Young non-profit art gallery transforms Kuwaiti cultural landscape – director interview



Founded in 2011, Contemporary Art Platform (CAP), the only non-profit art gallery in Kuwait, is transforming the cultural landscape by providing free and progressive arts education to the public.

Since its inception in 2011, CAP has quickly become one of Kuwait’s pioneering institutions for modern and contemporary art. As the only non-profit art gallery in the country, one of the main objectives of this revolutionary art space is to enable young people to appreciate art.

Inside Contemporary Art Platform, Kuwait. Image by Art Radar.

Inside Contemporary Art Platform, Kuwait. Image by Art Radar.

With an interest in cross-cultural exchange that extends beyond fine art and into other arts disciplines, Contemporary Art Platform has developed a unique identity in the tiny, oil-rich sheikhdom of Kuwait. Located in the industrial area of Shuwaikh in Kuwait City, the 700-square-metre art space includes a number of movable exhibition walls and an arts library, a cinema, conference room and design corner.

Aside from regular art exhibitions showing work by both local and international artists, artist talks, workshops, lectures and speaker panels, the gallery regularly screens, as part of its community programming, a unique (in Kuwait at least) mix of regional and international art films. Screenings of this kind are rare in Kuwait, and are proving popular with local art professionals and enthusiasts alike.

Click here to read about a recent screening at CAP of a documentary on Japanese artist Tadashi Kawamata’s Le passage des Chaises.

Abed Al Kadiri, Director, Contemporary Art Platform, Kuwait. Image by Art Radar.

Abed Al Kadiri, Director, Contemporary Art Platform, Kuwait. Image by Art Radar.

Abed Al Kadiri is a painter and the director of CAP. Art Radar interviewed him to learn more about the gallery’s extensive, thought-provoking programmes that are aimed at encouraging public involvement in art.

What makes Contemporary Art Platform different from other galleries in Kuwait?

The gallery is committed to discovering and promoting young local, regional and international artists and giving them an opportunity to show their creativity to the wider public. Our artists, exhibitions, workshops and film screenings really express it all.

Gallery staff member, Ayah Abu Baker Abdel Basset, studies the signage for a "calligraffiti" workshop held at CAP by Paris-based artist Vincent Abadie Hafez,aka Zepha.

Gallery staff member, Ayah Abu Baker Abdel Basset, studies the signage for a "calligraffiti" workshop held at CAP by Paris-based artist Vincent Abadie Hafez (a.k.a. Zepha). Image by Art Radar.

When did you start your film screening programme? 

Ever since CAP’s inception, film screenings have been an integral part of our educational and cultural programme. We had many film screenings on the side of each exhibition we [have] hosted at CAP. Since December 2012, we have started a new series called “Artist Documentary” that features a different artist or a group of artists.

Why did you start the “Artist Documentary” screening programme?

We at CAP aim to expose our visitors and audience to the artist’s process, his background and the influences that shape his artworks.

Why did you select these films for this particular audience?

We have chosen these particular films based on their diversity as we want to promote different artists and different thoughts with every film screening.

Can you tell me a bit more about the artist films that you have showcased in the past?

Recently, we showcased Axis of Light, a brilliant and compelling documentary by Pia Getty, who is an acclaimed filmmaker and an environmentalist. This marked our debut film screening, and the film included eight established artists from the Middle East region.

Watch the trailer for Pia Getty’s Axis of Light below or on YouTube.

Axis of Light won the Best Feature documentary at the Madrid International Film Festival 2012 and was also a Remi Winner of the 45th Annual World Festival- Houston International Film Festival 2012. Prior to this, we also held two seasons of Future Shorts films and I am happy to note that the public reaction has been very positive to date.

Can you tell us a bit more about the Future Shorts Festival?

Just to elaborate, the Future Shorts Festival is the biggest pop up film festival of its kind, showcasing the most exciting short films from around the world. This festival travels to over 172 countries and 547 cities with more than 75,000 people…. Future Shorts celebrates the best and most innovative short films, connecting global stories with global audiences.

Can you give us some examples?

Some of the notable featured short films screened are Café Regular, Cairo by Ritesh Batra, A Brief History of John Baldessari by Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost, Rite by Michael Pearce, The Black Balloon by Benny and Josh Safdie and On The Line by Reto Caffi.

Watch the trailer for Café Regular, Cairo below or on YouTube.

Have you screened any documentaries on local Kuwaiti art?

We recently screened Let There Be Night, a 15-minute-long documentary by Abdullah Qabazard. It narrates the change in Kuwaiti architecture following the discovery of oil and the consequential construction boom of the 1940s to the 1970s. The documentary also tackles the issue of ‘architectural eyesores’.

What kind of people attend these events?

People interested in art, students, art lovers and anyone who is interested in knowing more about the world of art. We’ve had an incredible response to our events.

How often do you hold these or similar events at CAP?

We hold one film screening every two weeks.

Is anyone else in Kuwait doing what you are doing at CAP?

Well, there are some other private cultural organisations that have similar programmes, such as CineMagic, but they are not focusing on art per se. So we at CAP would like to believe that we are the only organisation that is showcasing film screenings on a regular basis and have the opportunity to educate people about visual culture.

CAP has an extensive art library, which it makes available to the public. Image by Art Radar.

CAP has an extensive art library, which it makes available to the public. Image by Art Radar.

What makes CAP stand out in the local art scene?

Contemporary Art Platform is the only art gallery that is a non-profit organisation in Kuwait. We usually have collective exhibitions, and our big space helps us host workshops, lectures and film screenings. As the icing on the cake, we have a huge collection of art books in our library.

What does your exhibition programme look like for the rest of the year?

We have two upcoming exhibitions. From 4 February to 4 March 2013, we will be holding a show titled “Body Variances“, an exhibition on sculptures held in collaboration with Mark Hachem Gallery.

“Body Variances” presents five European sculptors that expose the discrepancies of the human body, its relation to and interactions with surroundings, other bodies, people, events and arts, depicting the body’s reaction towards psychological and emotional experiences of self conflicts and/or inner peace.

Exhibition flyer for "Body Variances", an upcoming show at Contemporary Art Platform, Kuwait. Image courtesy Contemporary Art Platform.

Exhibition flyer for "Body Variances", an upcoming show at Contemporary Art Platform, Kuwait. Image courtesy Contemporary Art Platform.

The exhibition includes some of the most established sculptors from Europe, such as Anne De Villemejane, Arman, Martin C. Herbst, Mauro Corda and Pollès, depicting in over thirty sculptures their view of the body’s multiple reactions and actions on daily matters and sudden happenings in five different contemporary visions and approaches.

Furthermore, we will also be hosting “Arab Abstraction” with Lebanese art expert Saleh Barakat as a curator.

I am proud to say that this exhibition includes over seventy notable artists from the Arab world that were born before 1960. It includes works by Kamal Boullata, Shafic Abboud, Abdullah Murad, Ramsis Younan, Mohammed Al Ameri, Fateh Moudarres, Dia Al Azzawi, Mounir Canaan, Mahjoub Ben Bella, Jafar Islah, Yvette Achkar, Rachid Diab, and Farid Awad.

Screen capture of the trailer for . Image by Art Radar.

Screen capture of the trailer for Edward Hopper and The Blank Canvas. Image by Art Radar.

Our next screening is on Edward Hopper, who was a prominent American realist painter and printmaker. The documentary, titled Edward Hopper and The Blank Canvas, is directed by Jean Pierre Devillers.

The film bears witness to Hopper’s fierce independence as a painter well aware of the artistic stakes of his time, split between realism and abstraction.

DP/KN/HH

Related Topics: interviews with art professionals, non-profit art organisations, art galleries in Kuwait

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