An Unparalleled collection of Modern Art from India, Iran and Turkey – Opening at the Block Museum January 21, 2020

Indian Barwe Prabhakar Barwe (Indian) King and Queen of Spades, 1967 Oil and paper on canvas, 39 1/4 x 54 1/8 in. Grey Art Gallery, New York University Art Collection Gift of Abby Weed Grey, G1975.188

A major exhibition at The Block Museum of Art at Northwestern University is the first to bring together modern art from Iran, Turkey and India, seeking to expand Western perspectives of modern art.

Turkish Eyuboglu Bedri Rahmi Eyüboğlu
(Turkish) Full Moon, 1961 Oil and glue on
canvas, 50 7/8 x 42 in. Grey Art Gallery, New
York University Art Collection Gift of Abby Weed Grey, G1975.293

“Modernisms: Iranian, Turkish and Indian Highlights from NYU’s Abby Grey Collection” surveys art from three nations where unique and vibrant forms of modernism sprang forth in the 1960s and 70s.  Challenging histories of artistic modernism that too often begin and end in the West, “Modernisms” explores an under-recognized flowering of innovation and risk-taking in art beyond Europe and North America.

The exhibition will be on view January 21 to April 5, 2020, at The Block Museum, 40 Arts Circle Drive on the Evanston campus.

Indian Sundaram Vivan Sundaram (Indian) Keep Slim, 1965 Collage of ink and photographs, 11 1/8 x 9 in. Grey Art Gallery, New York University Art Collection Gift of Abby Weed Grey, G1975.219

Lindsay Bosch, Senior Marketing Manager of The Block generously took time out to answer questions about the upcoming exhibit for Chicago Splash Magazine.

Iranian Tanavoli Parviz Tanavoli (Iranian) Heech, 1972 Bronze on wood base, 22 1/4 x 12 x 8 in. Grey Art Gallery, New York University Art Collection Gift of Abby Weed Grey, G1975.54 © Parviz Tanavoli


“With nearly 700 artworks, the Abby Weed Grey Collection represents the largest institutional assemblage of modern Iranian and Turkish art outside of Iran and Turkey as well as the most important trove of modern Indian art in an American university museum.  In the 1960s and early ’70s, when few other American collectors were attuned to art being made in the Middle East and Asia, Grey traveled extensively in these regions, steadily acquiring works by contemporary local artists”.

Turkish Zeid Fahrelnissa Zeid (Turkish) Composition in Red and Blue, n.d. Lithograph on paper, 30 x 22 in. Grey Art Gallery, New York University


Can you share more about Grey’s interest in collecting, what may have inspired her to collect the art works she found, and the establishment of Abby Weed Grey Collection?

Along with an endowment to establish the Grey Art Gallery, the collection was donated to New York University in 1974 by Abby Weed Grey (1902-1983), 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. 

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. 

 Viewers interested in Abby Weed Grey’s legacy are invited to join us March 4 for a free conversation “The Picture Is the Window”: Lynn Gumpert and Lisa Corrin on Abby Grey and Intrepid Art Collecting

Iranian Diba Kamran Diba (Iranian) Diver, 1967 Oil on canvas, 80 3/4 x 34 1/4 in. Grey Art Gallery, New York University Art Collection Gift of Abby Weed Grey, G1975.86

Has Northwestern’s Block Museum worked with the  Grey Art Gallery previously?

The Grey and the Block are longtime collaborators.  Most recently the Block Museum’s groundbreaking exhibition A Feast of AstonishmentsCharlotte Moorman and the Avant-Garde, 1960s–1980s, traveled to The Grey Art Gallery in 2016.

When did the plans for hosting this exhibit at the Block begin?

The Block Museum plans its exhibition schedule more than three years out.  In conversation with the Grey we were drawn to the exhibition as one that foregrounded a global perspective and offered a lesser known art history – elements that are core to The Block’s identity.  The Block partnered with the Grey to host Modernisms followed directly by the upcoming Spring 2020 exhibition Taking Shape: Abstraction from the Arab World, 1950s – 1980s, which is also planned by The Grey (in conjunction with The Barjeel Foundation)

Together with the Fall 2019 Pop América exhibition, the Block Museum is devoting the entirety of the 2019-2020 year to the concept of Global Modernisms. See Block Museum announces exhibitions for year of global modernisms.

Indian Souza Francis Newton Souza (Indian) Trimurti, 1971 Oil on canvasboard, 30 x 24 in. Grey Art Gallery, New York University Art Collection Gift of Abby Weed Grey, G1975.216
Turkish Elderoglu Abidin Elderoğlu (Turkish) Six Lines of Abstracted Calligraphy, 1960 Watercolor, ink, and graphite on paper, 17 3/8 x 13 1/2 in. Grey Art Gallery, New York University Art Collection Gift of Abby Weed Grey, G1975.240
Turkish Akoral Nevzat Akoral (Turkish) Porters, n.d. Woodcut on paper, 27 3/4 x 19 5/8 in. Grey Art Gallery, New York University Art Collection Gift of Abby Weed Grey, G1975.271

 Is there any specific information that might help viewers appreciate and enjoy this exhibit more fully ?

Viewers interested in the topic might be interested in the exhibition catalog:

Modernisms: Iranian, Turkish, and Indian Highlights from NYU’s Abby Weed Grey Collection is accompanied by a 288-page catalogue. Co-published by Hirmer Publishers and the Grey Art Gallery, New York University, the book features a roundtable discussion that considers the political and cultural landscapes of Iran, Turkey, and India during the time that Abby Grey was traveling and collecting art. Moderated by Lynn Gumpert, Director of the Grey Art Gallery at New York University, the roundtable includes Vishakha N. Desai, Senior Adviser for Global Affairs to the President of Columbia University, Vice Chair of the Committee on Global Thought, and Senior Research Scholar in Global Studies at the School of International and Public Affairs; Vasif Kortun, curator, writer, educator, and former Director of Research and Programs at SALT; and Hamed Yousefi, a filmmaker and PhD student in art history at Northwestern University. Also featured is a conversation in remembrance of Abby Weed Grey between Robert R. Littman, President of the Vergel Foundation and former Director of the Grey Art Gallery.

Turkish Eyuboglu Eren Eyüboğlu (Turkish) Design for Mosaic, 1957 Gouache and pencil on cardboard, 18 3/4 x 20 in. Grey Art Gallery, New York University Art Collection Gift of Abby Weed Grey, G1975.246

Viewers are also invited to join us for a season of free programs, cinema, and events reflecting on the exhibition themes.  The Winter 2020 program is now available for download.

Indian Krishna Devayani Krishna (Indian) Veiled Mask, n.d. Etching on paper, 15 3/4 x 9 7/8 in. Grey Art Gallery, New York University Art Collection Gift of Abby Weed Grey, G1975.207

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