Rasheed Araeen

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Rasheed Araeen (Festivaletteratura 2010, Mantua).

Rasheed Araeen (Urdu: رشید آرائیں‎; 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.

Art career[edit]

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.[1] 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 Third-World artists.

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 Art Gallery and Manchester City Art Gallery and Cornerhouse.[2]

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 first signaled by the notorious show Magiciens de la terre of the assimilation of the exotic other into the new world art," as Sean Cubitt summarized the goals in the Third Text Reader in 2002. 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.

In 2001 he was invited by the Kunsthaus Bregenz in Austria to publish his institutional critique of the present art museum in the publication The Museum as Arena. Araeen published the outcome of his private correspondence with the Ikon Gallery in Birmingham, which had asked him to join an exhibition in 1980 (this correspondence was also published in Rasheed Araeen, Making Myself Visible). His proposal was declined when the other ten artists refused to show their work alongside his. Their opposition not only manifested cultural conflicts, but was also meant to defend the purity of the gallery space where Araeen had proposed to perform the slaughter and consumption of a goat (according to a Muslim ritual). Along with the actual performance, he had announced that he would display and tear up "the pages of a contemporary art history book". Thus, the offence directed against the aesthetics of the art gallery was complemented with a rejection of the official story of modernist art and avant-garde history. Araeen participated in the 9th Gwangju Biennale (2012).[3]

In December 2017 a major retrospective of Araeen's work which spotted 60 years of his work was presented at Van Abbemuseum in Rotterdam and then toured to MAMCO in Geneva, the BALTIC in Gateshead, and Garage Museum in Moscow. [4]


From Third Text, Kala Press [incorporating Black Phoenix], London 1987:

  • "Conversation with Aubrey Williams", Third Text #2, Winter 1987
  • "From Primitivism to Ethnic Arts / & / Why Third Text?", Third Text #1, Autumn 1987
  • "Gravity and [Dis] Grace", Third Text #22, Spring 1993
  • "Our Bauhaus Others' Mudhouse" [the Magiciens de la terre issue], Third Text #6, Spring 1989
  • "A Discussion" with other artists and curators of Manifesta 1, in Witte de With, Cahier #5, Center for Contemporary Art, Rotterdam 1.
  • Zero to Infinity, deconstructing spaces in Lima. A work by Rasheed Araeen.


  1. ^ Rasheed Araeen, "From Primitivism to Ethnic Arts." In Susan Hiller (ed.), The Myth of Primitivism, London and New York: Routledge, 1991, p. 160.
  2. ^ "The Other Story - exhibition", Diaspora Artists.
  3. ^ "Announcing the 90 artists in ROUNDTABLE: The 9th Gwangju Biennale", e-flux.
  4. ^ "RASHEED ARAEEN A Retrospective, curated by Nick Aikens".


  • Making Myself Visible (London: Kala Press, 1984)
  • From Modernism to Postmodernism: Rasheed Araeen: a Restrospective, exhibition catalogue, essays by P. Bickers, J. Roberts, and D. Phillipi (Birmingham: Ikon Gal., 1987)
  • From Two Worlds (London: Whitechapel Art Gallery, 1986)
  • Global Visions: Towards a New Internationalism in the Visual Arts (London: Kala Press, 1994)
  • Rasheed Araeen, exhibition catalogue, essay by P. Overy (London: S. London A. G., 1994)

External links[edit]