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Museums of the Middle East:

criss-crossing cultural identities


Published in 2A Magazine Issue #13 – Spring 2010

Early museums began as private collections for objects of significance for public viewing. In such environments, the object is removed in time, place and circumstance from its original context and becomes a tool of communication and representation. This makes the museum a hybrid of multiple interpretations. Yet museums are the new 21st century cultural enterprises and branding of national identities. The renewed museum-mania is an archive, a place for sensationalism and expression of power.
The plethora of developments over the last ten years in the Middle East has resulted in the making of new and dynamic urban conditions. These emerging cities are now shifting to ‘culture’ with a renewed interest for the fabrication of institutions for art, culture, architecture and history.
Art markets are now following the recent trend set by investors and developers: the shift from the traditional and saturated centers of the West towards – and thus anticipating – new emerging economies of the East. This issue of 2A magazine has mapped the current state and role of the museum and the making of institutions as spaces to accommodate art and culture in the Middle East. These organizations bring about a new abstraction and create new challenges for the region, yet not without contradictions: east vs. west, high vs. popular taste, orientalism vs. modernism, colonialism vs. national identity, censorship vs. participation, authenticity vs. reenactment, identity vs. multiplicity.
In the pages that follow, thirty contributions have been selected as a display of contemporary trends and conflicts as Museums of the Middle East. The power of the museum space still retains its ability to be both enigmatic and elucive. It compels an active and continuous interpretation, it questions what it means to have an dynamic culture in the region and how the sedcution of westernization can impact idigenoius tradistions; if not, it questions the remaking of his-(s)tories.