Akram Zaatari

Father and Son

Archeology, 2017
© Akram Zaatari Courtesy the artist, Sfeir-Semler Gallery and Thomas Dane Gallery. Photo: Volker Renner.

Photographic Currency, 2019
© Akram Zaatari. Courtesy the artist, Sfeir-Semler Gallery and Thomas Dane Gallery. Photo: M3 Studio.

Photographic Currency, 2019
© Akram Zaatari. Courtesy the artist, Sfeir-Semler Gallery and Thomas Dane Gallery. Photo: M3 Studio.

Venus of Beirut, 2022
© Akram Zaatari. Courtesy the artist, Sfeir-Semler Gallery and Thomas Dane Gallery. Photo: M3 Studio.

I Tabnit, 2024
© Akram Zaatari. Courtesy the artist and Thomas Dane Gallery. Photo: M3 Studio.

[MŠʾ MʿRB] East West, 2024
© Akram Zaatari. Courtesy the artist and Thomas Dane Gallery. Photo: M3 Studio.

[YM DM] Bloody sea, 2024
© Akram Zaatari. Courtesy the artist and Thomas Dane Gallery. Photo: M3 Studio.

Akram Zaatari (b. 1966, Saida) has played a critical role in developing the formal, intellectual and institutional infrastructure of Beirut’s contemporary art scene. He has produced more than fifty films and videos, a dozen books and countless installations of photographic material, all sharing an interest in writing histories and the search for records and objects, keeping track of their changing hands, the retrieval of narratives and missing links that have been hidden, misplaced, lost, found, buried or excavated. The act of digging itself has become emblematic of his practice while acting to restore connections lost over time, or due to war and displacement. Zaatari has dedicated a large volume of his work to the research and study of photographic practices in the Arab world and has made uncompromising contributions to the wider discourse on preservation and archival practice.

Rooted in this research practice, Zaatari’s exhibition in Naples retraces the element of restitution in the artist’s work, expressed mainly through text, documents and photographs that revisit descriptions and recreate objects or ties that once existed but are now lost. The exhibition features works across many media from the last two decades, beginning with his two-hour-long video, Ain el Mir (2002), in which the artist looks for a buried letter that never reached its destination. It spans through to Zaatari’s most recent body of work, Father and Son (2024), in which the sarcophagi of two Phoenician Kings (father and son), separated since antiquity, are reunited. The project is accompanied by a series of new works on paper that look at the Mediterranean as a locus of exchange, extraction and movement across millennia.

Amongst these works Archeology (2017), Photographic Currency (2019) and Venus of Beirut, (2022), and a new work, Ibrahim and the Cat, For Inji Efflatoun (2024), all engage in the process of recreating objects that have either vanished or were never produced. The brass relief Ibrahim and the Cat – made with artisans in Naples – gives new form to a forgotten photograph taken by the father of Egyptian artist Inji Efflatoun for the purpose of making a painting that was never produced.

Zaatari’s idea of ‘giving life to things that do not exist in the present’ also applies to the recreation of a stone monolith used to seal King Tabnit’s tomb, which was completely destroyed when his sarcophagus was extracted in 1887.  All that Refuses to Vanish (2022) was made from drawings and notes left by Ottoman statesman and painter Osman Hamdi during his excavation of the Sidon Necropolis.

Akram Zaatari

Father and Son

Thomas Dane Gallery Naples
23 April – 13 July 2024