Gulf Arab Artists Are Ready for You to See Their Work

Courtesy of the Khaleeji Art Museum.

Omani artist Mujahid Al Malki sells his art through Foundation. His photograph Swim Good was exhibited in the Khaleeji Art Museum’s Art For Change digital group art exhibition last year.

Editor's Note: This article is a guest post by Manar and Sharifah Alhinai, the founders of Sekka Magazine and the directors of the Khaleeji Art Museum.

Growing up, there were only a few options to consume Gulf Arab art: art galleries, museums and through coverage in the media. The eruption of social media in recent years, however, has provided art enthusiasts and collectors with the opportunity to connect directly with Gulf Arab artists and browse their work at the click of a button, any day and time.

Shortly after we established Sekka—a youth-led arts and culture publication and platform—almost four years ago, we began to build a vast network of artists from the Arab Gulf States (and wider Arab region, for that matter), and we got to work closely with those who are slowly becoming game-changers in the world of art.

In addition to their creativity, many of these emerging artists have shared a common concern, which is that many art institutions and art events in the Arab Gulf States have showcased certain big names over and over again, and have had relatively little space for others. Their frustration led many of these creatives to improvise. They didn’t wait for institutions and galleries to approach them and ask to showcase or represent their work. Rather, their Instagram pages became their own private galleries and spaces through which collectors connected with them directly for commissions and to acquire their work.

Courtesy of Khaleeji Art Museum.

Emerging Bahraini artist Huda Jamal's Harassment In A Parallel Universe was exhibited in the Khaleeji Art Museum’s Enough Is Enough digital group art exhibition, last March.

Given the insight that we gained over the years, and given our shared, pre-existing passion for regional art, we knew we had to do something about it. After some discussion, we decided to establish a space where we would showcase the work of contemporary emerging Khaleeji (Gulf natives) and Gulf-based artists alongside more established names, and through which we also documented the art movement in the region; a space unlike any other we had come across.

The pandemic had pushed many of us to spend more time indoors, and that meant that art enthusiasts who were deprived of physical art events and exhibitions now looked for virtual and digital experiences. We realized then that a museum with a digital presence would not only be appreciated by artists, collectors and enthusiasts alike, but it would also ensure a wider exposure of our art and culture with visitors from around the world.

The rise of NFTs not only helps protect digital artists’ work, but also provides art lovers with a convenient option to collect art during a pandemic that has greatly restricted our movement. Today, digital artists from the Arab Gulf States, such as Mujahid Al Malki from Oman, whose work we are pleased to have exhibited in our museum in the past, is one of the emerging digital artists whose work is sold as an NFT through Foundation—an application that facilitates live auctions for NFTs.

Hence, our Khaleeji Art Museum—the first digital museum dedicated to exhibiting works by artists from and residing in the Arab Gulf States—was officially born in May 2020.

It has never been so easy to see artwork created by individuals across the globe. And, as initiatives like that of our museum and those that drive like-minded artists become more popular across the digital world, a more global approach to art collection is the next logical step.

Courtesy of Khaleeji Art Museum.

From the photo series titled At What Cost by emerging Omani photographer Mahmood Al Zadjali. It was exhibited in the Khaleeji Art Museum’s Art For Change digital group art exhibition last year.

But why should anybody do so? Gulf artists’ work represents a more authentic depiction and artistic record of a region that is not only creatively blossoming, but one that is widely both underrepresented and misrepresented in the international media, books, movies, and art. A walk through an art gallery or museum—wherever it is in the world—provides us, to a great extent, with insights into the lives and culture of people across time and space.

In addition to the beauty they offer, the works of contemporary Gulf Arab artists thus provide a real-time insight into this part of the world, its people and their reflections, perspectives and concerns, from a regional point of view.

For example, Emerging Bahraini artist and architecture student, Huda Jamal, presents a Khaleeji’s perspective on the important global issue of combating sexual harassment, assault, and rape through her work, Harassment in a Parallel Universe, which we showcased through our digital group art exhibition, Enough Is Enough, last March. Emerging Omani photographer Mahmood Al Zadjali’s photo series titled At What Cost, which we exhibited in our Art for Change digital group art exhibition last summer, depicts the Omani youth’s current struggle with expensive wedding costs, a concern that is also shared by the youth in neighboring countries.

The rise of a new generation of contemporary artists from the Arab Gulf States, many of whom represent and showcase their own work through their social media platforms and through digital initiatives such as ours, offer art enthusiasts and collectors around the world an opportunity for insight, and to acquire a piece of history in the making. An acquirer is purchasing a piece of the story, the beauty, and the diversity our region offers. It is an investment future generations would thank you for.

About the Author

Manar & Sharifah Alhinai

Manar and Sharifah Alhinai are the founders of Sekka and the directors of the Khaleeji Art Museum.

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