Preview: ArtBahrain 2015

Bahrain takes aim at contemporary art fair market. 

Manama’s Bahrain Bay hosts the inaugural ArtBahrain, with a showing of local artists and galleries from the Middle East and beyond. The new event runs from 13 to 16 October 2015.

City of Manama, Bahrain. Image courtesy ArtBahrain.

City of Manama, Bahrain. Image courtesy ArtBahrain.

A new art fair is about to be unveiled in the Middle East. ArtBahrain (13-16 October 2015) has the ambition of becoming a “premier art event” in the region alongside Art Dubai, Abu Dhabi Art Fair, the Beirut Art Fair and the Sharjah Biennial. Co-founded by Kaneka Subberwal (Founder, Art Select) and Khalid Juman (Editor-in-Chief, Durrah Magazine), and under the patronage of Her Royal Highness Princess Sabika bint Ibrahim Al Khalifa, the region’s newest contemporary art fair is competing for attention in an area already rich with contemporary art events and venues.

To set itself apart, ArtBahrain seeks to promote local talent while bringing top tier international art collectors, VIP clients and art lovers to Manama, the winner of the “Arab Capital of Tourism” award (2013). Co-founder Kaneka Subberwal, an art adviser for corporate and individual clients at Art Select, told Art Radar that Bahrain is well-positioned to join the region’s vibrant contemporary art scene:

It was an idea waiting to happen, given that there is a lot of international art activity in the region what with the Art Dubai, the Guggenheim and Louvre coming to Abu Dhabi soon, Bahrain with its deep rooted art heritage and pulsating art scene couldn’t be far behind!
ArtBahrain Artist’s Pavilion render. Image courtesy ArtBahrain.

ArtBahrain Artist’s Pavilion render. Image courtesy ArtBahrain.

Global consultants, local talent

To support the fledgling event, three international art consultants have been brought in. Janet Rady heads up the fair’s Speaker’s Panel and Education Programme. Rady is a London-based fine art consultant specialising in Middle Eastern contemporary artists and brings more than 20 years of experience. Dr Alka Raghuvanshi (India) is a writer, artist, curator and journalist who will be acting as Communications Editor. The trio is rounded out by Head of VIP Relations Renaud Siegmann (France), who has over 15 years experience as an arts journalist and architecture critic.

The Speaker’s Panel and Education Programme will include artists Nja Mahdaoui (Tunisia), Rachid Koraichi (Algeria) and Zoulikha Bouabdellah (Algeria) and provide opportunities to learn more about curating, collecting and investing in art via panel discussions and workshops. The strength of the programme, according to Rady, is the opportunity to meet and discuss topics ranging from collecting to investing in art with industry experts. As she tells us:

The ArtBahrain Talks consists of three sessions of talks / discussions and presentations per day from 13 – 15 October 2015.  These are divided into workshop sessions in the morning, designed for 30 VIP participants who will have a chance to engage personally with key international and Bahraini speakers and experts in their field on a variety of matters relating to art collecting / preservation / sharing and patronage.  These workshops will be followed by individual MENASA artists’ presentations who will showcase their practice.

Hanibal Srouji, ‘Boogie Woogie II’, 2014, acrylic on canvas, neon, 80 x 15cm. Image courtesy the artist.

Hanibal Srouji, ‘Boogie Woogie II’, 2014, acrylic on canvas, neon, 80 x 15 cm. Image courtesy the artist.

The gallery line-up of 24 participating galleries includes Albemarle Gallery (United Kingdom), Al Riwaq (Bahrain), Amina Gallery (Bahrain), Arabian Collections Gallery (Saudi Arabia), Busaad Art Gallery (Bahrain), Elmarsa Gallery (Tunisia/UAE), Hend Gallery (Bahrain), Marsam Mattar (UAE) and Samer Kozah Gallery (Syria/Lebanon).  Subberwal, says that one of the highlights of the fair is to introduce the new generation of Bahraini contemporary artists:
Bahraini art has been making ripples in the region for over five decades and in the last decade artists from Bahrain have been making their presence felt at the global level too thanks to better outreach and positioning. Its concerns of identity may be similar but the manifestation is unique, which is what renders it special.
Omar Al Rashid, ‘The Knight ’, 2014, acrylic on canvas. Image courtesy the artist.

Omar Al Rashid, ‘The Knight ’, 2014, acrylic on canvas. Image courtesy the artist.

According to an ArtBahrain press release, the fair will include an international cast of artists:

  • Jamal Abdul Rahim (Bahrain)
  • Omar Al Rashid (Bahrain)
  • Sujata Bajaj (India)
  • Mattar Bin Lahej (UAE)
  • Satish Gupta (India)
  • Nja Mahdaoui (Tunisia)
  • Ugo Nespolo (Italy)
  • Hanibal Srouji (Lebanon)

The fair will see the opening of the “Eighteen Year Retrospective World Tour” by artist Sacha Jafri. The show includes 48 works including pieces from the artist’s 12 “Collections” (1996-2014). Jafri’s work has been purchased by several heads of state; the artist once was commissioned by Prince Charles to paint an image depicting the world’s most influential Muslims. An artist’s pavilion is also being presented during the fair in collaboration with the Bahrain Arts Society, a non-profit organisation dedicated to promoting Bahraini artists through exhibitions, lectures, workshops and other cultural events, adding a further level of commitment towards supporting artists within the kingdom.

Lisa Pollman


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