Recognition in Art can be belated. It was only in 2012, at Documenta in Kassel, that Etel Adnan(born in 1925) was honoured. Since then this woman warrior whose weapons were poetry and painting, this woman of magnificent sensibility accumulated successes with the ongoing support of the director of the Serpentine Gallery, Hans Ulrich Obrist, among others. Just after visiting the very poetic Etel Adnan exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum in New York, I learned of her death at the age of 96 on 14 November 2021. Last week I also visited an exhibition at the Centre Pompidou Metz that used one of her ideas as its central theme: “Writing is drawing” (Ecrire c’est dessiner). 
The artistic community is deeply saddened.
Here is a report that shows her in the context of her daily life in Paris, on the Left Bank. She wrote her poetry and painted her pictures in the same room. More recently she also talked to us, in the company of her partner the artist Simone Fattal, about her vision for a better world. (


She had to wait until she was 87 years old to achieve recognition. It was in 2012 when she took part in the much anticipated Documenta in Kassel. 

Etel Adnan, born in 1925, received me at her apartment not far from the Place Saint Sulpice in the quarter of Saint-Germain-des-Prés in Paris.

She manages to be both lively and calm at the same time.

Although she no longer travels, her work is the subject of numerous exhibitions currently showing around the world, like in Bern in dialogue with the paintings of Paul Klee at the Zentrum Paul Klee, in Arles at the Van Gogh foundation as part of the exhibition “Hot Sun Late Sun”, in Marrakesh at the Yves Saint Laurent museum too as part of “Garden of Memory” in dialogue with her partner the sculptor Simone Fattal and the theatre director Bob Wilson, and also at MassMoca in North Adams, Massachusetts, in A yellow sun, A green sun, A yellow sun, A red sun, A blue sun.


The strength of her work lies, paradoxically, in a multidisciplinary creativity that remains for the most part underdeveloped in the large number of exhibitions in which she is participating.

Etel paints and writes poetry, always at the same desk. Etel paints and writes about the same things.

Her words and her paintings share the same spiritual ink. Her texts should be listened to or read while you look at her paintings, which are generally small scale works that tend to be composed of colourful, simple and contrasting shapes with a cubist quality.

Etel is a Lebanese polyglot. She spent part of her life in California before coming to live in Paris. She plays the quickfire filmed interview game and talks about time, space, recognition and, of course, painting and poetry…

She says: “I have a deep love for life, the phenomenon of life“.


When and how did you understand that you were an artist?




Which painters have inspired you?




What is success?





How important is the idea of nationality for you?




What distinction do you make between painting and poetry?




Can you show us where you usually paint?




What would you like people to remember about you?





We might conclude with some lines taken from her collection “Nights”, (Nightboat books. New York).


“Dear soul,

Am I only because I have been? (…)


Tonight I have invited my shadow”


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