Middle East heads West: Ayyam Gallery opens in London, Jeddah

Is Middle Eastern contemporary art poised to take off in the international market?

Renowned Middle Eastern art space Ayyam Gallery recently announced that they will open new branches in London and Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. The openings were inspired by the Middle East’s increasing prominence as a producer and consumer of contemporary art.

Interior view of Ayyam Gallery, Dubai.

Interior view of Ayyam Gallery, Dubai.

With their new spaces in London and Jeddah, Ayyam Gallery will operate five branches, adding to their current locations in Damascus, Dubai and Beirut. They plan to open both new galleries in the winter of 2012.

Ayyam told Art Radar that the main reason behind the new locations was to expand their reputation in the international art world. London in particular was chosen for its importance in the international art community. As Managing Partner Hisham Samawi told Art Radar,

London has become [a] global centre for the art market, [and] we believe that for a gallery to properly represent its artists a strong presence in London is important. Our goal is to move from being a regional gallery representing regional artists to a global gallery representing artists with a global reach.

Samawi also noted that Middle Eastern art is comparatively undervalued in the international market, with a significant portion of its collectors hailing from the region. However, over the past two years the gallery has seen a “considerable rise in interest from international institutions and collectors”, particularly at local art fairs. Given this, Samawi sees the move to London not only as a way to capitalise on this new trend, but also as a way to provide the knowledge and access to Middle Eastern contemporary art crucial to establishing the foundation for long-term success in the international market.

As for their new location in Jeddah, Samawi cited Saudi Arabia’s growth as both a producer and consumer of Middle Eastern contemporary art as the main reason behind opening a gallery there. Ayyam also hopes that by opening a space in Jeddah they can contribute to the city’s growing art infrastructure and help it become a successful art centre.

Ayyam will open their new London space with an exhibition by Nadim Karam. The gallery chose Karam because he has been active in London before: he has a sculpture on permanent display on Notting Hill and often gives talks and seminars in the city.

In Jeddah, they will open the new gallery with a group show of some of their younger, emerging artists. Samawi sees this as necessary to entering the relatively young Saudi Arabian art market, telling Art Radar, “In Saudi we are focusing on building the infrastructure and developing a collector base there, while in London there is already an established one.”

About the gallery

Ayyam Gallery was founded in 2006 in Damascus, Syria to promote contemporary art from the Middle East. Since their inception, Ayyam has expanded their programming to include the Shabab Ayyam Project, an incubator for young artists from the region, Ayyam Publishing, focused on local art books, and Ayyam Auctions, which on 22 October 2012 will host its fourteenth sale.


Related Topics: Asia expands, market watch – galleries, gallery shows, art in the Middle East

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