Over the last three decades, a new generation of conceptual artists has come to the fore in the Arab Middle East. As wars, peace treaties, sanctions, and large-scale economic developments have reshaped the region, this cohort of cultural producers has also found themselves at the center of intergenerational debates on the role of art in society. Central to these cultural debates is a steady stream of support from North American and European funding organizations—resources that only increased with the start of the Arab uprisings in the early 2010s.
The Politics of Art offers an unprecedented look into the entanglement of art and international politics in Beirut, Ramallah, and Amman to understand the aesthetics of material production within liberal economies. Hanan Toukan outlines the political and social functions of transnationally connected and internationally funded arts organizations and initiatives, and reveals how the production of art within global frameworks can contribute to hegemonic structures even as it is critiquing them—or how it can be counterhegemonic even when it first appears not to be. In so doing, Toukan proposes not only a new way of reading contemporary art practices as they situate themselves globally, but also a new way of reading the domestic politics of the region from the vantage point of art.