Qatar reopens Museum of Islamic Art ahead of World Cup

Qatar reopens Museum of Islamic Art ahead of World Cup
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A book is seen inside the Museum of Islamic Art during the reopening. (Reuters)
Qatar reopens Museum of Islamic Art ahead of World Cup
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General view inside the Museum of Islamic Art during the reopening. (Reuters)
Qatar reopens Museum of Islamic Art ahead of World Cup
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General view outside the Museum of Islamic Art during the reopening. (Reuters)
Qatar reopens Museum of Islamic Art ahead of World Cup
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Artwork is seen inside the Museum of Islamic Art during the reopening (Reuters)
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Updated 05 October 2022

Qatar reopens Museum of Islamic Art ahead of World Cup

Qatar reopens Museum of Islamic Art ahead of World Cup
  • "We are the biggest Museum of Islamic Art in this region," said the museum director
  • The museum showcases 14 centuries of Islamic art and artefacts from around the world

DOHA: Qatar unveiled Tuesday its landmark Museum of Islamic Art after an 18-month renovation ahead of the World Cup in a bid to be a “showcase” for the Arab world.
“We are the biggest Museum of Islamic Art in this region... and we are in the middle of the Arab world,” said museum director Julia Gonnella. “Where better can you learn about Islamic culture and art and history than here?“
The museum showcases 14 centuries of Islamic art and artefacts from around the world.
Constructed on a purpose-built island on Doha’s waterfront promenade, the building is the work of the late US architect I.M. Pei, one of the best-known architects of the 20th century.
The five-story building has redesigned its collections, with some two-thirds of the thousand exhibits new to the museum.
“Before it was only about the art, now it’s about culture,” Gonnella said. “We really want to tell the stories behind the masterpieces.”
Qatar has spent billions of dollars on new stadiums for the first football World Cup in an Arab country, which kicks off on November 20.
As the sporting festival approaches, Doha is leading an cultural push, including erecting dozens of works of public art, and opened the Qatar Olympic and Sports Museum earlier this year.


History, mystery and magic as first Ancient Saudi Arabia’s Festival wraps up

History, mystery and magic as first Ancient Saudi Arabia’s Festival wraps up
Updated 26 November 2022

History, mystery and magic as first Ancient Saudi Arabia’s Festival wraps up

History, mystery and magic as first Ancient Saudi Arabia’s Festival wraps up
  • Festival gave ancient landscapes a new lease of life

KHAYBAR: Past, present and future came together as the inaugural Ancient Kingdoms Festival drew to a close with a series of dramatic events showcasing three historic oases of the northwest — AlUla, Khaybar and Tayma — for a modern audience.

The festival, launched on Nov. 11, was the first of its kind to focus entirely on the sites, which were at the crossroads of culture in ancient times, and also centers of influence and wealth.

By focusing on a range of events, including cultural performances, workshops and sightseeing opportunities, the festival gave these ancient landscapes a new lease of life, with many of the activities expected to continue after the festival’s close.

A spectacular show lit up the night sky as 1,450 drones formed shapes while an orchestra played music by UK composer Matt Faddy. The show will continue until Dec. 15, 2023.

FASTFACT

A spectacular show lit up the night sky as 1,450 drones formed shapes while an orchestra played music by UK composer Matt Faddy. The show will continue until Dec. 15, 2023.

Visitors to Khaybar can still explore the mysterious prehistoric stone structures on foot, or by car or a 20-minute helicopter excursion, hovering over the old and new.

“We made this festival to reflect the stories behind all the ancient civilizations that lived around or in these three places,” Abdulrazzag Alanzi, a local storyteller and tour guide, told Arab News.

Alanzi used to visit his cousins in Khaybar as a child and still recalls hearing stories about the region going back centuries.

“I used to love reading a lot of fictional stories and also a lot of old stories, and when I heard about something that happened in this area many years ago, it always fascinated me. This is what pushed me into this line of work, tourism,” he said.

“AlUla, Khaybar and Tayma have a lot of historical stories and a lot of information that we need to show the world.”

Fahad Aljuhani, a storyteller who describes the area as the “greatest living museum,” also came to the area as a child to connect with his cousins — and to discover hidden treasures.

“I’m a ‘Rawi’ and ‘Rawi’ in English means a storyteller. Now we are on an island that floats on a sea of rock which is Khaybar. I used to come to Khaybar and visit my relatives, and they would tell us a story about the tombs and the oasis, and I didn’t have the chance to visit them until now,” he told Arab News.

Aljuhani said that 5 million years ago, hundreds of volcanic eruptions occurred simultaneously in the area.

“If you feel the rocks, they seem to generate heat from within, similar to those who choose to watch over the land today and tell its many-layered stories,” he said.

Tour guide Enass Al-Sherrif told Arab News that she is excited to see people, including those from around the Kingdom, taking the time to learn about their past.

Al-Sherrif describes her job as the best she could ever have.

“I am really proud and honored. And I want to show you and make you feel the experience, how we transformed this place into an amazing destination for others to come and visit us,” she said.

The festival and its extended program aims to shed light on the legends and legacies of ancient times in the Kingdom’s northwest region, allowing visitors to explore and learn about the “largest living museum in the world.”

It is two years since AlUla began reopening heritage sites to domestic and international tourists with its pioneering Winter at Tantora program, which lasts until March.

While the Ancient Kingdoms Festival wrapped up on a chilly day on Nov. 27, many of the visitor experiences will continue well beyond the festival period, with some available year-round.

“The northwest Arabian Peninsula is the jewel in the heritage crown of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and a source of fascination for a global community of archaeologists and researchers. Their discoveries shed new light on the societies that endowed the region with such relics of the ancients, preserved in wonders of prehistoric geology, art, and historical architecture that reveal important truths,” the Royal Commission for AlUla, which hosted the event, said in a statement.

The commission plans to host the Ancient Kingdoms Festival annually. Further details are available on its website.

 


Artist spotlight for Saudi Arabia’s ‘lost treasure’

Founder of Mono Gallery, Momen Al-Muslimani, explains the untitled work of Fahad Al-Hajailan. (Supplied by Mohammad Fattal)
Founder of Mono Gallery, Momen Al-Muslimani, explains the untitled work of Fahad Al-Hajailan. (Supplied by Mohammad Fattal)
Updated 26 November 2022

Artist spotlight for Saudi Arabia’s ‘lost treasure’

Founder of Mono Gallery, Momen Al-Muslimani, explains the untitled work of Fahad Al-Hajailan. (Supplied by Mohammad Fattal)
  • Four years after his death, galleries honor Fahad Al-Hajailan’s legacy

RIYADH: He was a pioneering Saudi contemporary artist who exhibited abroad in exhibitions and biennales, but whose name was rarely heard at home.

Now, four years after he died alone and surrounded by his beloved works of art, Fahad Al-Hajailan is at last getting the recognition he deserves.

Mono Gallery, in collaboration with Naila Art Gallery, has revived his work with a “Al-Hajailan in the Mirror” exhibition commemorating the artist’s lost legacy.

Visitors examining the untitled work of late Saudi fine artist Fahad Al-Hajailan at Mono Gallery's 'Al-Hajailan in the Mirror' exhibition, in collaboration with Naila Art Gallery. (Photo by Mohammad Fattal)

Al-Hajailan, who died in 2018, was a founding member of the Riyadh Fine Art Group, a member of its advisory committee, and a pioneer in Saudi contemporary art.

He exhibited globally in shows and biennales in the US, China, the UK, Tunisia, France and Germany, but was all but unknown in the Kingdom, failing to gain the attention directed at headlining contemporary artists, such as Ahmed Mater, and Ayman Yossri.

With culture and creativity in the spotlight as part of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 reforms, Mono Gallery decided to revive one of the country’s “lost treasures.”

Visitors examining the untitled work of late Saudi fine artist Fahad Al-Hajailan at Mono Gallery's 'Al-Hajailan in the Mirror' exhibition, in collaboration with Naila Art Gallery. (Photo by Mohammad Fattal)

Momen Al-Muslimani, the gallery’s founder, told Arab News that Al-Hajailan “was kept almost in the shade. No one knew how powerful he was at the time, 10 years ago.

“If someone is appreciative of an artist, first of all, they would buy his art at a general price, never trying to squeeze him or take advantage. There are a lot of art-lovers who are passionate collectors in the Kingdom. They should have run toward him 10 years ago, creating books, literature, (doing) interviews.”

FASTFACT

Four years after his death, galleries honor Fahad Al- Hajailan’s legacy.

According to Al-Muslimani, who was a close friend of Al-Hajailan, the artist never received the recognition he deserved.

Al-Hajailan spent most of his days in his studio, “painting away his emotions,” according to Al-Muslimani, who suggests the artist’s abstract style and poetic use of color reflect the mystery, sadness and sense of loneliness in his own life.

Visitors examining the untitled work of late Saudi fine artist Fahad Al-Hajailan at Mono Gallery's 'Al-Hajailan in the Mirror' exhibition, in collaboration with Naila Art Gallery. (Photo by Mohammad Fattal)

In 2018, Al-Hajailan died of a heart attack at age 61, in the middle of the night, alone and surrounded by his unappreciated works.

“Artists need someone else to feel on their behalf, to speak on their behalf, to express who they are on their behalf, because they forget themselves. They are completely inside the piece of artwork they’re creating,” Al-Muslimani said.

Instead of pursuing a degree in fine arts, which he could not afford at the time, Al-Hajailan spent much of his career as an art teacher, as well as curating cartoon graphics for Al-Jazeera and Al-Riyadh newspapers.

Visitors examining the untitled work of late Saudi fine artist Fahad Al-Hajailan at Mono Gallery's 'Al-Hajailan in the Mirror' exhibition, in collaboration with Naila Art Gallery. (Photo by Mohammad Fattal)

Only after discovering works by Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo did he realize that art did not have to be taught.

The true artist is never satisfied with his work, the gallery owner said, and this was the case with Al-Hajailan, who battled fatigue and hunger in a bid to create the ideal piece that would do his work justice.

“I’ve made this artwork, but I can do better. I can find more secrets in me,” Al-Hajailan would often say.

“The artist is most probably the only human on earth who does not have the choice to be an artist or not. He grew up having a pencil and a pen in his hand. He needs to draw; if he doesn’t draw, if he doesn’t paint, he would feel sick. And this is Fahad Al-Hajailan,” Al-Muslimani said.

Since his death, Al-Hajailan has been exhibited at the inaugural Diriyah Biennale and commemorated in Misk Art Institute’s Art Library book series.

Mono Gallery is presenting a timeline of his work, ranging from early pencil sketches in 1986 to the acrylic paintings of 2015.

“In Saudi contemporary art, we have a couple of pioneers — we can count them on by hand. One of them is Fahad Al-Hajailan. He is probably in the top three who people would never debate about. Everybody would speak with passion and love toward his art, his creativity. He is one of those treasures in the country.”

The exhibition runs until Nov. 28.

 


Algerian artist Baya in the spotlight at new exhibition in Paris

Algerian artist Baya in the spotlight at new exhibition in Paris
Updated 25 November 2022

Algerian artist Baya in the spotlight at new exhibition in Paris

Algerian artist Baya in the spotlight at new exhibition in Paris
  • The iconic painter and sculptor created ‘a joyful celebration of nature and life,’ curator says 

PARIS: The mysterious Fatma Haddad – known by her artist name Baya – rose to fame aged just 16. She was elevated to the rank of icon by a generation of post-war French intellectuals. More than 20 years after her death in 1998, she continues to be venerated by critics and collectors alike. 

A new exhibition at the Institut du monde Arabe in Paris, with works donated by Claude and France Lemand, presents a selection of her drawings, gouache paintings and sculptures in a comprehensive tribute to Baya’s career, which spanned more than five decades. Many of the masterpieces on display in “Baya: Women in Their Garden,” which runs until March 2023, come from archives left by the artist’s adoptive mother, Marguerite Caminat. 

Baya at an exhibition of Algerian artists in September 1998. (A.O. Mohand-min)

Caminat was the first and greatest supporter of Baya’s exceptional artistic talent, which was noted by Parisian gallery owner Aimé Maeght on a trip to Algiers. Maeght invited the 16-year-old to contribute to a major exhibition in Paris in November 1947, where her work dazzled art lovers in the French capital, including André Breton, who wrote: “I speak not like so many others to lament an end, but to promote a beginning. The beginning of an age of emancipation and harmony, in radical rupture … And, of this beginning, Baya is queen.” 

“Baya was a gifted artist and a hard worker,” Claude Lemand, one of the exhibition’s curators, told Arab News. “She affirmed her personality, her identity, her autonomy, her decision to (be an artist) at a very young age, but without ever offending others.”  

BAYA, 'Lady and Birds in Blue,' 1993. (Alberto Ricci-min)

In 1953, Baya married musician El Hadj Mahfoud Mahieddine and took a 10-year break to devote herself to her family in their home in Blida, Algeria. When she started producing art again, new perspectives were revealed, no doubt influenced by the Algerian War of Independence, which had taken place in the interim. 

It was a pivotal period for the artist. “From 1963, she developed new themes, starting with her landscapes — her Garden of Eden — a joyful celebration of nature and life … surrounded by sunny mountains and dunes, with four rivers, the symbolic trees of Algeria — the olive tree and the date palm, and full of birds and fish of all colors. The birds sing, the fish dance,” Lemand said. “Oasis or island, the Garden of Eden has the colors of Algeria: the blue of the Mediterranean, the red of its land, the green of its vegetation, the gold of its dunes.” 

Some critics highlighted the repetitive nature of Baya’s work, and in response, Lemand explained, she developed other themes, including her “living stills,” which often incorporated musical instruments, inspired by her husband’s profession.   

“All the elements of her (still life works) are represented as living beings, their eyes always wide open to others and to the world, with expressive attitudes of seduction and mutual affection, participating in general harmony, in a symphony of forms and colors,” Lemand added. 

From 1963 onwards, Baya developed a third theme: women: “Musicians, dancers, mothers, women alone in their garden or in groups, blooming and happy, standing or sitting, surrounded by musical instruments and birds with which they converse,” Lemand said. 

Visitors to the exhibition will see the power of Baya’s joyful, vibrant paintings alongside the elegance of her clay sculptures. 

“Baya favors turquoise blue, Indian pink, emerald and deep purple. She paints with unparalleled finesse the world of childhood and motherhood, expressing her fascination for the memory of her mother,” Lemand said. “She drew first in pencil, then she put the color. She started with the women and then moved on to other elements, leaving blanks in her early works, before giving in to the ‘horror of the void’ of the Arab-Muslim aesthetic and filling with motifs all the spaces left empty in her compositions.” 

In her paintings, there is harmony between women and all living beings: “Each has their own language, which is understood by all the actors on the scene,” Lemand observed. 

Far from the naive image that some have of her work, Baya appears here as an empress of a lush kingdom where young women could freely put their dreams down on paper. As Breton wrote, Baya was the “Queen of happy Arabia.” 


THE BREAKDOWN: Jordanian architect Ghada Kunash discusses artisanal rug shown at Dubai Design Week  

THE BREAKDOWN: Jordanian architect Ghada Kunash discusses artisanal rug shown at Dubai Design Week  
Jordanian architect Ghada Kunash’s work went on show at Dubai Design Week. (Supplied)
Updated 24 November 2022

THE BREAKDOWN: Jordanian architect Ghada Kunash discusses artisanal rug shown at Dubai Design Week  

THE BREAKDOWN: Jordanian architect Ghada Kunash discusses artisanal rug shown at Dubai Design Week  

DUBAI: Here, Jordanian architect Ghada Kunash discusses her artisanal rug, shown at Dubai Design Week this month, in her own words.  

I really like to focus on the traditional. Maybe that’s because of the history behind the land that I come from. This year, I thought it would be great to be able to shed a strong light on artisans in this trade fair. 

Ghada Kunash’s work went on show at Dubai Design Week. (Supplied)

Because of the situation in the Levant area, artisans cannot even afford their basic materials, let alone ship and market their products. People are leaving. When you lose the hand, you lose the craft. Those people are as important as preserving our language.    

The concept of “Bsat” — which means ‘rug’ in Arabic — comes from the fact that weaving is a very important industry in our area. It requires a state of patience and it gives tranquility. It's a kind of meditation for those who practice it. 

The work was made by artisans across the region and assembled in Lebanon. The block printing was done by Syrians, and Palestinian ladies worked on the embroidery. The weaving was done by the Jordanian master weaver Ishraq Zraikat. I designed it and sponsored the whole project, but I insisted that we put all the names of those who worked on this piece very clearly on the map.

Ghada Kunash’s latest work. (Supplied)

I wanted to show that the countries of this area all have the same traditional industries and that they can work together. The natural topographical, rather than the political, map of the area seemed like a really nice concept that transmits to the public what we wanted to say.

We added the national flower for each part of the Levant, like the black iris of Jordan, the anemone of Palestine, and the white jasmine of Syria. In Greater Syria, we are known for our olives and oranges, so we added their colors too. 

People’s reaction to the work was very emotional. They were touched and wanted to understand why we used a map of the Levant. It's the heart of the world, as I see it. It might be a biased point of view — but this is where I come from. We are the source of old civilizations and we need to celebrate that.


Lebanese dance troupe Mayyas perform in Riyadh  

Lebanese dance troupe Mayyas perform in Riyadh  
Updated 22 November 2022

Lebanese dance troupe Mayyas perform in Riyadh  

Lebanese dance troupe Mayyas perform in Riyadh  

DUBAI: “America’s Got Talent” winners Mayyas performed in Saudi Arabia this week at Riyadh Season’s Boulevard World.  

The Lebanese dance group hit the stage on Nov. 21 and will perform again on Nov. 22.  

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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The group performed in latex body suits as fans cheered and clapped for them.  

In September, the all-female troupe, led by Lebanese choreographer Nadim Cherfan, won season 17 of “America’s Got Talent,” taking home the $1 million grand prize.  

 

 

Last month, they had their first regional show outside of Lebanon in Dubai. They presented two dances to the packed crowd at The Pointe.  

 

 

They also performed a brand-new routine at The Next Level at The View at The Palm in Dubai, marking their highest-ever stage performance at 250 meters above sea level.