Arabic Hurufiyya (letterism) is the name of a book that was written in 1990 by the prominent author and scholar Charbel Dagher. Nearly 25 years later, and at the Sharjah International Book Fair, Dagher launched the translation of the book into English. The translation was supported by the Barjeel Art Foundation and was carried out by one of the most important publishing houses in the world Skira in Italy.  

In a session chaired by Sheikh Sultan Sooud Al Qassemi, Founder of Barjeel Art Foundation, Dagher launched the translation of his book and discussed its importance as well as its cultural and historical context. The art of Hurufiyya sees the integration between art and the Arabic alphabet or as defined by Dagher in his book: “Artworks that engage with the Arabic language – letters or texts – as a visual element of material for composing.”

In addition to discussing Hurufiyya, attendees also spoke about the state-of-the-art collections in the Arab world and the culture of art collectors.

“Today art is seen as being more precious than diamonds. The artist has super powers - for with a stroke of a brush his work can cost hundreds of millions of dollars,” said Dagher.

Historically, however, things were slightly different. For instance in France in the 18th century artists were not allowed to display their art any where, explained Dagher. Later, they were only allowed to display them for two hours on a particular day.

“The art was usually hung on the houses’ facades. “There were no shops specialised in selling artistic works during those times.  There are many examples that show that art was not given great importance and it wasn’t seen as a public affair,” he said.

Today, Dagher says that we are living the age of imagery. “This is the era of a high value for art. The tools did not change prices but the keenness of achieving a high social status, makes the art a tool for social distinction and is an investment that has a high return,” he said.
Dagher has many compilations published in both Arabic and French in poetry, novel, art philosophy, literature, translation and history. He has participated many times as an arbiter in many international and Arab events and critiques as well. He has many critical contributions in many international and Arab symposiums and conferences in terms of art and artistic issues and is also a consultant in Islamic art and modern fine arts.

(The dulf today, novembre 67 2016)