Lebanese-American poet, philosopher, novelist, essayist and visual artist Etel Adnan was born in Beirut in 1925 to a Syrian Muslim father and a Greek Orthodox mother. After attending a French school in Beirut, she studied philosophy at the Sorbonne in Paris, and then moved to California at the age of 30, teaching at the Dominican College of San Rafael from 1958 to 1972.
Upon her return to Lebanon, she worked as the cultural editor for two Lebanese newspapers. Her writings on the Lebanese civil war were published in Paris as the novel Sitt Marie Rose, which won the Franco-Arab Friendship award in 1977. Her other literature works, encompassing theatre, novels, essays and poetry, include Journey to Mount Tamalpais, In the Heart of the Heart of Another Country, Sea and Fog and The Arab Apocalypse. Her collection of poetry Night was voted one of the ten best books of the year by the New York Times on 22 December 2016.
While Adnan describes herself as an “American poet”, she is also a painter and featured at documenta 13 in Kassel in 2012. From 1995, her paintings have developed in a more intimate format, reinforcing the colours and the abstraction of her shapes, whether they be circles or rectangles. Her creations in various media (tapestries, drawings, paintings, Super 8 films) have been shown at the Centre Pompidou in Paris, the Whitney Museum and the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, the Arab World Institute in Paris, the Museum Haus Konstruktiv in Zurich, and also at Galleria Continua in Beijing and White Cube in Hong Kong. Her creative output was the focus of a retrospective in Doha, at the Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art, in 2014.
Etel Adnan’s works, in simple primary shapes, are drawn from wandering and movement, blending written language and visual art with a strong political engagement. She currently lives in Paris.
Previous exhibitions (selection)
Etel Adnan – Tout ce que je fais est mémoire, Château La Coste, Le Puy-Sainte-Réparade (Aix-en-Provence, France)
Etel Adnan – La fulgurance du geste, Fondation Jan Michalski pour l’écriture et la littérature, Montricher (Switzerland)
Etel Adnan – Tapisseries et estampes, Galerie Lelong, Paris (France)
Etel Adnan, Institut du monde arabe, Paris (France)
Etel Adnan: The Weight of the World, Serpentine Sackler Gallery, London (United Kingdom)
Here and Elsewhere, New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York (United States, collective exhibition)