Staged once again under the patronage of Her Royal Highness Princess Sabeeka Bint Ibrahim Al Khalifa, Wife of the King of Bahrain, President of the Supreme Council for Women and a keen supporter of the Kingdom’s cultural heritage, ArtBAB 2019 (Art Bahrain Across Borders), the fourth edition of one of the Middle East’s newest art fairs took place from 6-10 March and saw 17 international galleries, from such far-flung countries as Argentina, Greece and Bulgari, displayed side-by-side regional galleries and artists from the GCC, at Bahrain Exhibitions & Convention Centre. Of note this year was the BAAB Pavilion of Bahraini contemporary art showcasing 30 artists from the country and a focus on VR via the VR Private Museum from France and The Kremer Collection, a VR Private Museum from Netherlands – both attesting to the fair’s forward-thinking vision.
Courtesy of ArtBAB
“ArtBAB 2019 has been an exhilarating and immersive journey in many directions. Visitors saw the blossoming of several new Bahraini artists, the interpretation of art in new directions such as curated fashion and crafts,” said the fair’s director and founder Kaneka Subberwal. “I am also excited that Art Select has been commissioned by the organisers of La Paris Biennale to showcase 100 contemporary Bahraini artists as the Kingdom gets special status as the 'invited country' in this September's show." Subberwal announced that ArtBAB had signed an MoU with the organisers of La Paris Biennale, which will see Bahrain taking centre stage as the “invited country” at the prestigious French art fair.
The Paris Biennale runs from 13-17 September 2019. “This Pavilion shall be conceived and curated by me and Art Select Programme Manager Tasneem Al Shuroughi, in collaboration with a curatorial team from Paris,” added Subberwal. “We shall also exhibit artefacts and collectibles from our newly launched crafts showcase, The Bahrain Room.”
Courtesy of ArtBAB
All in all, the ArtBab is a celebration of local talent, and this was exemplified by one of the highlights in this year’s Galleries section: ZU_CACE, the College of Arts and Creative Enterprises from Zayed University, Abu Dhabi. The booth featured works by four young female graduates exploring cultural identity in the GCC. Included were works by Emirati Afra Al Dhaheri who completed an MFA in painting at the Rhode Island School of Design and now teaches painting at Zayed University. On display was her untitled work created during her time in the US and consisting of hand-woven cotton fabric decorated with cement markings. The work is a recollection of her childhood memories of the buildings she grew up with and that now cease to exist as the UAE rapidly develops.
Also on display was a poignant film work by Shaikha Al Ketbi and installation and works on paper by Arwa Najem and Narjes Noureddine. "Reoccurring themes among many young Emirati artists are that of transition and change,” said Walter Willems, Exhibitions Curator at Zayed University. “For ArtBAB I selected work by four young artists who have either graduated from Zayed University or are about to graduate. Their work is process based and they often use unstable mediums and materials that are not specifically designed for art production. Afra Al Dhaheri combines hand-woven cotton fabric with cement revisiting her childhood memories of a city under construction in contrast with local craft techniques; Arwa Najem is reclaiming vintage imagery used in ‘the West’ depicting Emirati culture by reprinting these images using her own pigments made from spices and ground up rocks found in the UAE, Narjes Noureddine turns Arabic poetry into 3-dimensional calligraphy installations using laser-cut stainless steel characters that can be rearranged in various configurations; and Shaikha Al Ketbi’s video depicts a performance in which a black line is created by the performer in an abandoned mansion in the desert that is left behind mid-construction as if to separate sky from land."
Press play to watch the highlights of Abu Dhabi Art.