Ali Kaaf
I Am a Stranger: Twofold a Stranger

01.12.2021 to 20.02.2022
Pergamonmuseum

With his installation Ich bin Fremder. Zweifach Fremder (I Am a Stranger: Twofold a Stranger), the German-Syrian artist Ali Kaaf enters into a contemporary dialogue with the approximately 1,300-year-old Mshatta Façade of the Jordanian caliph’s palace in the context of the upcoming restoration of the richly ornamented wall segments as part of ongoing renovation work at the Pergamonmuseum.

The Migrations of the Mshatta Façade

The Façade – originally part of the early Islamic caliph’s Mshatta Palace in Jordan – is the largest and perhaps most important work of Islamic art in a museum anywhere in the world. Presented as a diplomatic gift by the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, the Mshatta Façade came to Berlin in 1903 and was placed on display a year later in a confined space in what was then the Kaiser-Friedrich-Museum (now the Bode-Museum). The correct classification of the Façade, however, was the subject of intense debate: As an Islamic façade, did it belong to the “foreign” Museum für Ostasiatische Kunst or with classical ancient objects, which were perceived as “European”? The idea that antiquity also formed the basis of Islamic art and culture was disputed at the time. The structure was correctly assigned to the Pergamonmuseum, where it has been on display since 1932. The Mshatta Façade symbolises the transition from Byzantine and ancient Iranian to Islamic art. With its hybridity and history of migration to Berlin, it embodies themes that are especially relevant today: cultural models, migration and provenance.

Ali Kaaf and the Relationship to Space

The German-Syrian artist Ali Kaaf (b. 1977), who studied at the Institut des Beaux-Arts in Beirut and the Berlin University of Fine Arts (UdK), currently teaches at the Weißensee Academy of Art Berlin. He understands the eventful history of the Mshatta Façade as a metaphor facilitating reflection on migration, integration, homeland and identity. In his installation I Am a Stranger: Twofold a Stranger, he works with various views and insights into the monumental façade. Kaaf creates a charged space that makes room for ambivalences in the area in-between – be that between the Façade and its intervention, history and the present, the familiar and the foreign, or the visible and the invisible. In this way, he makes the structure – erected around AD 740 – tangibly accessible, providing an experience for the viewer that is both physical and emotional. This relationship to space is fundamental to Kaaf’s works, in which various layers overlap, exposing the new and developing scope for different ways of thinking.

The Restoration of the Mshatta Façade on an Exhibition Construction Site

The Façade, the centrepiece and audience highlight of the Museum für Islamische Kunst (Museum for Islamic Art), will be restored as part of ongoing renovation work at the Pergamonmuseum starting in spring 2022. The restoration will be carried out at a publicly viewable construction site, after which the artefact will displayed anew in the museum’s refurbished north wing beginning in 2026.

A comprehensive catalogue about Ali Kaaf will be published by Hatje Cantz Verlag in March 2022: 224 pages, 130 illustrations, 44 euros.

A special exhibition by the Museum für Islamische Kunst, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin.

James-Simon-Galerie, Bodestraße
10178 Berlin

partially wheelchair accessible
Please note: Pergamonmuseum is exclusively entered through James-Simon-Galerie!
Site plan: Entrance to the Pergamonmuseum and Neues Museum (PDF)

All groups meet at the information desk at the upper foyer in James-Simon-Galerie, entering by using the big stairway.
Advice for group visits to the Pergamonmuseum an the Neues Museum (PDF)

Due to a technical issue, the lift is out of service until further notice, meaning the Museum für Islamische Kunst is not currently wheelchair accessible. The major architectural exhibits – such as the Processional Way, featuring the Ishtar Gate and the Market Gate of Miletus – are still accessible to people with mobility issues. 

 

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