The NYU Abu Dhabi Art Gallery opened its doors to the public on Monday, November 15, with the exhibition Modernisms: Iranian, Turkish, and Indian Highlights from NYU’s Abby Weed Grey Collection. This is the first physical exhibition in the gallery since it moved to virtual programs in Spring of 2020. Visits require a ticket booking.

Abby Weed Grey was a North American collector who made multiple trips abroad in the 1960s and early 1970s, to explore and collect modern art from across Asia. She made eight trips to Iran, and four trips each to India and Turkey, where she acquired the prints, drawings, paintings, and sculpture that came to form the nucleus of the Abby Weed Grey Collection of Modern Asian and Middle Eastern art, housed at New York University’s Grey Art Gallery.

The exhibition sheds new light on famed artists such as Parviz Tanavoli, Fahrelnissa Zeid , and M.F. Husain , and also includes the collector’s personal letters, journals, invoices, catalogues, invitations, and photographs from the Abby Weed Grey Papers in the NYU Archives. The archives make visible how these artists drew on their specific heritages while also engaging in global discourses around key issues of modernity.

Essays in the accompanying book allow the viewer to understand how artists of various nationalities melded local traditions with global trends of the rapidly changing modern world of the 1960s. The collection thereby contributes to ongoing dialogues that help expand the canons of modern art beyond the traditional areas of North America and Europe.

Maya Allison, Chief Curator at NYU Abu Dhabi and Executive Director of The NYUAD Art Gallery, said: “We are excited to welcome the local community back to The NYU Abu Dhabi Art Gallery with an exhibition of such historical significance and regional relevance. Abby Weed Grey’s goal was to promote international artistic exchange in an academic setting, and her mission unwittingly foreshadowed our own mission here at NYU Abu Dhabi, 35 years later. NYU’s Abby Weed Grey Collection is a great example of how the act of collecting today becomes part of future art histories, and can make possible true cultural dialogue, through the stories that each of these artworks bring to us.”

Modernisms opened in New York City in 2019, and traveled to the Block Museum of Art at Northwestern University in the US before making its way to the UAE. Modernisms is the second collaboration between The NYUAD Art Gallery and NYU’s Grey Art Gallery. Lynn Gumpert, director of the Grey Art Gallery and the curator of Modernisms notes: “We are thrilled that Modernisms will be presented at the NYU Abu Dhabi Art Gallery, which also hosted our acclaimed exhibition Inventing Downtown: Artist-Run Galleries in New York City, 1952–1965 in 2017. The time seems right to reexamine Mrs. Grey’s trailblazing efforts toward cultural exchange.”

The Grey Art Gallery has the largest institutional holdings of modern Iranian art outside Iran; the largest known institutional collection of modern Turkish art outside Turkey; and some 80 works of modern Indian art. The collection of Abby Weed Grey comprises some of the most important modern artists from that period and those regions. She embarked on her mission to collect contemporary art by non-Western artists in 1960, which resulted in a collection, the importance of which has become clear as scholarship around these artists grows.

Modernisms: Iranian, Turkish, and Indian Highlights from NYU’s Abby Weed Grey Collection is organized by the Grey Art Gallery, New York University, and is made possible in part by the generous support of Dalinc and Mehves Ariburnu; Violet Jabara Charitable Trust; WLS Spencer Foundation; A. Alfred Taubman Foundation; Avid Modjtabai; Charina Endowment Fund; Persian Heritage Foundation; Vazifdar Builders Pvt. Ltd.; Ariel and Alaleh Ostad; the Grey’s Director’s Circle, Inter/National Council, and Friends; and the Abby Weed Grey Trust. In-kind support is provided by ArtCareNYC Inc.