In recent years, Jordan has become a Middle Eastern haven for art by promoting the work of Arab artists. In turn, this has attracted the attention of the international art community, and today Amman’s museums and galleries boast impressive collections from all around the world. Artists here are celebrated, protected, and allowed to innovate, a freedom that shines through the nature and diversity of the work on display throughout the city.
Any art enthusiast who comes to Amman will feel spoiled by the sheer variety of things to see. Whether your preference is fine art, contemporary art, sculpture, paintings, installations, or photography, you are guaranteed to encounter unique works that blur the lines between past and present,challenging old perceptions in new ways. The art spaces around the city are as scattered and eclectic as this dynamism would demand, so we’ve designed an itinerary to guide you through the scene’s many textures.
A voyage into the Jordanian art world ought to begin in the place where this all began — the Jordan National Gallery of Fine Arts. Established in 1980 under the patronage of the Jordanian monarchy, its collection is easily the most globally diverse in Amman, featuring works by more than 1,000 artists from over 66 countries. It prides itself on exhibiting the artistic excellence of the developing world across a variety of mediums.
For further insight into modern art from the Arab world, head west toward Amman’s cozy Abdoun neighborhood to visit Orient Gallery. This gallery specializes in paintings and sculptures from both established and upcoming Arab artists, getting you as close as possible to the region’s up-and-coming talents. In the nearby commercial district of Umm Uthaima, Orfali Gallery strives to create a holistic creative space, exposing visitors to art from as many schools as possible and regularly hosting classes, critics, poets, and musicians.
When you move on to the city center, begin by taking in the views at Dar Al-Anda. Located on a hillside in Jebel Lweibdeh, this regal “home of the giving” offers an extensive private collection of high-profile art from around the world, and its breezy balcony is the perfect vantage point from which to enjoy the city or one of their seasonal music events. Its ambition and grandeur is matched in Amman only by Darat Al-Funun, a venue comprising six restored historical buildings, a tea garden, an archaeological site, a cooperative space known as “the Lab,” and an art library. Between the permanent collection, rotating exhibitions, talks, and film screenings, you can easily pass an entire day here in creative fulfillment.
It will come as no surprise that to really appreciate the ongoing art developments in Jordan, you must venture to the cultural heart of Amman, the famous Rainbow Street. Wadi Finan Gallery is unique among the city’s institutions for its community initiatives, including art workshops for the blind and a cooperative project with the United Nations High Council for Refugees that introduces displaced children to creative endeavors to reduce the stress in their lives. The nearby Nabad Art Gallery has made waves in the Arab art community in a short span of time since its opening in 2008. Situated in a chic 1930s residence, the gallery puts Jordanian art front and center, believing in its power as a tool for cross-cultural communication in the Middle East and beyond. Its annual “Trendsetting” exhibition has a specific focus on design art and architecture, and draws high-profile artists from all over the region to create one-off works.
With thousands of years of art and cultural history to reference, the contemporary Jordanian art scene was always going to thrive as soon as it had the spaces to do so. It’s amazing and fortuitous what has occurred in the community in such a short span of time, and while we can only imagine the exciting future that lies ahead, the scene still largely flies under the world’s radar. In Amman, the traveling enthusiast has the chance to get ahead of the curve and experience art that pushes all the boundaries.
Cover Photo by Khara Woods