Abed Al Kadiri’s curatorial statement:
Hussein Madi’s Roman story began on New Year’s Eve, 1963. Upon arriving in the Italian capital, he enrolled in the Accademia di Belle Arte, initiating what would be a two-decade-long stay.
Madi’s first stop in Rome was the then-famous “Bar of Arabia,” documented by a small 1963 sketch depicting birds, a significant subject in works from his artistic career spanning over 50 years. Four years later, Madi was commissioned by the owner of the same bar to execute his largest-scale painting to date, in which birds transform into patterns, curves and bold black lines. A stirring summary of Madi’s foundational years in the Eternal City, the 160 x 390 cm masterwork crowns this exhibition. It bears witness to the young artist’s hard-earned reputation among 1960s art collectors, the first to purchase and showcase his paintings.
By locating these early collectors and investigating the fate of the works, this astounding collection reemerged. Unexpected Trove unfolded like a visual diary of Madi’s early interactions with the Italian environment through an exceptional ensemble of landscapes remarkably different from canvases he would create later during his first five years in Rome. It also emphasized his studio practice, at a time when he was developing his own rules of abstraction, ultimately expressing what he calls the “universal order of things.”
The exhibition featured never-before-exhibited paintings, produced between 1964 and 1970, during the artist’s early years in Rome, of which the majority was assumed lost for almost forty years due to meager documentation and murky provenances. Works resurfaced serendipitously in the last two years, partially through the sale of an Italian stately home, and local Italian auctions.
Fundamental to Madi’s career, these paintings, now a part of the Mazen and Loulia Soueid collection, frame the artist at a pivotal point in his artistic trajectory, and remain a testament to the Lebanese-Italian artistic exchanges of the mid-1960s.
Curator: Abed Al Kadiri
Works from the Mazen & Loulia Soueid collection.
Unexpected Trove—The Unseen Works of Hussein Madi was accompanied by a limited-edition catalogue published by Dongola Books, featuring an analytical essay by art historian Dr Marie Tomb and a text by journalist and editor Rebecca Proctor.
The exhibition was placed under the patronage of the Italian Embassy in Lebanon, and took place in collaboration with Christie’s.