Rasheed Araeen

“Islam & Modernism”
Grosvenor Gallery | 2022

For this Inspiration feature, we highlight the latest philosophical manifesto “Islam & Modernism” by renowned Karachi-born, UK-based artist and writer, Rasheed Araeen. In this text, Araeen boldly traces the contributions of Islamic philosophy to the birth of modernism and its ongoing evolution.

On the occasion of his new publication “Islam & Modernism” (2022), accompanied by his third solo exhibition at New York’s Aicon Gallery in October 2022, Araeen was interviewed by writer Tasif Noor for Artforum. In the interview, Araeen states: “The aim of my book “Islam & Modernism” is to remind the Muslim world of its own great achievements of the past, that it has its own philosophy and worldview; and that without this awareness as part of its modern life, it cannot have an authentic identity today and go forward […] There does now exist an awareness in the Muslim world about its place in modernity, but it lacks a codified language to contemplate and express it. There is also tremendous creativity, particularly in the Gulf area, but there are no institutions which can direct it toward what I call the Spirit of Islam, its vision and worldview. Whatever intellectual resources the Muslim world has are in fact scattered and have become part of Western academe.”

According to the Aicon Gallery press release, “Araeen is contemplating the problem of how to assert his Muslim identity both within his practice and within the broader doctrines of modern art […] Critical theorists like Okwui Enwezor have thoughtfully diversified the category of modernity, yet the canon of modern art continues to struggle against a European origin story. By looking at an artist like Araeen, can we find an alternative narrative, one that looks to the architecture of the Ka’ba and iconoclasm of Islamic art first and Cézanne’s contemplation of geometry second?”