Aatifi – News from Afghanistan

3 July–18 October 2015

Museum für Islamische Kunst in the Pergamonmuseum, Berlin, Germany

Opening: Thursday, 2 July 2015 for invited guests





Photo: Joachim Grothus

Photos: Joachim Grothus, Jennifer Endom, Uli Horaczek, Michael Halfar   

Abstract art in dialogue with culture from 14 centuries


With the solo exhibition Aatifi – News from Afghanistan. Painting, Graphics, Video, in the summer and autumn of 2015, the Museum für Islamische Kunst presented contemporary art related to the Islamic world. From 3 July to 18 October 2015, around three dozen works by the Afghan-born painter and graphic artist Aatifi were on display in the Pergamonmuseum: abstract-scriptural, colour-intensive paintings in large formats, plus etchings and ink drawings.


The exhibition included paintings and graphic works created by Aatifi especially for the Museum für Islamische Kunst in Berlin’s Pergamonmuseum from 2014 and 2015. The artist’s large-format works were embedded in the museum’s permanent exhibition and thus surrounded by Islamic culture spanning fourteen centuries. The highlight of the exhibition was an installation in the Mschatta Hall, one of the main attractions in the Pergamonmuseum: the monumental, early Islamic palace façade from Jordan dating from the 8th century was juxtaposed with two paintings by Aatifi on the end walls, measuring 3.80 by 6 metres and 3 by 3.80 metres. ‘1,250 years of art in dialogue’, as museum director Professor Dr Stefan Weber emphasised.


Three dozen paintings and works on paper


In the Buchkunstkabinett with its two rooms, works on paper – aquatint reservage etchings and ink drawings – were on display. Two films, realised in cooperation with the Department of Media Production at the Ostwestfalen-Lippe University of Applied Sciences and the Filmhaus Bielefeld e.V., gave insight into the genesis and development of Aatifi’s scriptural art and the long tradition of Islamic calligraphy.

The aesthetics of form, colour and light, power and dynamics, depth and space are at the forefront of Aatifi’s abstract painting and graphic art. Born in 1965 in Kandahar, Afghanistan, the artist, who has lived in Germany since 1995 and in Bielefeld since 1999, has developed an independent, universal visual language – without any reference to text – from traditional calligraphy. In his works, some of which are monumental, he combines calligraphic fragments with stylistic elements of modern art. The trained calligrapher, who studied painting at the Faculty of Fine Arts in Kabul and at the Hochschule für Bildende Künste Dresden, uses selected characters for his works purely for aesthetic and compositional aspects.


Considerable media response and international attention


The solo exhibition Aatifi – News from Afghanistan in Berlin’s Pergamonmuseum on Museumsinsel, which received considerable media coverage and international attention, was a project of the Museum für Islamische Kunst of the Staatlichen Museen zu Berlin with the support of the Freunde des Museums für Islamische Kunst. More than 230,000 people from all over the world visited the exhibition rooms during its three-and-a-half-month run.


Kerber Verlag (Bielefeld/Berlin) has published a book on the exhibition in German and English with 132 pages and numerous illustrations (ISBN 978-3-7356-0114-8). (maba)

Photos: Jennifer Endom