The Middle East’s vibrant cultural scene kicks off in September, with art festivals in Turkey and Israel, design and art fairs in Lebanon, and theater and film festivals in Egypt. Here are the picks of Al-Monitor's Culture Pulse on the cultural events of the month.
Istanbul hosts three major cultural events: If you love art, Istanbul is the place to be in mid-September. The 15th edition of the Istanbul Biennial is staged at six venues on Sept. 16-Nov. 12 around the concept of “a good neighbor.” Curated this year by artist duo Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset, the Istanbul Biennial brings together artworks by 55 artists from 32 countries, all addressing different notions of home, belonging and neighborhood.
On Sept. 14-17, the 12th edition of Contemporary Istanbul, a fair devoted to modern art, will take place at several different locations, including the Lutfi Kirdar Congress Center. This year’s highlights include a new media section called "Plugin," dedicated to new media art at the intersection of science and technology, and “The Fifth Element,” Istanbul’s first outdoor contemporary sculpture exhibition in a public park. Curated by Hasan Bulent Kahraman, the exhibition includes Turkish and international artists.
Ai Weiwei, the renowned artist and activist who displayed his works in Israel earlier this year, will hold his first exhibition in Turkey at Istanbul’s Sabanci Museum from Sept. 12 to Jan. 28.
After Istanbul, Beirut!: Beirut Art Week — as well as a parallel event, the first edition of the Beirut Design Fair on Sept. 20-24 — will take place on Sept. 19-26. The art fair that brings regional and international galleries together has a threefold focus: to foster a spirit of expansion and renewal; to promote the discovery of young talents; and to unfold a new perspective on the recent history of creation in Lebanon.
For performance arts, Egypt is the place to be: The Cairo International Festival of Contemporary and Experimental Theater, an unorthodox festival that raises the ire of the traditionalists, will be held on Sept. 19-29. The festival, which was not held in 2010-15, restarted with a new name and format two years ago.
Egypt will also host regional and international filmmakers at the first edition of El Gouna Film Festival that will be held Sept. 22-29 in El Gouna, a Red Sea holiday resort, located 15.5 miles north of Hurghada. The theme of the festival, which includes workshops and conferences besides screenings, is “humanity in cinema.” One of the festival's films is the much-anticipated film “Sheikh Jackson,” written and directed by Amr Salama, which narrates the crisis of faith of a clergyman when he learns that Michael Jackson, his idol, had died.
Jerusalem’s Season of Culture is on: Mekudeshet (Season of Culture) will kick off on Sept. 4 and for three weeks will bring together DJs, musicians and artists from all over the country and the region.
Once this is over, art-watchers have the Jerusalem Biennale of Contemporary Jewish Art to look forward to on Oct. 1. The biennale will showcase approximately 200 artists from Israel, Europe, the United States, Russia and India, around its 2017 theme, “Watershed.”