Bahrain art fair showcases growing regional talent

Fair aims to dispel misconceptions about the region and showcase the talent of rising artists

Manama: Bringing both regional and international artists together, the third edition of Art Bahrain Across Borders (Art Bab 2018) opened in Manama on Wednesday.


The art fair aims to highlight Manama’s growing appeal as a hub for art—it is running until March 18.

Held under the Patronage of Her Royal Highness Princess Sabeeka Bint Ebrahim Al Khalifa, Wife of the King of Bahrain, President of the Supreme Council for Women, Art Bab 2018 has become one of Bahrain’s most prominent art exhibitions, with this year’s edition proving to its biggest yet, with artists coming from countries like the UK, France, Italy, India, and the UAE.

“Art Bab is Bahrain’s premier art event which brings the global art community along with our local artists through the art fair. This year the participation at Art Bab has increased by 35 per cent compared to last year, we had 10 galleries on show last time compared to this year where we have 17 galleries featured from all around the world,” said Kaneka Subberwal, fair and programme director for Art Bab 2018, and the founder of Art Select.

“We are so happy to have such a great mix of artists and it truly makes this event a universal art platform. Art is a fantastic medium for bringing people together and looking past our differences, art does truly go beyond borders because it’s completely unfiltered, the artists speaks from their heart and says and does it as they feel it,” she added.

Subberwal says the art fair aims to dispel misconceptions about the region and showcase the talent of rising artists.

“The art scene here in the gulf just keeps improving. The art scene has existed for a very long in Bahrain and many people around the world may not be aware of this,” she said.

Among the artists involved in this year’s Art Bab is Hannan Hassan Al Khalifa—a photographer for more than 30 years—who is one of Bahrain’s most prominent artists.

She has traveled to Yemen, Egypt, Ireland, and Japan for photoshoots.

“When I was six years old my father took me to Egypt and I saw the famous singer Abdul Halim Haifz, I shook hands with him at the time and when I came back to Bahrain and told everybody nobody believed me, and so from then on I wanted to have a camera to take pictures,” she said.

Speaking about her current photography works, Al Khalifa said that she was focusing on bringing attention to Bahrain’s old buildings and homes, which, she said she hoped to see preserved.

“Art is good way to talk about culture and history, and I do that through my pictures, which I have taken of old houses. It’s always important to let the next generations know that just because something is old doesn’t mean it has no use. A people without a culture and history are nothing,” she said.

“When I see these old homes I always think about all the memories and lives that were shared inside them, the good and the bad times they had, all the conservations that took place inside and all the other little simple things that happened. This is all history, and only the photograph can freeze that moment,” she added.

Al Khalifa said that as a woman she was happy to see many other young Bahraini female artists emerging on the scene, and said that she hoped her story could inspire many more others to do the same.

“I do feel that I have some responsibility as a veteran photographer, so I do try to encourage more women to get involved in art.

She noted that getting into the profession now, as a woman, has become easier than when she started.

Another artist taking part in the art fair is 20-year-old Rawdha Al Ketbi from the UAE.

“I like to shoot abandoned places and items I find there. I also put the items on display,” she says.

“As a young artist it feels amazing to be able to exhibit my work at this event, and to get the chance to meet and talk with so many other different artists. The art scene in our region is rapidly growing with young people, and it’s always good when you have platforms like this that give a space not just for the established artists and collectors, but also for the young students,” she added.

“At the end of the day everyone has their own sense of artistic expression, each one is different and unique to them, but the most important thing I believe is to be able to have a platform that allows them to showcase their talent,” she said.

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