Highlights from this year’s MENART fair in Paris

Highlights from this year’s MENART fair in Paris
Mohamed Melehi, Untitled, 1975. (Supplied)
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Updated 20 May 2022

Highlights from this year’s MENART fair in Paris

Highlights from this year’s MENART fair in Paris
  • Selected works from the 2022 edition of the show dedicated to artists from the MENA region, which runs until May 22 in the French capital

Mohamed Melehi

Melehi features in one of MENART’s special exhibitions, “Casablanca School,” which “attempts to capture the inspiration that this movement launched between 1962 and 1971” in Morocco. “The Casablanca school was not limited to an architectural context nor the educational program of an art school. It was above all a movement in search of artistic and cultural modernity specific to Morocco. It was a socio-cultural positioning that challenged the Academic system of art education and the Euro-centered art history,” the MENART catalogue explains. “This group of artists engaged in a study bringing back the practice of traditional geometric abstraction and the use of signs and symbols characteristic to their Berber, Arab-Muslim, and African social culture. In addition, they used materials of their surroundings such as leather, metal, and natural pigments as their mediums.” Melehi, who died in 2020, was an iconic figure in North African modernism, his use of bright colors and geometric forms — as shown in this piece from 1975 — creating a dynamic style of his own.

Faisal Samra

The Bahrain-born Saudi artist’s career spans five decades, during which he has experimented with photography, painting, sculpture, film, and performance. He is widely regarded as a pioneer of conceptual art in the Middle East, and his work has progressed from expressionism, through “emotive and sensory approaches to art” to a stage where, according to a bio from his gallery, “he has rebelled against his own understanding of art, transitioning into new works that maintain three essential concepts: spontaneity, dynamism, and secrecy.” This untitled diptych, created this year, demonstrates one of Samra’s recurring themes, as he once explained to Elan magazine. “Dissolving is a big thing in my work,” Samra said. “Because we are temporary as humans; we appear then disappear. It is because of this that we want to make things; we want to make a mark. This tension between death and life gives us the motivation to do whatever we are doing.”

Youssef Nabil

The Cairo-born Egyptian photographer Youssef Nabil is one of the region’s most successful artists. His hand-painted photography portraits of famous cultural figures from the Arab world and the West have proved especially popular, while his later series of self-portraits have displayed the artist’s introspective side. At MENART, he presents this 2021 work, “Memories of a Happy Place.” “I’m working on a new series of self-portraits and landscapes. They are about my observation and interrogation of life and existence and about how fragile we all are. It’s a subject that takes up a lot of my thinking,” he told GQ Middle East last year.

Rashid Diab

The Sudanese artist spoke to Arab News in September last year about his lovingly created paintings of his homeland’s landscapes and people, many of which — like this piece from 2020 — portray figures moving through seemingly vast spaces. He said this was because he senses that many Sudanes people “don’t know what to do.” “It makes life surreal. I see the silence of the space in the desert with people fading or vanishing away. It is an uncertain life.” He wanted to honor the women of his country, he added. “Many women in Sudan have lost their husbands or kids; they have suffered a lot,” he said. “But they keep going. They are very strong. I show them respect when I paint them. These women have to be recognized.”

Sama Alshaibi

Iraqi multimedia artist Sama Alshaibi was born in Basra to an Iraqi father and Palestinian mother. It is no surprise, then, that her work — according to a bio written by Ayyam Gallery — “explores spaces of conflict and the power struggles that arise in the aftermath of war and exile.” It continues: “Alshaibi is particularly interested in how such clashes occur between citizens and the state, creating vexing crises that impact the physical and psychic realms of the individual as resources and land, mobility, political agency, and self-affirmation are compromised.”

Elias Moubarak

“The Levant is a region where both modern and contemporary artists have re-appropriated their chaotic and unstable daily lives and integrated them into their art,” the MENART brochure states. Notions of “territory, refugees and traditions” dominate their work, and Lebanon especially “possesses this singular ability to capture cultural flows from various sources and to play a role of mediation and filter for movements and styles, born in the West or elsewhere, in order to translate them into its own artistic frameworks.” Lebanese filmmaker and photographer Elias Moubarak, who lives in Germany, presents this haunting, untitled work from 2018 at MENART.

Abdulqader Al-Rais

Al-Rais is one of the UAE’s most-respected artists, known for his landscapes, architectural studies and abstract work, the latter earning him most acclaim. The septuagenarian is largely self-taught. According to the Sharjah Art Foundation, he is “known for both his abstract oil paintings — which draw on Arabic script and geometric forms — and his more recent landscape watercolors, which reflect his longtime interest in traditional Emirati architecture and nature.” This untitled work from 2020, on show at MENART, is a fine example of the former.

Yousef Jaha

A veteran and leader of the Saudi art scene, Makkah-born artist Yousef Jaha held his first solo exhibition back in 1987. At MENART, he is showing this untitled, muted oil painting from 2021. In a previous artist’s statement, Jaha said: “My works constitute a vital part of my personality, a kind of faith, confidence and innate expression of my internal concepts. Experience — and enjoyment — of this work must from inside, and leads to both a natural contemplation and an experience of the technological which expresses it.”

Thalothya: The art community that sparked a Madinah revolution

Thalothya: The art community that sparked a Madinah revolution
Updated 10 August 2022

Thalothya: The art community that sparked a Madinah revolution

Thalothya: The art community that sparked a Madinah revolution
  • Artist Meshal Al-Hujaili launched a community project of talks called Thalothya to support artists by educating them on other parts of their careers
  • Al-Hujaili began his journey in the art world at a young age by drawing graffiti before taking another direction

RIYADH: The artist’s main focus is on the aesthetic aspect of life, leaving material concerns behind, leaving many artists struggling to understand the economic world, sparking confusion over pricing their paintings and profiting from their talents.

This was one of the reasons that artist Meshal Al-Hujaili was inspired to launch a community project of talks called “Thalothya” to support artists by educating them on more parts of their careers.

Thalothya emerged as an artistic community concerned with spreading artistic culture, enhancing the creative side of the artists, and exchanging experiences.

Their goal is to create a healthy artistic environment in which practitioners find support and expertise to develop their art. The sessions are held once a month in Madinah.

The group also organizes monthly dialogue sessions, regular presentations on the artists’ latest works, online interviews with an eclectic range of influential artists, and discussions on the journey that each artist took and its impact on their craft.

“Thalothya started in an informal way between me and my artist friends, and I decided to set up a meeting to discuss art. Then I was surprised that the topic started to spread among artists and that a large number wanted to attend courses. The news spread in the city. We started with 15 people, and the last session was attended by 60 artists,” Al-Hujaili told Arab News.

Al-Hujaili said that because of the crowds of people who wanted to attend the event, the sessions were moved from a cafe to art galleries in Madinah, where there are halls to accommodate 200 people in the session.

“Many people want to join the discussion circles, which is why I refuse the requests of many cafes and places that want to host us because I know that the place will not accommodate us,” said Al-Hujaili, adding: “Thalothya created an artistic revolution in Madinah.”

He said: “The topics we raise are not purely artistic, so we talk about the legal aspect of art, and 90 percent of artists do not know how to legally preserve their works or price their works. We help them to dialogue and talk in a safe space and host different topics each time. 

“For example, we once discussed the subject of ‘art block’ during our research, and we found a definition that is completely different from what we thought, and we present a new aspect that focuses on the topic of marketing and the problems that the artist goes through, why an artist appears and becomes famous suddenly, and then he is isolated and disappears.”

Al-Hujaili’s paintings are distinguished by geometric formations. He began his journey in the art world at a young age by drawing graffiti before taking another direction.

“I started my graffiti from primary to secondary school, and I drew graffiti, then art took a new curve. For six years, I only drew straight lines and worked on drawing geometric shapes, and the result was special, as I was unique in my art, in which I put my fingerprint. I was requested to paint a mural at the Arab Open University in Madinah,” he said.

The dialogues were not limited to male artists, with women making up a large share of the discussion.

Basma Al-Bloshi, a portrait artist, said: “What distinguishes Thalothya is that it cares about the artist’s aspects, both psychologically and practically, and we discuss the things that develop the artist.”

She continued: “The idea of Thalothya is to educate the artist about other aspects of art. One of our goals is to spread Thakothya throughout the Kingdom.”

Beluga whale lost in French river euthanized during rescue

Beluga whale lost in French river euthanized during rescue
Updated 10 August 2022

Beluga whale lost in French river euthanized during rescue

Beluga whale lost in French river euthanized during rescue
  • A team of 80 people tried to save the animal’s life by transporting the cetaceous into a refrigerated truck to the port in Ouistreham, in Normandy region.

PARIS: A beluga whale that became a French celebrity after a wrong turn took it up the Seine River had to be euthanized Wednesday after experiencing health complications during an urgent rescue operation, authorities said.
The sparkling white marine mammal appeared deep inside France last week, having accidentally veered off the normal ocean migration route that takes belugas to and from Arctic waters.
Fearing the malnourished creature would not survive in the Seine much longer, a wildlife conservation group and veterinarians planned to move the lost whale to a saltwater port in Normandy, from where they hoped to return it to the open sea.
A team of 80 people assembled to try to save the animal’s life, and it was successfully moved Tuesday night from a river lock in Saint-Pierre-la-Garenne, west of Paris, into a refrigerated truck for the 60-kilometer (99-mile) journey to the port in Ouistreham.
But during the drive, the 4-meter-long (13-foot-long) whale started to breath with difficulty, according to Florence Ollivet Courtois, a French veterinarian who worked on the rescue operation.
“During the journey, the veterinarians confirmed a worsening of its state, notably in its respiratory activities, and at the same time noticed the animal was in pain, not breathing enough,” Courtois said.
“The suffering was obvious for the animal, so it was important to release its tension, and so we had to proceed to euthanize it,” she added.
Environmentalists had acknowledged the plan to move the beluga risked fatally stressing the mammal. But marine conservation group Sea Shepherd said that it couldn’t have survived much longer in the Seine’s fresh water.
The group and veterinarians noted the whale had responded to a cocktail of antibiotics and vitamins over the last few days, making them hopeful it would recover once it was back in a saltwater environment.
A necropsy is planned on the whale, which weighed about about 800 kilograms (1,764 pounds).
Rescuers had hoped to spare the whale the fate of an orca that strayed into the Seine and died in May. In 2006, a bottlenose whale — nicknamed “Willy” — swam up the Thames River as far as London and died during a its attempted rescue.
Another complicating factor during the beluga’s rescue attempt was the extreme heat gripping France. Authorities tried to keep it cool and wet with soaked towels and moved it at nightfall when temperatures are at their lowest.
The sad end to a saga that gripped France in recent days came after experts determined the whale “was too weakened to be put back into water,” Guillaume Lericolais, the sub-prefect of France’s Calvados region, said.
Rescuers tried to feed the whale fish without success since Friday. Sea Shepherd France said veterinary exams after the beluga’s removal from the river showed it has no digestive activity.

Palestinian-American comedian Mo Amer releases trailer for Netflix’s ‘Mo’ 

Palestinian-American comedian Mo Amer releases trailer for Netflix’s ‘Mo’ 
Updated 10 August 2022

Palestinian-American comedian Mo Amer releases trailer for Netflix’s ‘Mo’ 

Palestinian-American comedian Mo Amer releases trailer for Netflix’s ‘Mo’ 

DUBAI: Palestinian-American comedian Mo Amer released on Tuesday the trailer to his upcoming Netflix show “Mo.” 

The eight-episode series, which will be released on Aug. 24, centers on a Palestinian immigrant family living in Houston, Texas. It follows Mo Najjar, played by Amer, who straddles the line between two cultures, three languages and a pending asylum request, all while hustling to support his family, which includes his mother, sister and older brother. 

Jordanian-Kuwaiti-Palestinian actress Farah Bsieso stars as Mo’s mother Yusra Najjar, while Egyptian-American actor Omar Elba portrays Sameer Najjar, Mo’s older brother, who has social anxiety. 

Rapper Tobe Nwigwe plays Nick, Mo’s oldest, most loyal friend and Mexican-American actress Teresa Ruiz stars as Mo’s girlfriend Maria. 

Amer also serves as executive producer in the series, along with his “Ramy” co-star and friend Egyptian-American Golden Globe-winner Ramy Youssef, who also appears in the show. 

In December, Amer told Arab News that he is at a point in his career where he is able to share his stories with a wider audience than ever before through an artistic medium that allows viewers to experience both his perspective and that of the Palestinian people in an intimate way.

“That’s why I think the art of stand-up is so liberating. It’s never been about the money,” he said. “Making money is great, and I want to make what I can, but it’s about telling great stories. I’m less concerned about money, and more concerned about punching above my weight. Creating a masterpiece is a worthy trek. That’s how I feel. That’s where I’m at right now with my stand-up, and my TV show.”

Amer began his career in comedy in his early teens and soon discovered that no one was telling stories about his experience or that of Arabs in general.

“I first got on stage at 14 years old, and I started touring when I was 17. Immediately, I started noticing that there was this huge gap,” he said. “There was no real representation at all on any of those stages of Arabs or Muslims. I said to myself, ‘OK, why don’t I introduce it?’”

With “Mo,” “Mo Amer: Mohammed in Texas,” “Mo Amer: The Vagabond” and “Ramy,” the comedian has and still is sharing the stories of both his family and his people. 

Qatar to transform into outdoor art museum ahead of FIFA World Cup 2022

Qatar to transform into outdoor art museum ahead of FIFA World Cup 2022
Richard Serra's 'East-West, West-East.' (Supplied)
Updated 10 August 2022

Qatar to transform into outdoor art museum ahead of FIFA World Cup 2022

Qatar to transform into outdoor art museum ahead of FIFA World Cup 2022

DUBAI: Ahead of the fast-approaching FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, Qatar Museums has announced an expansive public art program that will be rolled out not just in the capital city of Doha but throughout the country. The nation’s public spaces — parks, shopping zones, rail stations, hotel plazas, cultural institutions, Hamad International Airport and the eight World Cup 2022 stadiums — will be transformed into a “vast outdoor art museum,” with 40 new pieces being added to the already existing 70 pieces across the country.

Sheikha Al-Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, chairperson of Qatar Museums, said in a statement, “The addition of 40 new, major works of public art this fall is a significant milestone for Qatar’s public art program. Public art is one of our most prominent demonstrations of cultural exchange, where we present works from artists of all nationalities and backgrounds. From the arrivals at the best airport in the world — Hamad International Airport — to every neighborhood in our nation, public art is there to make your experience unique."



Comprised of more than 100 artworks, the public art extravaganza will feature 40 new and commissioned pieces. New works from international heavyweights will include artists Olafur Eliasson, Jeff Koons, Yayoi Kusama, KAWS, Rashid Johnson, Ernesto Neto, Lawrence Weiner, Faye Toogood, Katharina Fritsch, and others.

Qatari and MENA region artists whose work will be presented in the public art program include Adel Abidin, Ahmed Al-Bahrani, Shouq Al-Mana, Shua’a Al-Muftah, Salman Al-Malek, Monira Al-Qadiri, Simone Fattal and Faraj Daham.



According to a press release shared by Qatar Museums, the country was among the first in the region to establish a public art program, which currently includes works from Richard Serra, Tom Claaseen, Bruce Nauman, Louise Bourgeois, Urs Fischer, Subodh Gupta, Dia Al-Azzawi and others.

“Qatar Museums’ public art program, more than anything else, serves as a reminder that art is all around us, not confined to museums and galleries, and can be enjoyed and celebrated whether you are going to work, or school, or the desert or the beach,” said Abdulrahman Ahmed Al-Ishaq, Qatar Museums’ Director of Public Art, in a statement.

The FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 kicks off on Nov. 21.

Tory Burch taps Arab models Malika El-Maslouhi, Imaan Hammam for summer campaigns

Tory Burch taps Arab models Malika El-Maslouhi, Imaan Hammam for summer campaigns
Updated 10 August 2022

Tory Burch taps Arab models Malika El-Maslouhi, Imaan Hammam for summer campaigns

Tory Burch taps Arab models Malika El-Maslouhi, Imaan Hammam for summer campaigns

DUBAI: US designer Tory Burch is spotlighting Arab models in the fashion label’s latest campaigns. 

Moroccan Italian model Malika El-Maslouhi posed for the brand’s activewear Tory Sport, while Dutch Egyptian Moroccan star Imaan Hammam was spotted in the label’s latest beauty campaign.


A post shared by Tory Sport (@torysport)

In a series of images shared on the brand’s Instagram page this week, 23-year-old runway star El-Maslouhi wore a pleated laser cut tennis skirt with a white tank top and a blue and beige cross body bag from the fashion house’s Summer 2022 tennis collection. 

In other pictures, the model wore a monogram jacquard anorak, a matching red-and-yellow yoga set and a white polo shirt. 

This is not the first time El-Maslouhi has collaborated with the US label.


A post shared by Tory Sport (@torysport)

In May, the designer tapped the model to showcase her eponymous brand’s pre-Fall 2022 collection via a series of campaign images.

The catwalk star, who was born in Milan to an Italian mother and a Moroccan father, also featured in the brand’s 2022 beach edit, sporting an array of summer-ready looks in the form of floral maxi skirts, romantic dresses, crochet bucket hats, strappy sandals and printed bikinis.

El-Maslouhi made her modeling debut when she was 18 and went on to captivate the industry.

In addition to gracing the runways of storied fashion houses that most models can only dream of — such as Dior, Chanel, Valentino and Jacquemus, among others — the fashion star has also appeared in international campaigns for the likes of Off-White, Calvin Klein and Lanvin.


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Meanwhile, Tory Burch also released five new fragrances for its beauty collection this week. For that campaign, the designer, who launched her brand in 2004, worked with Moroccan Egyptian Dutch model Hammam, who starred alongside US actress Havana Rose Liu, Romanian model Alexandra Micu and more. 

For the all-white beachside shoot, Hammam wore a crochet plunged maxi dress. Her hair was tied in a bun and her makeup was kept simple and fresh. 


A post shared by Tory Burch (@toryburch)

According to the brand, Burch’s five new fragrances — cosmic wood, divine moon, electric sky, sublime rose and mystic geranium — represent five dreams: freedom, peace, magic, love and joy.