Acknowledging Rasheed Araeen’s Fight to raise Profile of Black and Asian Art

Acknowledging Rasheed Araeen’s Fight to raise Profile of Black and Asian Art

Rasheed Araeen, born 1935,  is a London-based conceptual artist, sculptor, painter, writer, and curator. He graduated in civil engineering from the NED University of Engineering and Technology in 1962, and has been working as a visual artist since his arrival in London from Pakistan in 1964. He is to be thanked for his ground breaking work in raising the profile of Black and Asian Art in the UK.

Araeen was pursuing a career as an engineer in Karachi when he was first exposed to avant-garde art. This arrived through two channels: imported Western books and magazines and contact with Pakistani contemporary artists. Consequently, he decided to pursue art-making and embarked on a second career.

He began working as an artist without any formal training, producing sculptures influenced by Minimalism and by his engineering experience. In 1972 he joined the Black Panther Movement. Six years later he founded and began editing the journal Black Phoenix, which in 1989, was transformed into Third Text, one of the most important journals dealing with art, the Third World, Postcolonialism, and ethnicity. He is one of the pivotal figures in establishing a black voice in the British arts through his activities as a publisher, writer, and artist. His work demonstrates a concern with the problems of establishing an identity for the Third-World artists.

He belongs to an early generation of non-Western artists to live in the West. His artistic activity has been complemented since 1987 by the groundbreaking publication of Third Text. Third World Perspectives on Contemporary Art and Culture. In the first decade of its publication, the main aim was to reveal “the institutional closures of the art world and the artists they included, the second began the inquiry into the emergent phenomenon.

In 1989 he curated the landmark exhibition The Other Story – the first retrospective exhibition of British African, Caribbean and Asian modernism – featuring artists including Frank Bowling, Sonia Boyce, Eddie Chambers, Uzo Egonu, Mona Hatoum, Lubaina Himid, Gavin Jantjes, Donald Locke, David Medalla, Ronald Moody, Ahmed Parvez, Ivan Peries, Keith Piper, F. N. Souza and Aubrey Williams, as well as Araeen’s own work, which was mounted at the Hayward Gallery, South Bank Centre, and went on to Wolverhampton’s Art Gallery and Manchester’s City Art Gallery and Cornerhouse.

In 1999 Araeen spoke about his own journal Third Text as an attempt to “demolish the boundaries that separate art and art criticism”. He believed that writing was tantamount to raising his voice against the hegemonic discourse of the art world. This discourse had confined him to an ethnic stereotype that prevented him from becoming an artist in his own right.

Araeen has been among the first cultural practitioners to voice since the early 1970s the need of artists of African, Latin American and Asian origins to be represented in British cultural institutions. His approach allowed him to shape his ideas through a number of different media. He, in fact, curated exhibitions; initiated and published a number of journals (among which, besides the aforementioned Third Text, there is the 1978 Black Phoenix); produced art installations and community-based artistic projects.

ICOB Art sends a message of gratitude to Rasheed Araeen and others who fought with him, for his tireless work fighting for recognition and inclusion  of Black and Asian Artists.  Thank you Rasheed.

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