Maïmouna Guerresi Aisha, 2015.
Photo : © Maïmouna Guerresi, courtesy of Mariane Ibrahim Gallery, Seattle

Of Veils, Feminisms, and Contemporary Art

Valerie Behiery
Since Shirin Neshat first introduced the veiled Muslim woman as a possible subject of contemporary art in the 1990s, there has been a veritable torrent of representations of visibly Muslim women in the global art apparatus, and it has only increased since 9/11. Their presence is due to myriad factors, among them the Western (neo-)Orientalist fixation on the veil, the growing number of diaspora artists and gallery owners in Europe and North America from Muslim-majority countries, the establishment of the Arab Gulf states as a pre-eminent centre of contemporary art, and, more generally, the internationalization of the art world.

Most images of Muslim veils in the mainstream art world challenge the historically entrenched sign of what I call the veil because, as the focus of continued social and political debates in Europe and North America, it functions as a collectively shared sign for the unagentic Muslim woman, the backwardness of Islam, and the alleged incompatibility between the West and Islam.

You must have a valid Digital or Premium subscription to access this content.

Subscribe to Esse or log in now to read the full text!

Log in
This article also appears in the issue 90 - Feminisms

Suggested Reading