizadeh’s But a Storm Is Blowing from Paradise (2010) is a suite of works on paper based on images appropriated from mainstream news sources. By overlaying photographs of collective gatherings with gesso, ink, and watercolor, the artist transforms individuals into animal-human hybrids, and renders a grotesque view of downward descending contemporary events promulgated by the mass media.

Other works that implicitly challenge existing representations of the Middle East and North Africa include Latent Images, Diary of a Photographer, 177 Days of Performances (2015) by Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige, an installation of 354 books displayed on 177 metal shelves that purport to contain written descriptions of pictures taken by a fictional photographer, Abdallah Farah, during the Lebanese Civil War, to illustrate the fine line between mythmaking and reality.

Among the works that address the urgent subject of the migration of people and ideas is Gülsün Karamustafa’s Create Your Own Story with the Given Material(1997), which features an arrangement of thirty child-size white cotton shirts the artist has sewn shut with black thread. The work is a meditation on the plight of immigrant children in Turkey, for whom safe passage into the country and subsequent freedom of movement remain open to question.

Fictional narratives and history intersect in a video by Lida Abdul titled In Transit (2008). In this work, a group of boys near Kabul play in the shell of a bombed-out Soviet warplane, engaged in the futile but boundlessly optimistic act of attempting to repair it with cotton and rope. Together, the children become an allegory for the perceived impossibility of rebuilding Afghanistan, but also for Abdul’s idea that “anything is possible when everything is lost.”

A hybridized view of past and present is shown in Ahmed Mater’s Disarm 1–10 (2013), ten light boxes with photographs taken by the artist from the cockpit of a Saudi military helicopter scouting for unauthorized pilgrims approaching Mecca, highlighting an urban landscape undergoing rapid structural and social change. In Iman Issa’s Heritage Studies #10 (2015), a copper model of a column and accompanying caption that reads “Column from the Great Colonnade of the Newly Founded Capital Samarra” reinterpret the historical object on an intimate scale.

Architecture appears as a key element in the formation of modernism in the region and is prevalent in several works, including Untitled (Ghardaïa) (2009) by Kader Attia, a scale model in cous cous of the

World Heritage Site of Ghardaïa, Algeria, whose traditional buildings influenced modernist Le Corbusier; Building (2009) by Susan Hefuna, nine drawings that suggest both cartographic diagrams and sketches of architectural elements such as the mashrabiya, a traditional latticed window; and Bank Bannister (Banque Bannister, 2010) by Hassan Khan, a sculptural reproduction of the handrail outside the Banque Misr, the first Egyptian-owned bank in Egypt. Abbas Akhavan’s Study for a Monument (2013–16), a series of bronze casts of plants native to the Tigris and Euphrates river system arranged on the floor atop white sheets, proposes alternative ideas around the culture and dissemination of public monuments. In his series Trembling Landscapes (Paysages Tremblants, 2014–16), Ali Cherri presents ink-stamped aerial maps of Algiers, Damascus, Erbil, Makkah, and Tehran, highlighting fault lines that have resulted in catastrophic earthquakes, and juxtaposing them with instances of political unrest and architectural development. Ergin Çavuşoğlu invites visitors to walk across an anamorphic floor drawing in his site-specific installation Dust Breeding (2011). The artwork is based on a model of a cement factory in Turkey; visitors’ movements are captured on a nearby monitor, in which they appear to be standing inside a three-dimensional sculpture.

Artists Represented in the Exhibition

  • Lida Abdul (b. 1973, Kabul; lives and works in Los Angeles and Kabul)
  • Abbas Akhavan (b. 1977, Tehran; lives and works in Toronto)
  • Kader Attia (b. 1970, Dugny, France; lives and works in Berlin)
  • Ergin Çavuşoğlu (b. 1968, Targovishte, Bulgaria; lives and works in London)
  • Ali Cherri (b. 1976, Beirut; lives and works in Beirut and Paris)
  • Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige (both b. 1969, Beirut; live and work in Beirut and Paris)
  • Rokni Haerizadeh (b. 1978, Tehran; lives and works in Dubai)
  • Susan Hefuna (b. 1962, Berlin; lives and works in Düsseldorf)
  • Iman Issa (b. 1979, Cairo; lives and works in New York)
  • Gülsün Karamustafa (b. 1946, Ankara; lives and works in Istanbul)
  • Hassan Khan (b. 1975, London; lives and works in Cairo)
  • Ahmed Mater (b. 1979, Tabuk, Saudi Arabia; lives and works in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia)

The works by Lida Abdul, Ali Cherri, and Gülsün Karamustafa are being shown for the first time as part of the MAP initiative.

According to Raza, “But a Storm Is Blowing from Paradise highlights the formation of the present while acknowledging the continued influence of the past. Many of the exhibition artists question the ability of objective ‘truths’ to adequately capture the social realities of our world. Utilizing fictional narratives and fantastical imagery, their works contain hidden ideas that challenge stereotypical and overtly politicized perspectives of the region and its history—ideas we might call ‘conceptual contraband.’ The exhibition also considers architecture as a tool for evoking both colonial history and the implications of globalization and gentrification. This new installation at Galleria d’Arte Moderna converses with the building’s own architectural heritage and raises urgent issues of migration and displacement in areas around the world, including Italy and greater Europe.”

“Guggenheim UBS MAP Global Art Initiative showcases the new protagonists of contemporary art from within and beyond Europe. This same purpose is shared by the city of Milan, which promotes interculturalism in the arts as well as in the social realm. Milan is an ideal hub for creative thinking and therefore a natural destination for such an innovative project,” said Filippo Del Corno, Deputy Mayor for Culture, Milan.

“The intersecting themes of the exhibition address the most vital points of contemporary society’s connection with the past and present, and the variety of accompanying programs align with the spirit of openness and dialogue that characterizes the cultural message of Milan’s museums,” said Anna Maria Montaldo, Director of Modern and Contemporary Museums, Municipality of Milan.

“A focus on contemporary art has been the main feature of several projects developed by GAM in the past few years, creating an interesting comparison between contemporary production and the museum’s collection. Furthermore, these projects have resulted in the involvement of a different and wider range of visitors,” said Zatti.


But a Storm Is Blowing from Paradise is accompanied by a range of public and academic programs, including a robust opening week schedule:

  • An evening of music and discussion with the Barenboim-Said Akademie and West-Eastern Divan Orchestra featuring a chamber music performance followed by a lively dialogue with select orchestra members and exhibition artist Ergin Çavuşoğlu (April 11)
  • A seminar for students at Nuova Accademia di Belle Arti (NABA) with exhibition artist Gülsün Karamustafa (April 13)
  • A two-day pop-up film festival hosted at Anteo Palazzo del Cinema co-presented by Reel Palestine and the Guggenheim Museum, featuring films Ouroboros (2017) by Basma Alsharif and Electrical Gaza (2015) by Rosalind Nashashibi, as well as a collection of short films (April 14–15)

Throughout the exhibition’s run, additional programs are offered for adults, families and students:

  • A series of panel discussions to analyze the role of local museums and cultural diplomacy, focusing on the City of Milan as a cultural crossroad
  • A suite of guided tours and workshops for adults, families, and school groups, developed in partnership with ADMaiora, that provide an interactive interpretation of exhibition themes
  • Printed Family Activity Guide and Teacher’s Resource Guide
  • Seminars for students at Nuova Accademia di Belle Arti (NABA), accompanied by gallery tours for the public, with exhibition artist Ali Cherri, architectural art historian Ridha Moumni, and architectural firm AOUMM, which designed the exhibition at GAM
  • Audioguide featuring commentary by Sara Raza and six exhibition artists

For more information, visit


The Guggenheim UBS MAP Global Art Initiative builds upon and reflects the Guggenheim’s distinguished history of internationalism and UBS’s commitment to direct engagement with contemporary art and education, ultimately contributing to a richer, more expansive story of the histories of modern and contemporary art. Through in-depth collaboration with artists, curators, and cultural organizations from South and Southeast Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East and North Africa, MAP has expanded the Guggenheim’s collection with more than 125 new works. Partnerships with cultural organizations such as the Galleria d’Arte Moderna have been at the heart of the project throughout, extending its creative reach and impact both physically and digitally. Together, the Guggenheim and UBS recognize the power of art to connect and inspire communities, spark debate, enrich the present, and help shape the future. This long-term collaboration underscores a mutual commitment to supporting today’s most innovative artists by increasing visibility of their work around the globe. Learn more about the artists, curators, and exhibitions that bring these works to life at


Founded in 1937, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation is dedicated to promoting the understanding and appreciation of art, primarily of the modern and contemporary periods, through exhibitions, education programs, research initiatives, and publications. The Guggenheim constellation of museums that began in the 1970s when the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, was joined by the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice, has since expanded to include the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao (opened 1997) and the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi (currently in development). The Guggenheim Foundation continues to forge international collaborations that celebrate contemporary art, architecture, and design within and beyond the walls of the museum, including the Guggenheim Social Practice initiative, Guggenheim UBS MAP Global Art Initiative, and The Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Chinese Art Initiative. More information about the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation can be found at


UBS’s long and substantial record of patronage in contemporary art actively enables clients and audiences to participate in the international conversation about art and the global art market through the firm’s contemporary art platform. In addition to the Guggenheim UBS MAP Global Art Initiative, UBS’s extensive roster of contemporary art initiatives and programs currently includes the UBS Art Collection, one of the world’s largest and most important corporate collections of contemporary art, and the firm’s long-term support for the premier international Art Basel shows in Basel, Miami Beach, and Hong Kong, for which UBS serves as Global Lead Partner. These activities are complemented by a number of regional partnerships with fine art institutions including the Fondation Beyeler in Switzerland, Galleria d’Arte Moderna in Milan, Nouveau Musée National de Monaco, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Denmark, and the Art Gallery of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia. UBS provides its clients with insight into the art market and strategic guidance on managing art collections and legacy planning through the UBS Art Competence Center. The Art Basel and UBS Global Art Market Report is also published annually. The UBS Arts Forum convenes and connects exceptional people in the art world, providing thought leadership at the cutting edge of contemporary art. For more information about UBS’s commitment to contemporary art, visit


Galleria d’Arte Moderna is a civic museum dedicated to the nineteenth-century collections of the city of Milan, and together with Museo del Novecento and MUDEC – Museo delle Culture, is part of the Modern and Contemporary Museums, Municipality of Milan. Founded in 1903 in the Castello Sforzesco, the museum moved to the Villa Reale in 1921, which was built for Lodovico Barbiano di Belgiojoso by Leopoldo Pollack between 1790 and 1796. GAM’s permanent collection contains approximately four thousand objects, beginning with Neoclassical works, continuing through several nineteenth-century movements––including examples of Romanticism, Scapigliatura, and Realism––and ending with Divisionist and Symbolist paintings from the beginning of the twentieth century. The museum’s second floor features two notable collections of twentieth-century art: the Grassi Collection (donated by Carlo and Nedda Grassi in 1958) and the Vismara Collection (donated by Giuseppe Vismara in 1975).

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