- UNTITLED Abstractions Exhibition
UNTITLED Abstractions Exhibition
July - Dec 2023
Author WAFA ROZ
Published on Mon 3 July, 2023
Exhibition until Tue 31st, October 2023
UNTITLED 077’ is a series of exhibits, talks, and events organized by The Dalloul Art Foundation (DAF) in Beirut. This project seeks to answer questions such as:
Why do we expect an artwork to have a title?
When did titles become a necessity in the art world?
And how does titling feature in modern and contemporary Arab art?
DAF is presenting a number of interactive exhibitions showcasing a wide selection of artworks entitled ‘Untitled’ by artists from across the Arab world. Each exhibition falls under a specific theme, featuring 77 unique pieces. These pieces are selected from the 477 ‘Untitled’ artworks at DAF. The first show focuses on and engages with a selection of abstract artworks. ‘UNTITLED Abstractions’ investigates and challenges the role of a title, or lack thereof, in abstract art.
Untitled artworks are meant to
violate the convention of titling. In her book Picture
Titles: How and Why Western Paintings Acquired Their Names,
Ruth Yeazell (2015) explains that titles are expected. As such,
‘Untitled’ becomes a label that “acquires
its meaning from the
convention it violates.”i
In fact, most abstract artists avoided naming their artworks; they
preferred to keep the meaning of their work open-ended. Such
artworks offered the viewer a space to devise their own
interpretation. DAF has extended an open invitation for visitors and
participants of the ‘UNTITLED Abstractions’ show to do the same.
In his article ‘Untitled’
(1995), Dale Jacquette ii
explains that artists do not assign a specific title to their works
since sometimes they find it difficult to give a literal connotative
title to the creation. The artist often chooses ‘Untitled’ as a
purely random classification. In other cases, the artist seeks
prestige and fame by subsuming the work under the category of
‘Untitled’ productions. Regardless, not labeling an abstract work
furthers its intention of straying from the literal meaning.
However, untitled artworks are
not a new phenomenon. In pre-18th
century Europe, artists did not need to assign labels to their work
because most artworks were commissioned. The
subject and meaning of an image were typically the product of a
mutual understanding between the artist and patron. Art was created
for a particular space, such as a king’s palace, religious place,
or noblemen's houses, leaving locals familiar with the subject matter
of these artworks. In addition, pictures hardly circulated from one
country to another. Commercial
galleries, traveling exhibitions, art salons, auction houses, and art
fairs that today demand extensive labeling and cataloging were yet to
The need for registering and
archiving art objects started when artworks circulated across
countries, namely in Europe. An official art market for ready-made
art was first developed during the 16th
Century in the Netherlands. Assigning
titles to objects became necessary
as early museums expanded throughout Europe and the Arab world
equally – such as the Greco-Roman
Museum of Alexandria in 1895 and the Bardo Museum in Tunis in 1888.
first emerged in the Museo Capitolino in Rome in 1734 and the Louvre
in Paris in 1793.
Today, untitled artworks have
become a convention themselves, even though they have taken on a new
meaning and intention. Still, untitled artworks present a challenge
for tracking and documentation purposes. For example, the DAF
collection has faced such a challenge with two similar paintings by
Jordanian artist Khalid Khreis both of which are named Untitled,
2011. To distinguish between one untitled artwork and another
within the 477 ‘Untitled’ artworks at the foundation, DAF plans
to assign reference titles – known as parenthetical titles.
In ‘UNTITLED 077’, DAF invites visitors to become actively involved, not simply by looking at the artworks on display but also by engaging in open discussions. DAF hopes such a form of engagement opens the space for scholars, art historians, and art lovers to decode the visual language of ‘Untitled’ artworks and devise parenthetical tiles of their own.
i Yeazell, Ruth Bernard. “Before Titles.” Essay. In Picture Titles: How and Why Western Paintings Acquired Their Names, 19–24. Princeton, N.Y: Princeton University Press, 2015.
Exhibition until Tue 31st, October 2023
To attend please schedule a tour - click here >>
Check out the virtual tours of the Untitled Abstractions